Turlough had been elected tanist (see Tanistry) when his cousin Shane was inaugurated the O'Neill, and he schemed to supplant him in the higher dignity during Shane's absence in London.
It is in this reign that Asser applies to Alfred the unique title of secundarius, which seems to indicate a position analogous to that of the Celtic tanist, a recognized successor, closely associated with the reigning prince.
It was the custom to appoint the successor to the king, his " Tanist," at the same time as the king himself.
An assembly when convened by the Bruigh-fer for the special purpose of electing a tanist or successor to the king was called a Tocomra.
The king's mensal land, as also that of the tanist or successor to the royal office appointed during the king's lifetime, was not divided up but passed on in its entirety to the next individual elected to the position.
At the same time, and subject to the same conditions, a tanist or next heir to the chieftaincy was elected, who if the king died or became disqualified, at once became king.
Usually the king's son became tanist, but not because the system of primogeniture was in any way recognized; indeed, the only principle adopted was that the dignity of chieftainship should descend to the eldest and most worthy of the same blood.