Tynwald (Manx: Tinvaal), or more formally, the High Court of Tynwald
(Manx: Ard-whaiyl Tinvaal) or
Tynwald Court is the legislature of the
Isle of Man. It is believed (but not confirmed) to be the oldest
continuous parliamentary body in the world, consisting of two
Chambers, known as the Branches of Tynwald: the directly elected House
of Keys and the indirectly chosen Legislative Council. When the two
Chambers meet together once a month, they become
The Chambers sit jointly, on
Tynwald Day at St John's for largely
ceremonial purposes, and usually once a month in the Legislative
Buildings in Douglas. Otherwise, the two Chambers sit separately, with
House of Keys
House of Keys originating most legislation, and the Legislative
Council acting as a revising chamber.
3 Joint sittings
4 Passage of legislation
5 History of Tynwald
5.1 Medieval period
5.2 17th and 18th centuries
Royal Commission on the Isle of Man
7 Proposed changes
8 Millennium Way
9 See also
12 External links
The name Tynwald, like the Icelandic
Þingvellir and Norwegian
Tingvoll, is derived from the Old Norse word Þingvǫllr meaning the
meeting place of the assembly, the field (vǫllr→wald, cf. the Old
English cognate weald) of the thing.
Tynwald meets annually on what is called
Tynwald Day (normally on 5
July) at an open-air ceremony at
Tynwald Hill at St John's. The
Lieutenant Governor of the
Isle of Man
Isle of Man presides, unless HM The Queen
as Lord of Mann, or a member of the
Royal Family representing Her
Majesty, is present. Here, all laws are promulgated and special
petitions are received.
Act of Tynwald is not promulgated at St John's within 18 months
of passage, it becomes null and void.
Tynwald sits in Douglas, which occurs once a month from October
to July, the President of Tynwald, who is chosen by the other members,
presides. In the joint session:
Members of each house formally sign bills
Royal Assent from the
Lord of Mann
Lord of Mann is received
Questions may be put to ministers
Special resolutions authorising taxes are made
Delegated legislation made by government departments may be approved
Petitions may be presented
Other important public business is conducted
Tynwald votes while meeting jointly, each Branch normally votes
separately. If a majority of each Branch approves, the motion is
carried. If the Council vote ties, then the
President of Tynwald
President of Tynwald casts
the deciding vote in line with the majority vote of the Keys. However,
if the Keys approves a motion but the Council disapproves, then the
question can be put again at a different sitting. In this case, the
vote is determined by a majority of all the members of Tynwald. If
this occurs, the Keys, with its larger size, is likely to prevail.
However, in some cases
Tynwald votes as one body even when there is no
disagreement between the Branches: e.g., when nominating the Chief
Minister or on a vote of no confidence in the Council of Ministers.
Passage of legislation
Normally, both Branches of
Tynwald must pass a bill before it goes to
the sovereign or her representative Lieutenant Governor, representing
the Lord of Mann, for Royal Assent. But if the Council rejects a bill
or amends it against the Keys' wishes, the Keys has the power to
repass the same bill; in this case the Council's approval is not
required, and the bill is presented to the lieutenant governor for
Assent is granted (or refused) following consultation with the Privy
Council in London coordinated by the Ministry of Justice in the UK.
History of Tynwald
Tynwald claims to be over 1,000 years old, and thus the "oldest
continuous parliament" in the world. In 1979, the Manx people
celebrated the millennium of their parliament. The year was picked
arbitrarily by officials; there is no evidence indicating that such an
assembly was held in 979, or that any such event resembled the
modern-day court. In fact, the first record of the place-name
occurs in the 13th–14th century Chronicle of Mann, and the first
description of the role and composition of an assembly held on site
occurs in the early 15th century.
Tynwald originally comprised only the 24 Members of the House of Keys,
commonly referred to as "the Keys". Four members were present in the
Keys for each of the six sheadings of the island. The earliest
surviving record of the Keys dates from 1417. The Keys were not
originally an elected body, and membership was for life. When a
vacancy arose the remaining members selected the replacement member.
In general, membership of the Keys passed down through the leading
families on the island.
In the 16th century the Keys met irregularly. They were akin to a jury
which was summoned from time to time by the
Lord of Mann
Lord of Mann or by the
deemsters when they required advice as to the law. In 1600 the Keys
became a permanent body.
Until 1577, the Keys merely declared and interpreted the ancient
common law when queries arose. This developed into the power to create
new laws, a function that
Tynwald adopted around 1610.
17th and 18th centuries
In October 1651, during the English Civil War, the island fell to the
Parliamentary forces, who took over the administration of the
government. During this period,
Tynwald met only sporadically.
Following the restoration of the monarchy, control of the island was
returned to the Lords of Mann. The Keys saw a reduction in their power
at this point, as
Tynwald was reconstituted as "the Lord [of Mann],
the Governor, the principal officers and the deemsters (who constitute
the Lord's Council), and the Commons represented by their Keys."
Administration of the government was vested in a Governor, and the
Lords of Mann became absentee landlords. The Keys were unhappy with
the changes, and agreed to very few new laws.
Tynwald obtained further powers in addition to its monopoly
on law-making: the agreement of
Tynwald would be required for all
taxation, in imitation of the constitutional practice of Great
Britain. This was a short-lived arrangement, as in 1765 the Lord of
Mann sold his rights over the island to the British Crown.
Following the revestment of the Lordship of Mann into the British
Crown in 1765, the British government assumed all powers to impose and
Tynwald was left with no money to spend, and little
power, although it was still able to bring about social change by the
repeal in 1771 of restrictive labour legislation.
As a result, the Keys asked the British government to dissolve Tynwald
and to assent to legislation for a new elected parliament, which they
hoped would have a stronger voice to challenge the new government of
the island, based in distant Whitehall. To this end, the Keys
organised a petition of 800 signatures, which was presented to the
Royal Commission was appointed in 1791, but it was not until 1866
Tynwald finally passed legislation that would see some of its
members elected for the first time. However, before 1866 Tynwald's
primary function had been that of the island's court of appeal. The
House of Keys
House of Keys Election Act 1866 transferred this judicial power to a
Royal Commission on the Isle of Man
In 1791 a
Royal Commission on the
Isle of Man
Isle of Man was formed to examine
the governance and finances of the island.
The Commissioners reported back to
Whitehall in 1792, stating that
"The laws and ordinances that were enacted during the fifteenth and
sixteenth centuries appear by the Manks Statute Book to have been
prescribed by such different powers, or combination of powers, that as
precedents of the exercise of legislative authority they can have but
little weight." The Commission noted that only subsequent to this
period was the practice of the Council and 24 Keys meeting together to
enact legislation established as "the more regular mode of
Royal Commission also noted that the earliest insular Manx laws on
record dated from 1417 (the first Act on record being a restriction of
the powers of the church to offer sanctuary). This was after the
arrival of the Stanley family as Lords of Mann. It also noted that the
comprehensive Manx Statute Book dated from the year 1422 onwards.
These were not necessarily the earliest laws passed, but any prior to
this date were not recorded as Acts of Tynwald. Comparison can be made
with other Parliaments in the British Isles of a similar period: the
oldest recorded in England was from 1229, in Scotland 1424, and in
Ireland 1216 – although again there were prior laws that are now
merely part of the unwritten common law of each country.
The opening statement of the Statute Book was "Divers Ordinances,
Statutes, and Customs, presented, reputed, and used for Laws in the
Land of Mann, that were ratified, approved, and confirmed, as well by
the Honourable Sir John Stanley, Knight, King and Lord of the same
Land, and divers others his Predecessors, as by all Barons, Deemsters,
Officers, Tenants, Inhabitants, and Commons of the same Land where the
Lord's Right is declared in the following Words" Furthermore, the
Commissioners' report noted that prior to the revestment, no "minutes
or journals" of the proceedings of the Council or the House of Keys
had been kept.
…in respect to government and laws, the Manks appear, in all ages to
have been a distinct people, and in some degree an independent, or not
annexed to any other kingdom… The people, however, beyond all
written record, have clearly within claimed and enjoyed the right and
privilege of being governed and regulated by laws of their own making,
or consented to by themselves, or by their constitutional
To maintain this independence of the Legislature, is held to be the
first duty of every Manxman… they dread therefore and must ever
dread, the interference in their internal concerns, or even a
precedent being made for such interference from any other legislature
on earth; even the British…
— Report of the Commissioners of Inquiry for the
Isle of Man
Isle of Man -
In 2007, the island's system of government was reviewed with plans to
transform the Legislative Council into a directly elected chamber,
echoing the push for reform in the UK's
House of Lords
House of Lords and the
abolition of indirectly elected Conseillers in Guernsey. To date, no
legislation has successfully passed through the House of Keys.
Millennium Way long distance footpath was opened in 1979 to
commemorate the millennium year of Tynwald.
Isle of Man
Isle of Man portal
Act of Tynwald
List of Acts of Tynwald
^ "Pokorny Etymon: 4. u̯el-, u̯elə- 'wool, hair; grass, wold,
forest'". Indo-European Lexicon : PIE Etymon and IE Reflexes.
University of Texas at Austin, Linguistics Research Center. 13 May
2014. Retrieved 21 May 2015. West Saxon: weald n.masc weald: forest /
Old Norse: vǫllr n.masc wold, untilled field
^ "vǫllr (Old Norse)". WordSense.eu - dictionary. Retrieved 21 May
2015. Origin & history Proto-Germanic *walþuz, whence also Old
English weald (English wold), Old High German wald (German
^ Council of Ministers Act 1990 section 2
^ The High Court of Tynwald, The High Court of Tynwald
(www.tynwald.org.im), retrieved 14 November 2011
^ Downie Jr., Leonard (6 July 1979). "
Isle of Man
Isle of Man Marks Millennium
with Pomp, Circumstance". The Washington Post. Washington DC.
Retrieved 24 March 2013.
^ Robinson, Vaughan; McCarroll, Danny (1990), The Isle of Man:
celebrating a sense of place, Liverpool University Press, p. 123,
^ McDonald, Russell Andrew (2007), Manx kingship in its Irish sea
setting, 1187–1229: king Rǫgnvaldr and the Crovan dynasty, Four
Courts Press, p. 174, ISBN 978-1-84682-047-2 . See
also: Broderick, George (2003), "Tynwald: a Manx cult-site and
institution of pre-Scandinavian origin?", Studeyrys Manninagh, Centre
for Manx Studies (1.4), archived from the original on
^ 'The Land of Home Rule. Spencer Walpole, 1893
5. Broderick, George (2003): '
Tynwald - a Manx cult-site and
institution of pre-Scandinavian origin?'. Cambrian Medieval Celtic
Studies 46 (Winter 2003): 55-94.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tynwald.
National bicameral legislatures
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Antigua and Barbuda
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Republic of the Congo
Trinidad and Tobago
Isle of Man
Northern Mariana Islands
List of legislatures by country
National unicameral legislatures
National lower houses
National upper houses
Coordinates: 54°09′03″N 4°28′53″W / 54.1508°N