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High Court of Tynwald

Ard-whaiyl Tinvaal
Flag of the Tynwald (Parliament of the Isle Of Man).png
Bicameral or tricameral
Houses Legislative Council
House of Keys
Tynwald Court
Stephen Rodan
since 2016
11 MLCs
24 MHKs
Indirect election
Multiple non-transferable vote
House of Keys last election
22 September 2016
House of Keys next election
Meeting place
Legislative Buildings, Douglas, Isle of Man
Coat of arms of the Isle of Man.svg
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
the Isle of Man

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 claims to be the oldest continuous parliamentary body in the world. It consists 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 Tynwald Court.

Manx language Goidelic (Gaelic) Celtic language of the Isle of Man

Manx, also known as Manx Gaelic, and also historically spelled Manks, is a member of the Goidelic (Gaelic) language branch of the Celtic languages of the Indo-European language family; it was spoken as a first language by some of the Manx people on the Isle of Man until the death of the last native speaker, Ned Maddrell, in 1974. Despite this, the language has never fallen completely out of use, with a minority having some knowledge of it; in addition, Manx still has a role as an important part of the island's culture and heritage. Manx has been the subject of language revival efforts; in 2015, around 1,800 people had varying levels of second language conversational ability. Since the late 20th century, Manx has become more visible on the island, with increased signage, radio broadcasts and a Manx-medium primary school. The revival of Manx has been made easier because the language was well recorded: for example, the Bible had been translated into Manx, and audio recordings had been made of native speakers.

A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority to make laws for a political entity such as a country or city. Legislatures form important parts of most governments; in the separation of powers model, they are often contrasted with the executive and judicial branches of government.

Isle of Man British Crown dependency

The Isle of Man, sometimes referred to simply as Mann, is a self-governing British Crown dependency in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Ireland. The head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, holds the title of Lord of Mann and is represented by a lieutenant governor. Defence is the responsibility of the United Kingdom.


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 the House of Keys originating most legislation, and the Legislative Council acting as a revising chamber.

Tynwald Day public holiday in the Isle of Man

Tynwald Day is the National Day of the Isle of Man, usually observed on 5 July.

St Johns, Isle of Man village in United Kingdom

St John's is a small village in the sheading of Glenfaba in the Isle of Man, in the island's central valley. It is in the House of Keys constituency of Glenfaba & Peel, which elects two MHKs.

Douglas, Isle of Man Capital of the Isle of Man

Douglas is the capital and largest town of the Isle of Man, with a population of 27,938 (2011). It is located at the mouth of the River Douglas, and on a sweeping bay of two miles. The River Douglas forms part of the town's harbour and main commercial port.


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) [1] [2] of the thing .

Icelandic language North Germanic language mainly spoken in Iceland

Icelandic is a North Germanic language spoken in Iceland. Along with Faroese, Norn, and Western Norwegian it formerly constituted West Nordic; while Danish, Eastern Norwegian and Swedish constituted East Nordic. Modern Norwegian Bokmål is influenced by both groups, leading the Nordic languages to be divided into mainland Scandinavian languages and Insular Nordic.

Þingvellir place in southwestern Iceland

Þingvellir, anglicised as Thingvellir, is a national park in the municipality of Bláskógabyggð in southwestern Iceland, about 40 km northeast of Iceland's capital, Reykjavík. Þingvellir is a site of historical, cultural, and geological significance, and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Iceland. The park lies in a rift valley that marks the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. To its south lies Þingvallavatn, the largest natural lake in Iceland.

Norwegian language North Germanic language spoken in Norway

Norwegian is a North Germanic language spoken mainly in Norway, where it is the official language. Along with Swedish and Danish, Norwegian forms a dialect continuum of more or less mutually intelligible local and regional varieties; some Norwegian and Swedish dialects, in particular, are very close. These Scandinavian languages, together with Faroese and Icelandic as well as some extinct languages, constitute the North Germanic languages. Faroese and Icelandic are not mutually intelligible with Norwegian in their spoken form because continental Scandinavian has diverged from them. While the two Germanic languages with the greatest numbers of speakers, English and German, have close similarities with Norwegian, neither is mutually intelligible with it. Norwegian is a descendant of Old Norse, the common language of the Germanic peoples living in Scandinavia during the Viking Era.

Tynwald Day

Tynwald meets annually on 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 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 petitions are received.

Lieutenant Governor of the Isle of Man

The Lieutenant Governor of the Isle of Man is the British sovereign's official personal representative in the Isle of Man. He has the power to grant royal assent and is styled "His Excellency".

Lord of Mann

The title Lord or Lady of Mann is used on the Isle of Man to refer to the island's Lord Proprietor and head of state. The current holder of the title is Elizabeth II.

A petition is a request to do something, most commonly addressed to a government official or public entity. Petitions to a deity are a form of prayer called supplication.


If an Act of Tynwald is not promulgated at St John's within 18 months of passage, it becomes null and void.

An Act of Tynwald is a statute passed by Tynwald, the parliament of the Isle of Man.

Promulgation is the formal proclamation or declaration that a new statutory or administrative law is enacted after its final approval. In some jurisdictions, this additional step is necessary before the law can take effect.

Joint sittings

When Tynwald sits in Douglas (once a month from October to July), the President of Tynwald, who is chosen by the other members, presides. In the joint session:

Bill (law) proposed law

A bill is proposed legislation under consideration by a legislature. A bill does not become law until it is passed by the legislature and, in most cases, approved by the executive. Once a bill has been enacted into law, it is called an act of the legislature, or a statute. Bills are introduced in the legislature and are discussed, debated and voted upon.

Royal assent Formal approval of a proposed law in monarchies

Royal assent is the method by which a monarch formally approves an act of the legislature. In some jurisdictions, royal assent is equivalent to promulgation, while in others that is a separate step. Under a modern constitutional monarchy royal assent is considered to be little more than a formality; even in those nations which still, in theory, permit the monarch to withhold assent to laws, the monarch almost never does so, save in a dire political emergency or upon the advice of their government. While the power to veto a law by withholding royal assent was once exercised often by European monarchs, such an occurrence has been very rare since the eighteenth century.

A minister is a politician who heads a government department, making and implementing decisions on policies in conjunction with the other ministers. In some jurisdictions the head of government is also a minister and is designated the ’prime minister’, ‘premier’, ’chief minister’, ’chancellor’ or other title.


When 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 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 electing the Chief Minister or on a vote of no confidence in the Council of Ministers. [3]

Passage of legislation

Normally, both branches of Tynwald must pass a bill before it goes to the sovereign or her representative the Lieutenant Governor, representing the Queen in Council, 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 royal assent.

On some matters, the Royal Assent to Legislation (Isle of Man) Order 1981 requires the Lieutenant Governor to consult with and follow the advice of the Secretary of State for Justice of the United Kingdom. [4]

History of Tynwald

Tynwald claims to be over 1,000 years old, and thus the "oldest continuous parliament" in the world. [5] 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. [6] [7] In fact, the first record of the place-name occurs in the 13th14th 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. [8]

Medieval period

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. [9] 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 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.

In 1737, 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 collect taxes. 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 British government.

A Royal Commission was appointed in 1791, but it was not until 1866 that 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 Election Act 1866 transferred this judicial power to a separate court.

Royal Commission on the Isle of Man

In 1791 a Royal Commission on the Isle of Man was formed to examine the governance and finances of the island. [10]

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 legislating".

The 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 representative…

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 - 1792

Proposed changes

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 and the abolition of indirectly elected Conseillers in Guernsey. To date, no legislation has successfully passed through the House of Keys.

Millennium Way

The Millennium Way long distance footpath was opened in 1979 to commemorate the millennium year of Tynwald.

See also

Related Research Articles

History of the Isle of Man aspect of history

The Isle of Man had become separated from Great Britain and Ireland by 6500 BC. It appears that colonisation took place by sea sometime during the Mesolithic era. The island has been visited by various raiders and trading peoples over the years. After being settled by people from Ireland in the first millennium, the Isle of Man was converted to Christianity and then suffered raids by Vikings from Norway. After becoming subject to Norwegian suzerainty as part of the Kingdom of Mann and the Isles, the Isle of Man later became a possession of the Scottish and then the English crowns. In 1603 during the union of the crowns of England and Scotland through James VI and I

Politics of the Isle of Man

The government of the Isle of Man is a parliamentary representative democracy. As a Crown Dependency, it is not subordinate to the government of the United Kingdom. That government, however, is responsible for defence and external affairs and could intervene in the domestic affairs of the island under its residual responsibilities to guarantee "good government" in all Crown dependencies. The Monarch of the United Kingdom is also the head of state of the Isle of Man, and generally referred to as "The Queen, Lord of Mann". Legislation of the Isle of Man defines "the Crown in right of the Isle of Man" as separate from the "Crown in right of the United Kingdom". Her representative on the island is the Lieutenant Governor of the Isle of Man, but his role is mostly ceremonial, though he does have the power to grant Royal Assent.

House of Keys lower house (Isle of Man)

The House of Keys is the directly elected lower branch of Tynwald, the parliament of the Isle of Man, the other branch being the Legislative Council.

Legislative Council of the Isle of Man upper house

The Legislative Council is the upper chamber of Tynwald, the legislature of the Isle of Man. The abbreviation "LegCo" is often used.

State officials of the Isle of Man

The following State Officials are some of the most important in the Isle of Man. They take place in the annual Tynwald Day procession and have precedence or importance at other occasions.


A deemster is a judge in the Isle of Man. The High Court of Justice of the Isle of Man is presided over by a deemster or, in the case of the appeal division of that court, a deemster and the Judge of Appeal. The deemsters also promulgate the Laws on Tynwald Day by reading out brief summaries of them in English and Manx.

Isle of Man Government

The Isle of Man Government is the government of the Isle of Man. The formal head of the Isle of Man Government is the Lieutenant Governor, representing Queen Elizabeth II, Lord of Mann. The executive head is the Chief Minister.

Stephen Charles Rodan is a Scottish-born Manx politician who has served as the President of Tynwald since 2016 and is a former Minister of the Isle of Man Government and former MHK for the constituency of Garff. He was first elected to the seat in a by-election in 1995.

Judiciary of the Isle of Man

The lowest courts in the Isle of Man are the summary courts, Coroner of Inquests, Licensing Court, Land Court, etc. These courts are presided over by magistrates. There are two stipendiary magistrates, the High Bailiff and the Deputy High Bailiff, along with lay justices of the peace.

The legal system on the Isle of Man is Manx customary law, a form of common law. Manx law originally derived from Gaelic Brehon law and Norse Udal law. Since those early beginnings, Manx law has developed under the heavy influence of English common law, and the uniqueness of the Brehon and Udal foundation is now most apparent only in property and constitutional areas of law.

LGBT rights in the Isle of Man

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in the British Crown dependency of the Isle of Man have evolved substantially since the early 2000s. Private and consensual acts of male homosexuality on the island were decriminalised in 1992. LGBT rights have been extended and recognised in law since then, such as an equal age of consent (2006), employment protection from discrimination (2006), gender identity recognition (2009), the right to enter into a civil partnership (2011), the right to adopt children (2011) and the right to enter into a civil marriage (2016).

The Isle of Man is not part of the United Kingdom, but to a large extent its relations with other countries are handled by the United Kingdom.

Old House of Keys

The Old House of Keys is the former meeting place of the House of Keys, the lower house of Tynwald, the Isle of Man's parliament. It is located across the street from Castle Rushen in Castletown, the former capital of the Isle of Man, in the south of the island. The building was used as the House of Keys from 1821 until 1874, when the parliament was moved to Douglas.

Outline of the Isle of Man Overview of and topical guide to the Isle of Man

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the Isle of Man:

Same-sex marriage in the Isle of Man, a Crown dependency of the United Kingdom, has been legal since 22 July 2016. Civil partnerships were introduced on 6 April 2011.


  1. "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
  2. "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 Wald).
  3. Council of Ministers Act 1990 section 2
  4. https://www.gov.im/media/1355821/royal-assent-prerogative-order.pdf
  5. The High Court of Tynwald, The High Court of Tynwald (www.tynwald.org.im), retrieved 14 November 2011
  6. Downie Jr., Leonard (6 July 1979). "Isle of Man Marks Millennium with Pomp, Circumstance". The Washington Post. Washington DC. Retrieved 24 March 2013.
  7. Robinson, Vaughan; McCarroll, Danny (1990), The Isle of Man: celebrating a sense of place, Liverpool University Press, p. 123, ISBN   978-0-85323-036-6
  8. McDonald, Russell Andrew (2007), Manx kingship in its Irish sea setting, 11871229: 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 2012-04-14.
  9. http://www.tynwald.org.im/education/history/1417/Pages/documents.aspx#indenture
  10. 'The Land of Home Rule. Spencer Walpole, 1893


Coordinates: 54°09′03″N4°28′53″W / 54.1508°N 4.4814°W / 54.1508; -4.4814