Parliament of Themiclesia

The Parliament of Themiclesia is the bicameral national legislature of Themiclesia, consisting of the House of Lords and House of Commons.

Seat

Physical premises

Unlike many legislatures, the Themiclesian parliament does not operate in a self-contained building or compound. It occupies several sections of the Sk'ên'-ljang Palace (顯陽宮), mainly the Inner (中書上省) and Outer Protonotaries Court (中書下省), Kaw-men Hall (高門殿), Inner (侍中上省) and Outer Court of Attendants (侍中下省), Court of Visitors (客省), Royal Lobbies (殿中臺), and several minor compounds. These sections are non-contiguous and each contain several buildings surrounded by walls.  These premises were inherited from the bodies were reformed into the modern Parliament.

The Inner and Outer Protonotaries courts originally contained the royal secretariat that was elective and later became the House of Commons. These courts are situated on the west side of the palace. The Inner Court served as office and meeting space, while the Outer Court contained residences for members of the secretariat. The Inner Court contains of the main chamber slightly to the compound's north, and said chamber is flanked by two corridors that connected to the peristyle on the inner side of the walls. North of the main chamber is the Grand Gallery, which had several functions over the ages. To the east and west of the chamber are separate committee rooms, and a modern office building, two storeys tall, extends from the west corridor south. The Outer Court consists of rows of one-storey buildings.

The Kaw-men Hall was originally a royal hall for a visiting empress, but the Council of Peers, predecessor of the House of Lords, moved into this vacant building in 1805. Originally, the Council was no more than a few members in size and met in the Court of Attendants, but the Great Settlement brought all the peers to the capital city, whose meetings necessitated grander premises. The hall possesses its own peristyle compound, and quarters for the empress' staff were converted into space for the peers' secretaries and servants. The Inner Court of Attendants thus became a group of committee chambers after several years of disuse. The Outer Court of Attendants has become an archive mostly used by the House of Lords, whose members tended to live in their own houses. Unlike the Court of Protonotaries, the Kaw-men Hall was not extensively added to for legislative purposes.

The Court of Visitors is mostly used today as an area for MPs offices and public events. The parliamentary ballroom is found here. The Royal Lobbies are within the Front Hall and served as fora for members of both houses to meet with the monarch and government ministers in a collegiate context. The space between the Kaw-men Hall and Front Hall is considered non-public; several modern buildings are located in this area and house further parliamentary offices. The same is true with the space between the Inner Court of Protonotaries and the Front Hall, though visitors with permission may still cross this space.

Rebuilding debate

When the first modern parliament met in 1845, democratic principles and the need for a permanent representative faculty were already well-established amongst the political classes. However, no legislature in the world, save for the Camian parliament, had dedicated premises, and the Tyrannian and Merovingian legislatures, renowned in Themiclesia as potential models for legislature reform, sat in royal palaces. In this regard, the Themiclesian parliament's predecessors were entirely normal—they developed out of councils in service to the throne and therefore sat in royal palaces. As developments of the councils that have found political independence, the two reformed houses also inherited the councils' premises. The Tyrannian parliament, the blueprint of the Themiclesian one, sat in a medieval palace that burned down in 1834, but that palace would have been familiar with Themiclesian politicians at the helm in the 1840s, who were in their 60s or 70s. Thus, while many modern legislatures possess iconic buildings, the Themiclesian reformers did not initially regard a building dedicated to parliament as necessary.

Nevertheless, proposals in that direction existed. Nop Trja proposed that a new parliament building be erected outside of the royal palace, and he asserted that buildings possess special significances to both inhabitants and onlookers. To this he added that the Tyrannian parliament was, as of 1845, overseeing the construction of such a building. However, other politicians pointed out that the Tyrannian parliament was currently homeless but fully functional, proving that a functional legislature did not need an exclusive building. At any rate, "building a palace" would seem politically difficult when the legislature recently rejected a royal bill to restore other palaces, and it seems Trja's proposals were of a very early stage, i.e. without an actual plan for the new building.

A wave of proposals appeared again in the late 19th century, when the Tyrannian parliament has moved into a new, dedicated building its architects described as the symbol of a successful political system. At this time, the Liberals heavily romanticized their role in political reforms of previous decades, which led them also to describe the current political system as successful. Liberal prime minister Lord Tl'jang-mjen thus proposed that a new building be erected, but its locale became controversial; Conservative leader the Lord of M'i reiterated that the Tyrannian parliament building was constructed only because the medieval palace burned down and in situ, but the Themiclesian palace, which he dubiously dates to the 3rd century, was standing. He further criticized the Liberals for ignoring the historicity of the existing chambers, "where democracy in this country took root." The matter died when Tl'jang-mjen's government fell in the election of 1878.

The fact that there was still space within the palace for parliament to erect and extend buildings seems to have invalidated most arguments for an entirely new parliament complex on material grounds. In 1865, Emperor Mjen told parliament that he had no objections to expanding its premises, which further dissuaded both houses from moving out of the palace. However, this is not to say that existing buildings were not regularly improved and renovated. In the 1870s, most of the traditional buildings had underground furnaces built to provide heating in winter, and new buildings erected since the early 19th century were all in the Casaterran style, which cost significantly less in materials. The matter that caught legislators' minds was sprawl: the two houses were almost a kilometer apart and interspersed between royal buildings, which appeared to translate into a political distance between the chambers.

Ceremonies

State opening of Parliament

The state opening of Parliament officially begins a new legislative session, after either a general election or a prorogation, summoning both houses of Parliament to meet. Politically, it permits Members of Parliament to vacate the Sk'ên'-ljang Palace and interact with their constituents, and governments may use this time to assess its achievements over the ended session and prepare agenda for the new one. If following a general election resulting in a change of government, the state opening usually occurs several days after the government is formed, so that its agenda may be clearly set forth; if there is no change in government, it typically occurs between ten and forty days after the general election or prorogation. For most of the 19th century, Parliament usually prorogued in late spring or early summer and resumed sitting after November, the beginning of the new administrative year, but the session has steadily grew since.

Legally, the prime minister advises the monarch to order the state opening, but where the premiership is vacant, it is accepted that the Privy Council may perform this pro forma duty on its behalf. After the order is issued, members of both houses generally arrive several days beforehand to take possession of new offices and residences, where necessary. On the specified day, both houses meet in their respective chambers, though no business is transacted as the session is not officially open yet.

The monarch is joined by a lengthy procession including senior members of the royal household, some members of the Privy Council, lords-in-waiting, gentlemen retainers, ranking members of the Civil Service, and other dignitaries; they proceed from the Front Hall, the ceremonial residence of the crown, through the Tor gate, and then turn to the east and north to the Kaw-men Hall, the seat of the House of Lords. The procession stops at the gate to the hall, while the Chief Usher informs the Gentleman-Captain of the House of the sovereign's arrival. The latter enters and greets the House, informing them of the same, whereby the House votes by acclamation to invite the sovereign into the chamber. The Emperor enters through the south gate, ascends the west-side steps, and is greeted in the royal antechamber by the Leader of the House of Lords, who presents the Speech from the Throne setting forth the Government's agenda for the new session.

Having donned the royal crown, formal court robes, and the crimson royal sash, the senior lord holds the royal seal, and in descending order of seniority the others hold his right arm, left arm, and the train of the robes. Other members of the procession follow them, but those who are peers may enter the chamber accompanying the sovereign and flank the throne. The Gentleman-Captain rings the bells 100 times as the sovereign approaches the chamber, prompting the assembled peers to rise and remove their hats as the sovereign appears. The Emperor stops under the throne's canopy and before the seat, as the peers bow to him; he acknowledges this by bowing back to the House. The peers take their seats after the sovereign. The Emperor commences the speech by saying:

My lords, moved by my ministers' advice to make certain laws for the common good and necessary defence of Themiclesia, which require the assent of Parliament to be enacted and put into effect according to the customs of our progenitors, and for which you, the peers of Themiclesia, and the Members of the House of Commons have now been summoned, I have commanded the Marshal of Peers to acquaint you of the same advice, and likewise my other servants to the House of Commons, in the very words as have been acquainted to myself, which will now be read before you.

The Marshal of Peers then retrieves the Speech from the Throne from the Emperor's hands and stands left of the throne, bowing to the House before starting to read the Government's agenda, which are drafted in the Government's voice and addressed to the Emperor. The speech's length varies, as it is drafted wholly at the Government's discretion; some speeches have been as short as a few sentences, while longer speeches lasting more than an hour have become more common in the modern era. At the end of the speech, the Marshal returns the speech to the Emperor, who says:

My lords, it is my desire that you will consider, debate, and decide of the said advice, which has now been read to you and the House of Commons, and give to me your good advice regarding the same, to consider, debate, and decide the bills which the House of Commons have committed to this noble House, and to commit your bills to the House of Commons, according to the common good and defence of this country are required.

My lords, I wish also further acquaint you that I desire the same for any other bill which will be laid before this House, or the House of Commons, as the case may be.

My lords, it is with immense gratitude and hesitation that I, infringing upon your persons and time, have caused you to be summoned here, and to the end of your convenience and protection, it is my desire that assure you, the Peers of Themiclesia, and likewise the Members of the House of Commons, that all accustomed privileges, prerogatives, and powers necessary to the discharge of your respective businesses and the protection of your dignity and name, will ever be in my and my ministers' regard.

Having said this, the Gentleman-Captain begins to ring the silver bell, whereby the peers rise as the emperor rises. After they have bowed to each other, the lords-in-waiting help the sovereign from the throne and leave the chamber. The procession then returns to the Front Hall in the same route. In modern practice, no debate occurs on the same day the speech is delivered.

Royal assent to bills

Since 1949, the Themiclesian monarch customarily gives royal assent to bills on the first working day of each month, which is legally necessary to give effect to bills before they are promulgated by the Chancellor. In a less elaborate procession including the Chancellor, the Vice Chancellor, the President of Tribunes, the emperor arrives at the Kaw-men Hall and takes his seat on the throne as with the state opening. The sovereign has not worn the royal crown, court robes, or the crimson sash for royal assent ceremonies since 1951, instead donning a frock coat ensemble that is similar to the dress code of the House of Lords itself. He removes his hat upon entering the chamber and bows to the assembled peers in the same fashion.

The Lord Speaker, in the absence of the Chancellor, says before the sovereign's arrival:

My lords, I beg to acquaint this noble house, having previously given your assent to several bills passed by the House of Commons, I have directed the Clerks to pass the same before the Sovereign, who has been advised to be present at this House, and will now be present, to grant his royal assent to the said bills. The Clerks of the Chancery have been commanded to be present at this chamber, and are now present, to take notice of the passage of the said bills, as the customary usages of this House requires.

After the emperor is seated, the Clerk of the House holds the original copy of the bill, which has been endorsed by the chief clerks of both chambers, and delivers it to Attorney-general, who applies the royal seal on the bill having seen the endorsements. After the seal is applied, the bill is returned to the Clerk of the House, who says:

The Emperor has declared his assent (for when the bill is passed)

The Emperor commands this noble House (or the honourable House of Commons) to re-open discussons upon this bill (for when the bill is rejected)

While theoretically a bill may be refused assent by the sovereign, this has never happened since the reform of 1845. Even before 1845, the weakened crown after the Great Settlement of 1801 has only rejected bills if an overwhelming majority of peers have advised their reservations after the bill was passed, due to changing circumstances or other irregular occurrences. After all pending bills have received royal assent, the Emperor customarily delivers a short message to the House of Lords:

My lords, I thank most earnestly you for the bills which you have passed, and are now statutes of Themiclesia, and desire that further bills may be made for the advancement of the common good and necessary defence of this country.

At the same time, a message would be sent to the House of Commons, usually read by the Speaker:

Honourable ladies and gentlemen of the House of Commons, I, the Clerk of the House of Lords, would respectfully inform this honourable House that the Emperor has been moved to give royal assent to various bills that the honourable House of Commons has committed to this house, and that this house has concurred, and is now present in his proper person in the House of Lords to give said assent to the said bills. I am commanded to inform your honourable House that the Emperor has accordingly given royal assent to the following bills, namely [bills], which are now effective statutes of Themiclesia, [and that the Emperor commands that the deliberations on the following bills be re-opened, namely ...]

The Speaker would continue:

Honourable members of the House of Commons, with respect to the message from the Chief Clerk of the House of Lords which has now been read, and according to the matters therein found, I would respectfully inform this honourable House that the Emperor has given royal assent to the following bills, namely [bills].

Prorogation

The prorogation ceremony usually follows granting assent to bills but may occur separately, the most recent time in 1983. With the smaller procession that accompanies the sovereign to the House of Lords during royal assent ceremonies, the Emperor takes the thorne and delivers a short message to the House regarding their accomplishments:

My lords, in the time that you have attended this Parliament, you, the Peers of Themiclesia, have granted unto me your good advice in light of the desires which I have expressed to you at the opening of this Parliament and have endured my encumberance on your persons and time. I was greatly pleased and enjoy the pleasure to give assent to the bills which you, my noble lords, have passed, as have likewise the honourable House of Commons, namely [the bills which passed and received royal assent], [and with deep regret I have not been able to give assent to those bills, namely ... ].

My lords, my ministers have concurred to express their most sincere gratitude to this noble House and all its members, for all the things they have done towards the common good and necessary defence of Themiclesia and for their gracious assistance towards my ministers' agenda. Equally, I desire to recognize, in particular, the most noble Chancellor, the right honourable Vice Chancellor[s], and the honourable Attorney-general for their labours to assist this House discharge its other onerous tasks that the law imposes upon them. As much as the previous individuals, I desire to recognize the noble Lord Speaker, the Lord Vice Speaker, and our Marshal of Peers.

My lords, my ministers have most earnestly advised me that our beloved people are anxious that they should meet their representatives now summoned and sitting in the House of Commons, and it not being necessary or proper to require their continued presence in this palace, I would respectfully inform this higher House that this Parliament is to be prorogued to [date of next state opening] and the same has been duly relayed to the honourable House of Commons.

At the same time, a similar message would be delivered on paper to the House of Commons, which is usually read by the Speaker to the House:

Honourable members, in the time you have attended this Parliament, you have granted unto me your good advice in light of the desires which I have expressed to you at the opening of this Parliament and have diligently attended to your lawful duties. I have assented to the bills which you, the honourable ladies and gentlemen of the House of Commons, have passed, as likewise the noble House of Lords, namely [the bills which passed and received royal assent], [and with deep regret I have not been able to give assent to those bills, namely ... ].

Honourable members of the House of Commons, my ministers have concurred to express their most sincere gratitude to this honourable House and all its members, for all the things they have done towards the common good and necessary defence of Themiclesia and for their gracious assistance towards my ministers' agenda. Equally, I desire to recognize, in particular, the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, for their labours relative to the House which they serve.

Honourable members of the House of Commons, my ministers have most earnestly advised me that our beloved people are anxious that they should meet you, their representatives now summoned and sitting in the House of Commons, and it not being necessary or proper to require your continued presence in this place, I have acquainted to the House of Lords that this Parliament is prorogued to [date of next state opening], and because it is not possible for me to be personally present to inform you of the same, I have commanded the Speaker of the House to inform you, the honourable ladies and gentlemen of the House of Commons, that this Parliament is prorogued to [date of next state opening].

Whereby the Speaker would pronounce the formulaic phrase to declare the prorogation:

With respect to the letters which have now been read, and in obedience to the Emperor's commands therein contained, I would respectfully inform this honourable House that this Parliament is prorogued to [date of next state opening].

See also