Order of the Amethyst
High Council of Bardac's Holdfast
The High Council consists of 24 noble houses; 8 Higher Houses and 16 Lesser Houses.
Each house is said to ‘hold a seat’ on the council, although each house does not necessarily ‘hold a vote’ as this depends on the type of voting method used when making the decision.
Members of the High Council
Each Higher House has one member representative; this is the person said to ‘hold a seat’ in the house.
In addition, this member may also, if they wish, bring one additional person to the council meetings. The additional person has no right to vote or to address the council themselves and generally acts as an advisor.
Lesser Houses also have one member representative each but may not bring an additional person. They may also be limited as to when they can or cannot address the council depending on the voting method being used.
An additional member of the Council is ‘The Speaker’. This person is appointed by the monarch as someone trusted to be impartial and fair (normally a retired member of the council) and acts as chair of the council meetings; they do not generally have the right to vote.
The final member of the council is the monarch, who can take part in the High Council in one of three ways;
a) to act as member representative for the Royal House’s Duchy, therefore voting as one of the Higher House votes
b) to vote in addition to the High Council and independent of the High Council’s 10 votes; known and as ‘sitting monarch’
c) choose not to take part in the voting and abstain; known as an ‘absent monarch’.
It should also be noted that generally no decision of the Council is binding on the monarch. The monarch can therefore also choose to simply overrule any High Council decision.
For the exceptions to this ultimate power of the sovereign, see ‘ Bardac’s Holdfast’.
This leads to a total of 10 votes, with the potential addition of a monarch’s vote or Speaker’s vote.
The format of traditional voting is also very rigid and procedural; the process is broken down into four stages;
Stage One; Presentation, where the interested parties present their cases and any members of the Higher Houses can ask clarifying questions or seek to open the debate by bringing new information.
Stage Two; Open Debate; this is the open floor section of the Council meeting, where members from all houses can put forth their arguments and submissions either in support of or against the points raised. This is the only section of the traditional vote proceedings where members of the Lesser Houses can address the Council.
Stage Three; Closing Submissions; each Higher House (and sometimes also the interested parties if they are not of the Higher House) is offered an opportunity to summarise their thoughts on the proceeding thus far, normally in only a few sentences. This is not a statement of voting preference, bit merely an indication of their thoughts and viewpoint.
Stage Four; Recess. This is a period of recess, the length of which is announced by the Speaker at the beginning, where all the Houses and their representatives are able to mingle socially and discuss the matter in a more casual atmosphere. Refreshments are provided and there are sectioned rooms available if discussions wish to be done in private.
This is often the point where the real negotiations are finalised, with some parties finding allies in a vote while others may seek to shore up their support.
At the end of the recess, the Council re-seats, the votes are cast (normally publicly, although on occasion voting has been kept secret if the Speaker deemed it necessary) and the outcome announced.
A tie-break may be decided by either a Speaker’s vote, a ‘sitting monarch’ vote, or with the decision being adjourned to a later Council meeting.
The Open Vote system is most similar to Stage 2 of the Traditional Vote. It is an open floor, where any member of the Higher or Lesser Houses may make submissions, ask questions or put forward arguments. There is no time limit, therefore smaller issues can be resolved quickly, and if required there can also be a Recess (see above) within an Open Vote debate if the issue requires more lengthy discussion.
The Speaker is responsible for chairing and managing the debate to keep it civil and progressive, and also deciding the nature and format of the debate and how long the debate will be allowed to go on.
The Higher Houses’ additional person may not address the council unless directly invited to do so, as with the Traditional Vote
The crucial difference with the Open Vote is that every house gets one vote, regardless of their station. This substantially empowers the Lesser Houses (who would ordinarily only have an eighth of a vote each) and reduces the power of the Higher Houses, putting more onus on them to convince the whole council to their way of thinking.
Due to its nature, Open Vote debates are often frenetic, loud and fast, which makes them very suitable when quick decisions need to be made or where the topic is deemed less important or less contested.
Switching Between Voting Methods
Unless dictated by Statute (some decisions must be made by the Traditional Voting method) the only person who has the power to determine which voting method should used is the Monarch or, in the absence of the same, the Speaker.
There are no limitations on how and when a change may be made; this is entirely at the discretion of the monarch. The Speaker normally only changes the voting method mid-way through for practical reasons, such as the issue not being easily debated. The monarch is much more likely to change a debate mid-way through for political reasons or their own motives.
For example, the monarch may allow a debate to proceed through the Traditional Voting method all the way through to the end of the Recess, and then dictate that the debate should change to an Open Vote, thus shifting the power balance at the last moment when there is no further time for debate or persuasion and thus disarming the Higher Houses.
These changes are historically rare, in that they can breed discomfort and animosity, unsettling a High Council against the monarch, but have become more common in recent years.
The Higher and Lesser Houses, with their respective heraldic family shields, can be viewed on the ‘ Houses of the High Council’ page.