Then and Now
There are many striking similarities between the procedure described in 1417 and the way in which the ceremony unfolds today. There are also, however, a number of important differences. While the procedure of 1417 was largely designed to assert Sir John Stanley II’s authority in the Isle of Man, today the Tynwald Day ceremony is an important aspect of Manx parliamentary democracy.
Service in the Chapel
There is no mention in the 1417 procedure of any church service or other business before the procession towards the Hill. Today, the ceremony begins with a service in the Chapel, and the Chapel is also the venue for the Captioning of the Acts at the end of the ceremony, when the President of Tynwald and the Speaker of the House of Keys signs certificates of promulgation.
Procession towards the Hill
The procession towards the Hill remains suitably regal. Those who have a seat on the Hill move to line the processional way, so that the Governor, preceded by the Sword of State carried by the Tynwald Sword Bearer, may pass and be the first to step on the Hill. The processional way is covered with rushes, which is thought to be a continuation of the ancient Celtic tradition of appeasing the sea god Mannanan on midsummer’s eve.
The King and Lord of Man
Nowadays the Queen, Lord of Man is usually represented on Tynwald Day by the Lieutenant Governor. While the Lieutenant Governor used to preside over sittings of the Legislative Council and Tynwald Court, today his role as a presiding officer is limited to the Tynwald Day Ceremony. The naming of successors and the inauguration of the new Lord of Man is no longer carried out on Tynwald Day.
The Lieutenant Governor continues to sit on the top tier of Tynwald Hill facing towards the East, with the Sword of State before him. The only remaining Baron is the Lord Bishop of Sodor and Man, who sits on the top tier along with the President of Tynwald and the other Members of the Legislative Council. The next lowest tier is occupied by the Members of the House of Keys. Members of the Clergy and other Island officials, such as the High Bailiff, the Mayor of Douglas, and the Chairmen of the Town and Village Commissioners, sit on the next tier, and the lowest tier is reserved for the Deemsters, the Captains of the Parishes, the Coroners, and the Superintendent of Police.
Fencing the Court
It is still the Coroner of Glenfaba’s responsibility to fence the Court or call it into order, although it is unlikely today that anyone who causes a disturbance will be executed.
I fence this Court in the name of our Most Gracious Sovereign Lady The Queen. I charge that no person do quarrel, brawl or make any disturbance and that all persons do answer their names when called. I charge this audience to witness this Court is fenced. I charge this audience to witness this Court is fenced. I charge this whole audience to bear witness this Court is now fenced.
Swearing-in of the Coroners
The Coroners are sworn in each year on Tynwald Day, a practice that was codified in law in 1422. They each represent a sheading, an administrative division of the Isle of Man that dates back to the Viking period, when they were responsible for producing a certain number of warships. Today they are responsible for the administration of jury service and the enforcement of certain orders and judgments of the Courts.
Promulgation of the Acts of Tynwald
There is no specific requirement in the 1417 procedure for the laws to be promulgated. Today, the promulgation of the Acts takes place after the swearing-in of the Coroners. The Deemsters read out loud, in Manx and English, the title and a short description of each Act that has been passed during the previous. This is the final step in the making of a law: if an Act is not promulgated within eighteen months of being passed by Tynwald, it ceases to have effect.
Petitions for Redress
After the Acts have been promulgated, Petitions for Redress are collected at the foot of the Hill by the Clerk of Tynwald. This is considered to represent an ancient right of the people of the Isle of Man, but there is no mention of it in the 1417 procedure. In the 1950s, the practice was revitalised, and it is arguably the focal point of the ceremony today.