The Imperial Senate is the highest legislative body in the Holy Empire of Excalbia. The Senate is composed of 100 members elected once every six years from various constituencies throughout the Empire. The presiding officer of the Senate is the Speaker of the Senate. While nominally elected by the Senate, by tradition the Speaker is always the longest serving member of the Imperial Senate. However, since the longest serving Senator currently holds the position of Imperial Chancellor, the office of Speaker has fallen to the second longest serving Senator, Sir Harrison Grasis of the minority Freedom Party.
By tradition, the Emperor or Empress chooses a sitting Senator to serve as Imperial Chancellor. Since the Chancellor must be approved by a majority of the Senate, the Emperor will usually select a member of the majority party in the Senate, or if there is no majority, a member of the majority coalition. The current Imperial Chancellor is Lady Jessica Tagaarth of the Liberal Party. Most of the current Cabinet, all of whom are members of the ruling center-left coalition, are also sitting Senators.
Currently, the Senate's ruling coalition is composed of the Liberal Party with 35 seats, the Christian Union with 10 seats and the Reform Party with 9 seats. The fractured right opposition is formed by the Progressive Conservatives with 24 seats and the Freedom Party with 19 seats. The Social Welfare Party with 3 seats forms a far left opposition. The last elections were held in 2005 and are scheduled to be held again in 2011.
The Senate meets in the domed Senate building in the centre of the capital, Citadel Excalbia. The building was constructed in 1819 as part of Emperor Joshua's modernisation campaign. The dome is topped on the outside with statue of Liberty bearing the Sword of the monarchy and the Scales of Justice, symbolising the Excalbian ideal of harmony between personal liberty, order and justice. The Senate itself meets in the rotunda beneath the dome. In the chamber, Senators sit in chairs arranged in a tiered auditorium with small tables between each chair. Unlike other legislatures, no desks are provided and each Senator addresses the house from his or her place, except for members of the Government, who address the Senate from the floor at the front of the chamber.
The Senate, as an institution, was created by Emperor Joshua in 1811. In its early years, however, the Senate had to compete for authority with the nobility, who still clung to the ancient institution of the Council of Lords.
From the beginning of the Highland Kingdom of Excalbia, the nobility - in the form of the barons - had shared power with the kings and queens of Excalbia. The barons at times also played a role in settling questions of succession. In 1649, when Haroldson the Usurper claimed the throne, it was the barons who drove him out and placed his cousin Thorfinn II on the throne in his place.
Over the years, occasional formal gatherings of the barons came to be referred as the Council of Lords. This body continued to meet well into the mid-19th century. In 1853, following the death of Emperor Daniel I, the Council of Lords initially resisted his son's ascension to the throne, preferring his brother, the former emperor Samuel I, who had abdicated due to poor health. It was only the former emperor's refusal to return to the throne that persuaded the barons to accept Samuel II as the new Emperor. Through out the debate, the Imperial Senate's early recognition of Samuel II was largely seen as irrelevant.
Gradually, under the reign of Daniel II in the early 1880s, the powers of the Council of Lords were diminished and those of the Senate were strengthened. The Council of Lords was finally abolished in 1887 by Emperor David I. The last of the Council's vestigial legislative powers were then transferred to the Senate. The Senate's standing was finally confirmed once and for all in 1906 when Emperor Daniel III signed the Excalbian Constitution.