Tynwald claims to be the oldest continuous parliamentary assembly in the world, with a tradition of over 1,000 years of meetings being held. As an assembly first in Celtic and later Viking guises, the main business was not legislative i.e. passing laws. It was the means by which the ruler controlled the community, ensured continuity by nominating successors, and resolved disputes.
These more judicial functions, now carried out by the Courts of Justice, are reflected in the formal title of ‘The High Court of Tynwald’. The two Branches of Tynwald also have a long tradition: The Lord’s Council (now the Legislative Council) consisted of officers appointed by the Lord who were assigned specific duties and were available for him to consult as he wished; and The House of Keys originally consisted of men who through land ownership and family succession were known as ‘the worthiest men’.
Together with the Deemsters they considered matters sent to them by the Lord, giving him advice on the accepted ‘law’ that assisted him in arriving at a decision or judgement.
Today the Branches sit alone, primarily to consider legislation, and together as Tynwald Court, to consider matters of policy and finance. In most cases whilst in Tynwald Court the Branches still vote separately.