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The Elder Council is the foremost power within the Tamrielic government, apart from the Emperor, having been created sometime between 243 and 498 of the First Era. An unelected body, the Elder Council is charged with the function of governing alongside the Emperor and operating in regency should an Emperor fail in his duties by death or sickness, mental or physical. Furthermore, the Elder Council has full legislative authority, being able to enact new laws wherein they deem them proper; to counter this, the reigning Emperor retains the power of veto, as evidenced by Uriel Septim VI.
In the event the Elder Council is forced to assume a position of regency over the Empire, a state of martial-law is enacted, the Elder Council exercising complete control over the Imperial Army and Navy. Furthermore, said regency will remain until such time as the Council should deem any individual fit to preside as Emperor, as mandated by ancient custom. In order to ensure that the Empire is never left ungoverned, the Amulet of Kings was created to inform the members of the Elder Council in the event the current Emperor perishes.
It is known that the Elder Council makes use of a quadragraph format for the presentation of information regarding presumed threats, encompassing the following:
- The metaphysical root
- Historical lessonates
- Present threat assessment
- Assumption of enemy maneuvers
Furthermore, it is recorded that the Elder Council possesses powers alluded to as the "right of admonishment" and the "call of silence", although what each accomplishes is unknown.
The Elder Council regularly convenes at its historic chambers in the center of the Imperial Palace complex in the Imperial City within Cyrodiil. Built around the ancient White Gold Tower, the chamber is designed with a cathedral-like ceiling, soaring majestically towards the heavens and sparsely adorned save for a single table. The table, a large circular object fixed in the center of the room, hints at a measure of equality within the Elder Council's ranks. While no reports substantiate such, a viewing balcony overlooks the central chamber, leading some to speculate that open sessions of the Council may be held.
Historically, the Elder Council has long been a deciding factor within the outcome of certain events within the history of Tamriel. The first major exercise of their power came in the year 266 of the First Era, wherein it was the Elder Council who appointed Belharza the Man-Bull as the second Emperor of Cyrodiil.
The Elder Council continued its hold of power throughout Belharza's reign and to Pelagius II's in the Third Era, who dismissed his power-hungry and wealthy Elder Council, allowing only those who aided his repayment of debts - acquired through the Empire's mismanagement by Emperor Uriel Septim II - to reassume their positions.
The reformed Elder Council went on to suffer through the reign of Pelagius III, often known as "Pelagius the Mad", struggling to maintain a working Empire and stifle his embarrassing conduct. Having endured Pelagius' insanity for years - see The Madness of Pelagius for further information - the Elder Council sent him to an unknown asylum for rehabilitation, electing his wife, Katariah, as Regent Empress.
Following Katariah's death, Uriel Lariat - borne of Katariah and her Imperial consort - assumed the title of Emperor and the name of Uriel IV, overriding the Elder Council's wishes that he not do so. Over the period of his forty-three year reign - as acknowledged by the Elder Council - the members of the Council, separately and as a unified group, made numerous attempts to depose him from the throne.
Ultimately, the rule of Uriel IV was one bespeckled with fruitless efforts and failed ventures, due to the Elder Council's constant interference. Following his death, the Elder Council enjoyed their final triumph, disinheriting his son, Andorak, of the Imperial throne by a unanimous vote, electing in his place a cousin proclaimed as Cephorus II.
Enjoying great power after Katariah's death, and through numerous Emperors, the members of the Elder Council were eventually brought to heel by Emperor Uriel VI, who was able to decrease their influence through use of "bullying" tactics. Employing an elaborate network of spies, Uriel VI was able to blackmail and otherwise coerce the members of the Council to cease their manipulation of him and the Empire as a whole. Furthermore, Uriel VI made frequent use of his right to veto against the Elder Council, stymieing their efforts wherever possible. So impressive was his vendetta against the Council that the Sage Ugaridge was recorded as having said that "Uriel V conquered Esroniet, but Uriel VI conquered the Elder Council."
Although the direct nature of its composition is unknown, it is widely assumed that the Elder Council consists of the aristocracy from various Imperial provinces, coupled with those individuals appointed by the Emperor of Tamriel. While speculation upon its membership continues, the following individuals are known to have served, or be serving, upon the Elder Council:
- Thoricles Romus, an Argonian, held an unknown position within the Elder Council, and is believed to have been responsible while therein for the assassination of Empress Morihatha. He was tried and executed for the deed under the rule of Morihatha's successor, Pelagius IV.
- The Elder Council was led by the Lord Castellian during the Second Era.
- At the end of the Third Era the Elder Council was led by High Chancellor Ocato, an Altmer who is said to have been the primary force behind the day-to-day governing of the Empire for more than fifteen years before Emperor Uriel Septim VII's was assassinated