The Emperor of Trinia is the head of the Trinian state and government, in many ways being similar to an executive president in a republic. Trinia has never had a truly hereditary system - instead, the Emperor is elected. Originally, only a small number of powerful nobles were able to vote, and so all Emperors were members of the aristocracy. In modern Trinia, however, the system has been broadened to become fully democratic. The formalities and traditions surrounding the monarchy remain in place, however.
The Emperor has a number of important roles in the Trinian state system. Most importantly, the Emperor is responsible for directing the functioning of the government as a whole, having primary authority over basic administrative policy. In this capacity, he is responsible for supervising the work of the five Ministers (who head the departments into which the government is divided) and of the Seneschal (in effect, his deputy). The exact working relationship between the Emperor and the Ministers is not formally codified, but tradition dictates that unless four of the five are in opposition to the Emperor, the Emperor's policy prevails. Moreover, the Emperor is responsible for determining which Minister is assigned to which Minstry.
In essence, the Emperor is chosen by the lords of the thirty-seven Houses, each of whom is democratically elected by the members of their House. All the House lords are theoretically candidates for selection, although in general, only those Houses which vote for themselves are seen as intending to compete. The voting system can be complicated — Houses can split their support, and Houses can contribute not only their own strength but the strength of anybody who has decided to support them. In practice, this involves a large amount of negotiation between Houses, and the selection of the Emperor is essentially a compromise. Once the Houses agree, a national vote is held — the candidate must receive majority approval before taking the throne.
At present, the monarch of Trinia is Emperor Isendur. He is the first Emperor of Trinia's fourth period of independence (the Fourth Reign), having been elevated in 302 AP and reaffirmed in 307 AP.
The election of the Emperor through negotiations and a public vote is merely one aspect of a traditional system, resting on a rather more complicated set of procedures which was used to chose Emperors in medieval times. Although Trinia is now a democratic country, its leadership is founded on centuries of tradition, and the formal protocols surrounding the Emperor's elevation to the throne are still followed — without them, no Trinian ruler would be considered to be a true Emperor.
The path to the imperial throne is called Luren's Ascension, after the traditional Astriŭlite goddess of authority and government. It is fundamentally based on the life of Dalana, the founder of a united Trinia — see the Myth and Legend page for more detail. Luren's Ascension has three stages: the Bloodright, the Tests, and the Mandates. The first of these originally meant that candidates to be the lord of a House — originally, the lords were hereditaty, hense the term "bloodright", but today, the Houses are democratic. The second, the Tests, is a requirement to prove physical, mental, and moral soundness, and involved re-enacting Dalana's unaided escape from Kurin into the mountains of Velamneşĭr — in times past, this journey was difficult and possibly even fatal, although of course that is not the case today. The third, the Mandates, is a requirement to receive the approval of certain key political figures, of the temples, and of the population at large — this reflects the three times which legend says Dalana was urged to take the throne and unify Trinia.
Most of this process is today ceremonial, although must still be undertaken with sincerity. The parts which retain functional significance are the Bloodright (which is now misnamed, but which requires that the Emperor come from among the now-elected House lords) and two of the Mandates (the parts requiring nomination by the other House lords and confirmation in a public vote). This is a good example of the way in which Trinian custom has been adapted to modern times — Luren's Ascension was designed for a fundamentally different world, but a way has nevertheless been found to respect it within the framework of an electoral democracy.
Interaction between the Emperor and other members of the Trinian government is governed by a number of very old rules. Despite essentially functioning as a politician, the Emperor is required to abide by the protocols of the imperial court, most of which derive from customs and practices where were once beneficial to the Emperor's work but which today are simply a matter of tradition. For example, the fact that Emperors are appointed by the Houses and rely on their support meant that historically, most Emperors prefered to subtly exercise authority from a distance, making use of intermediaries — the House lords would resent being issued with orders by the Emperor even if the orders were within the Emperor's legitimate authority. Over the years, this gave rise to the tradition that the Emperor does not direct the government by issuing instructions in person — he does not attend meetings of the Ministers, for example, and never attends social or festive events despite their prominence in the tradition of Trinia's government. There is no such thing as "holding court" in Trinian imperial tradition — on the few occasions where he interacts directly with the people who, in former times, would have been his nobility, the event is small and subdued, and most of the talking is done by his Seneschal. Traditionally, the Emperor was a distant figure, and his influence was only apparent through the actions of his agents.
The Emperor resides in the Korentine Palace, located in the centre of old Kurin and named after its builder, Emperor Korentĭnur. Originally, the Korentine Palace housed virtually the entire government, and it remains a busy public building rather than simply being a private residence — it is something of a point of pride that any Trinian citizen may walk up the palace's front steps and enter, albeit with security checks. Historically, there were three imperial capitals of Trinia, with the Emperors dividing their time between Kurin, Cordăma, and Melaker — although Kurin is now the sole capital, the palaces in the other two cities remain, and it is a custom that the Emperor make use of each for several weeks of each year. The current Emperor has also made a practice of visiting the remaining four provincial capitals each year as well, although this is not a particular custom. Travel outside Trinia, however, is strictly against tradition — there exists no law against it, but not one of Trinia's thirty-eight rulers has ever set foot outside the country during their reign.