The Trinian system of government can be described as an elected constitutional monarchy. Originally, Trinia was a monarchy in which the various noble families elevated one of their own to the imperial throne, but as times have changed, this system evolved. In most democratic countries that retain a monarchy, democratisation was achieved by transferring substantive power to elected politicians while retaining the monarch as a ceremonial figurehead, but Trinia took a somewhat more direct path — the monarchy itself has been transformed into a democratic institution. This was possible due to the unusual nature of the Trinian monarchy to begin with — as the monarch was elected by the aristocracy, the principle of election was well-established, and all that needed to be introduced was the idea that the person elevated to the throne should ultimately have the direct support of the people. Today, the Emperor is still elected by the lords of the various Houses, but the lords themselves are elected representatives of the people rather than hereditary aristocrats. This means that in many ways, the Emperor of Trinia is similar to an executive president in a republic, despite the formalities and traditions which continue to surround the office.
All Trinians belong to a House, the historic clans into which Trinian society is divided. Each of the Houses has a Lord — this position was once hereditary, but in modern times, is elected. Together, the Lords are responsible for chosing an Emperor and five Ministers from amongst themselves. The voting strength of each House is weighted according to its population. There are no declared candidates, so a House may vote for whoever it likes, including itself. It is also possible for a House to split its vote, although few do. Because an absolute majority is needed for victory, it is rare for a victor to emerge immediately — an election can last for some weeks as negotiations continue. At any time, a House may shift not only its own voting strength but also any votes given to it by other Houses — that is, House A may vote for House B, which gives both its own support and that received from House A to House C. In general, the eventual outcome will be the result of a compromise rather than simply an outright race.
As noted, the Emperor of Trinia is the head of the Trinian government, and is elected by the Lords of the thirty-seven Houses. In ancient times, the position of Lord was hereditary, or at least kept within a certain family. Today, however, the Lords are elected by the members of the House in question, meaning that the Emperor is chosen by representatives of the people. He is then confirmed by public vote. The Emperor is responsible for appointing the Seneschal and assigning roles to the five Ministers, and for directing the operations of the government in general — it is his policies which set the country's course.
In addition to chosing the Emperor, the House Lords also chose five of their number to serve as Ministers. Officially, the five people chosen are simply the five who came closest to being elected Emperor, although as previously noted, there is seldom an actual race for the throne — rather, the selection for ministerial posts will be part of the same negotiated compromise which elects the Emperor, ensuring that nobody need by completely shut out of office. Once five people have been named Ministers, it is the responsibility of the Emperor to assign each one to a specific Ministry.
Besides the five Ministers, the Emperor is assisted by an official known in Trinian as the larisman. The standard translation of the this word is "Seneschal", although "Steward", "Chamberlain", and "Majordomo" are occasionally employed. The origin of the word suggests that he or she runs the Emperor's household, and in traditional Trinian protocol the Seneschal still officially ranks only as a senior servant. In practice, however, the Seneschal has a major role in the administration of government — he or she is responsible for helping the Emperor implement his policies, and undertakes much of the behind-the-scenes administrative work which allows this to happen. In particular, the Seneschal is responsible for coordinating the five Ministers and keeping them appraised of the Emperor's directives, and also for facilitating the deliberations of the Gathering of Monitors.
Trinia does not have a parliament, congress, or other legislative body — laws are passed directly by the Emperor and the five Ministers. However, the Gathering of Monitors has a number of similarities to such assemblies. It is directly elected by the people, with seats allocated to each House based on population. Most of the elected representatives are members of loose political parties, although this affiliation is not formally recognised. The role of the Gathering is essentially one of oversight — it is responsible for supervising the activities of the government as a whole, and for ensuring that all other branches of government remain within their assigned duties. In the event of problems, the Gathering has the ability to impose certain measures to correct matters — including, if necessary, the calling of an early election. In some respects, the Gathering can be seen more as a constitutional court than a legislature, despite superficially resembling the latter.