Its membership consisted of all the planet Grayson's feudal lords, the steadholders, who inherited their seats from their predecessors to hold them for life. The First Elder of the Church of Humanity Unchained, while not a steadholder, was also seated in the Conclave of his own right. (HH5)
In addition to its considerable legislative powers, the Conclave also had the right to confirm or reject a newly-created Steadholder in control of a Steading, as well as accepting or rejecting conditions the proposed Steadholder may propose before assuming office. (HH4)
Prior to the adoption of the Grayson Constitution, the Conclave of Steadholders had the power to elect a new Protector by acclaimation, and it used this power to ensure that no Protector could threaten the collective power of the Steadholders. However, this power was lost with the Constitution, which transformed the office of Protector into an hereditary one.
Also, the Conclave could, with the vote of at least forty-four of its members (as of 1907 PD), call for the impeachment of a Steadholder and his or her removal from any other office he or she holds.
Known as "the Keys" after the Steadholders' badge of office, when in full session the Conclave enjoys a corporate equality with the Protector which can only be ignored when the Protector passes judgment upon one of the Conclave's members. (HH5)
The Conclave's meeting place was Steadholder's Hall, located in Austin City, Grayson's planetary capital. Even after centuries, the hall still bore the marks of the attempted coup by the Faithful which led to the deaths of Protector John II and fifty-three of Grayson's steadholders, as well as the beginning of the Grayson Civil War. (HH4)
For a hundred years prior to Benjamin IX's reign and the Mayhew Restoration, the Conclave of Steadholders almost exerted full control over Grayson in concert with the Council of Elders, even to the point of reducing both the Protector and the Conclave of Steaders to mere figureheads. However, ever since the resumption of direct rule by the Protector, the Conclave of Steadholders has been forced to share power once more with the lower house, as established in the planetary Constitution. (HH5)