by a bishop. By an equally natural process he became the chief secretary of the king and of the queen, who also had her chancellor. Such an office possessed an obvious capacity for developing on the judicial as well as the administrative side. Appeals and petitions of aggrieved persons would pass through the chancellor’s hands, as well as the political correspondence of the king. Nor was the king the only man who had need of a chancellor. Great officers and corporations also had occasion to employ an agent to do secretarial, notarial and judicial work for them, and called him by the convenient name of chancellor. The history of the office in its many adaptations to public and private service is the history of its development on judicial, administrative, political, secretarial and notarial lines.
The model of the Carolingian court was followed by the medieval states of Western Europe. In England the office of chancellor dates back to the reign of Edward the Confessor, the first English king to use the Norman practice The chancellor in England.of sealing instead of signing documents; and from the Norman Conquest onwards the succession of chancellors is continuous. The chancellor was originally, and long continued to be, an ecclesiastic, who combined the functions of the most dignified of the royal chaplains, the king’s secretary in secular matters, and keeper of the royal seal. From the first, then, though at the outset overshadowed by that of the justiciar, the office of chancellor was one of great influence and importance. As chaplain the chancellor was keeper of the king’s conscience; as secretary he enjoyed the royal confidence in secular affairs; as keeper of the seal he was necessary to all formal expressions of the royal will. By him and his staff of chaplains the whole secretarial work of the royal household was conducted, the accounts were kept under the justiciar and treasurer, writs were drawn up and sealed, and the royal correspondence was carried on. He was, in fact, as Stubbs puts it, a sort of secretary of state for all departments. “This is he,” wrote John of Salisbury (d. 1180), “who cancels (cancellat) the evil laws of the realm, and makes equitable (aequa) the commands of a pious prince,” a curious anticipation of the chancellor’s later equitable jurisdiction. Under Henry II., indeed, the chancellor was already largely employed in judicial work, either in attendance on the king or in provincial visitations; though the peculiar jurisdiction of the chancery was of later growth. By this time, however, the chancellor was “great alike in Curia and Exchequer”; he was secundus a rege, i.e. took precedence immediately after the justiciar, and nothing was done either in the Curia or the exchequer without his consent. So great was his office that William FitzStephen, the biographer of Becket, tells us that it was not purchasable (emenda non est), a statement which requires modification, since it was in fact more than once sold under Henry I., Stephen, Richard and John (Stubbs, Const. Hist. i. pp. 384-497; Gneist, Const. Hist. of England, p. 219), an evil precedent which was, however, not long followed.
The judicial duties of the chancellor grew out of the fact that all petitions addressed to the king passed through his hands. The number and variety of these became so great that in 1280, under Edward I., an ordinance was issued directing the chancellor and the justices to deal with the greater number of them; those which involved the use of the great seal being specially referred to the chancellor. The chancellor and justices were to determine which of them were “so great, and of grace, that the chancellor and others would not despatch them without the king,” and these the chancellor and other chief ministers were to carry in person to the king (Stubbs ii. 263, note, and p. 268). At this period the chancellor, though employed in equity, had ministerial functions only; but when, in the reign of Edward III., the chancellor ceased to follow the court, his tribunal acquired a more definite character, and petitions for grace and favour began to be addressed primarily to him, instead of being merely examined and passed on by him to the king; and in the twenty-second year of this reign matters which were of grace were definitely committed to the chancellor for decision. This is the starting-point of the equitable jurisdiction of the chancellor, whence developed that immense body of rules, supplementing the deficiencies or modifying the harshness of the common law, which is known as Equity (q.v.).
The position of the chancellor as speaker or prolocutor of the House of Lords dates from the time when the ministers of the royal Curia formed ex officio a part of the commune concilium and parliament. The chancellor originally The chancellor in parliament.attended with the other officials, and he continued to attend ex officio after they had ceased to do so. If he chanced to be a bishop, he was summoned regularly qua bishop; otherwise he attended without summons. When not a peer the chancellor had no place in parliament except as chancellor, and the act of 31 Henry VIII. cap. 10 (1539) laid down that, if not a peer, he had “no interest to give any assent or dissent in the House.” Yet Sir Robert Bourchier (d. 1349), the first lay chancellor, had protested in 1341 against the first statute of 15 Edward III. (on trial by peers, &c.), on the ground that it had not received his assent and was contrary to the laws of the realm. From the time, however, of William, Lord Cowper (first lord high chancellor of Great Britain in 1705, created Baron Cowper in 1706), all chancellors have been made peers on their elevation to the woolsack. Sometimes the custody of the great seal has been transferred from the chancellor to a special official, the lord keeper of the great seal (see Lord Keeper); this was notably the case under Queen Elizabeth (cf. the French garde des sceaux, below). Sometimes it is put into commission, being affixed by lords commissioners of the great seal. By the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 it was enacted that none of these offices could be held by a Roman Catholic (see further under Lord High Chancellor). The office of lord chancellor of Ireland, and that of chancellor of Scotland (who ceased to be appointed after the Act of Union of 1707) followed the same lines of development.
The title of chancellor, without the predicates “high” or “lord,” is also applied in the United Kingdom to a number of other officials and functionaries of varying rank and importance. Of these the most important is the Chancellor of the exchequer.chancellor of the exchequer, an office which originated in the separation of the chancery from the exchequer in the reign of Henry III. (1216–1272). His duties consisted originally in the custody and employment of the seal of the exchequer, in the keeping of a counter-roll to check the roll kept by the treasurer, and in the discharge of certain judicial functions in the exchequer of account. So long as the treasury board was in active working, the chancellorship of the exchequer was an office of small importance, and even during a great part of the 19th century was not necessarily a cabinet office, unless held in conjunction with that of first lord of the treasury. At the present time the chancellor of the exchequer is minister of finance, and therefore always of cabinet rank (see Exchequer).
The chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster is the representative of the crown in the management of its lands and the control of its courts in the duchy of Lancaster, the property of which is scattered over several counties. These Chancellor of the duchy.lands and privileges, though their inheritance has always been vested in the king and his heirs, have always been kept distinct from the hereditary revenues of the sovereign, whose palatine rights as duke of Lancaster were distinct from his rights as king. The Judicature Act of 1873 left only the chancery court of the duchy, but the chancellor can appoint and dismiss the county court judges within the limits of the duchy; he is responsible also for the land revenues of the duchy, which are the private property of the sovereign, and keeps the seal of the duchy. His appointment is by letters patent, and his salary is derived from the revenue of the duchy. As the judicial and estate work is done by subordinate officials, the office is practically a sinecure and is usually given to a minister whose assistance is necessary to a government, but who for one reason or another cannot undertake the duties of an important department. John Bright described him as the maid-of-all-work of the cabinet.
The chancellor of a diocese is the official who presides over the bishop’s court and exercises jurisdiction in his name. This use of the word is comparatively modern, and, though