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For other uses, see Chancellor (disambiguation).

Various governments have a Chancellor who serves as some form of junior or senior minister.

Chancellor (Latin: cancellarius), an official title used by most of the peoples whose civilization has arisen directly or indirectly out of the Roman empire. At different times and in different countries it has stood and stands for very various duties, and has been, and is, borne by officers of various degrees of dignity. The original chancellors were the Cancellarii of Roman courts of justice- ushers who sat at the cancelli or lattice work screens of a basilica or law court, which separated the judge and counsel from the audience. A Chancellor's office is called a chancellery or chancery.



The Chancellor of Austria or Bundeskanzler, is the title for the head of government in Austria. In Austrian politics the Bundeskanzler position is somewhat equivalent to that of a Prime Minister.


Main article: Chancellor of China

In Ancient Times, the Emperor of China appointed a Chancellor as the head of the Executive Ministry inside the imperial government, which is and was a somewhat equivalent to that of a Prime Minister.


The office as chancellor (Royal Chancellor) seems to have appeared in the 12th century and until 1660 it was the title of the leader of the state administration (a kind of a “Home Office” but often with foreign political duties). Often he appeared the real leader of the government. 1660-1848 it continued as “Grand Chancellor“ or “President of the Danish Chancellery” being 1848 replaced by the “Minister of Domestic Affairs”. The title as “German Chancellor” 1524-1660 anticipated the Minister of Foreign Affairs while the “Chancellor of the Realm” from the 1370s to 1660 was something between a Minister of Juridical Affairs and a President of the Supreme Court.


In Finland the Chancellor of Justice (Oikeuskansleri, Justitiekanslern) supervises the legality of actions taken by Government and monitors the implementation of basic civil liberties. In this special function the Chancellor also sits in the Finnish Cabinet, the Finnish Council of State.


For centuries, the King of France appointed a Chancellor or Chancelier de France, a Great Officer of the Crown, an office associated with that of keeper of the seals. The chancelier was responsible for some judicial proceedings. During the reigns of Louis XVIII, Charles X and Louis Philippe, the Chancellor of France presided over the Chamber of Peers, the upper house of the royal French parliament.


As in Austria, the Chancellor of Germany or Bundeskanzler, is the title for the head of government in Germany. In German politics the Bundeskanzler position is somewhat equivalent to that of a Prime Minister, and is elected by the Bundestag, the German Parliament.

After the unification of Germany, in 1871, the Chancellor of the Reich or Reichskanzler, served not only as head of government, but also as presiding officer of the Bundesrat, the upper house of the German imperial parliament. After the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1918, the German chancellor no longer presided over the upper house of parliament.

One of Adolf Hitler's titles was Reichskanzler, meaning Imperial Chancellor.


See Poland below.


In the Kingdom of Poland, from the 14th century, there was a royal chancellor. In the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1569-1795), the four Chancellors (Kanclerzs) were among the ten highest officials of the state. Poland and Lithuania each had a Grand Chancellor and a Deputy Chancellor, each entitled to a senatorial seat, responsible for the affairs of the whole Kingdom, each with his own chancery. See Offices in Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.


In Russian Empire, the Chancellor was highest rank of civil service as defined by Table of Ranks, on the same grade as Field Marshal and General Admiral. Only the most distinguished government officials were promoted to this grade, such as Foreign ministers Alexander Gorchakov and Alexey Bestuzhev-Ryumin.

Spain and Latin America

In Spanish-speaking countries, the title of Chancellor (Spanish: Canciller) is usually given to the government ministers (or equivalent Cabinet-level positions) in charge of foreign policy or foreign-language affairs.


In Sweden the Chancellor of Justice or Justitiekanslern acts as the Solicitor General for the Swedish Government. The office was introduced by Charles XII of Sweden in 1713. Historically there was also Lord High Chancellor or Rikskansler as the most senior member of the Privy Council of Sweden. There is in addition to this a University Chancellor or Universitetskansler, who leads the National Agency for Higher Education.


In Switzerland, the Federal Chancellor (Bundeskanzler, Chancelier fédéral, Cancelliere della Confederazione) is elected by the Swiss parliament. He or she heads the Federal Chancellery, the general staff of the seven-member executive Federal Council, the Swiss government. The Chancellor participates in the meetings of the seven Federal Councilors with a consultative vote and prepares the reports on policy and activities of the council to parliament. The chancellery is responsible for the publication of all federal laws.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, a number of cabinet ministers hold offices containing the word Chancellor.

  • The Lord Chancellor (Lord High Chancellor, King's Chancellor) is the occupant of one of the oldest offices of state, dating back back to the Kingdom of England, and older than Parliament itself. Theoretically, the Lord Chancellor is the "Chancellor of Great Britain"; there was formerly an office of "Chancellor of Ireland" which was abolished in 1922, when all but Northern Ireland left the United Kingdom. The Lord Chancellor, the highest non-Royal subject in precedence (with the exception of the Archbishop of Canterbury), fulfills a threefold role:
    • He is the de facto speaker of the House of Lords. The House of Lords in theory has no speaker, but as its most senior member, the Lord Chancellor, in full court dress and full bottomed wig, sits on the Woolsack and "presides," but has little actual authority. In practice, deputies often preside instead.
    • The Lord Chancellor is the head of the judiciary. Formerly, the Lord Chancellor was the sole judge in the Court of Chancery. Since that court has been combined with others to form the High Court, the Lord Chancellor has served as the head of the Chancery division, but that role has been delegated to the Vice-Chancellor. The Lord Chancellor is also permitted to participate in judicial sittings of the House of Lords; he also chooses the committees that hear appeals in the Lords. The latter role is in practice fulfilled by the Senior Lord of Appeal in Ordinary. The current Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, has indicated that he does not desire to take part in the House's judicial business in the interests of separation of powers.
    • Head of the Department for Constitutional Affairs (formerly the Lord Chancellor's Department), as the head of which he sits in the Cabinet.
  • Chancellor of the Exchequer, the minister with overall responsibility for the Exchequer or Treasury. This, too, is an ancient title dating back to the Kingdom of England. It is roughly the equivalent of the Minister of Finance or Secretary of the Treasury in other governmental systems. In recent years, when the term "Chancellor" is used in British politics, it is taken as referring to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. As Second Lord of the Treasury, the Chancellor has an official residence at Number 11, Downing Street, next door to the First Lord of the Treasury, the Prime Minister, at 10 Downing Street, in London.
  • Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, another ancient office of state, the Chancellor being the Minister of the Crown responsible in theory for the running of the Duchy of Lancaster, a duchy in England belonging to the Crown but historically maintained separately from the rest of the kingdom, whose net revenues personally belong to the monarch. In reality, the post of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, effectively like a chairman of trustees, carries minimal work and responsibilities, so it is used in effect as a Minister without Portfolio position, often given to the chairman of the party in power to give him or her a seat in cabinet.

United States

In the United States, the only "chancellor" established by the Federal government is the Chancellor of the Smithsonian Institution, a largely-ceremonial office held by the Chief Justice of the United States. As the Smithsonian is a research and museum system, its use of the title is perhaps best thought of as akin to a university's chancellor (see Chancellor (education)).

A handful of U.S. states, like Delaware, still maintain a separate Court of Chancery with jurisdiction over equity cases. Judges who sit on those courts are called chancellors.

See also

Heads of government offices

Chancellor | Chief Minister | First Minister | Minister-President | Premier | President of the Executive Council |
President of the Council of Ministers | President of the Government | Prime Minister | Taoiseach

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