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Chancellor (Latin : cancellarius) is a title of various official positions in the governments of many nations. 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 word is now used in the titles of many various officers in various settings (government, education, religion). Nowadays the term is most often used to describe:


Governmental positions

Head of government


The Federal Chancellor of Austria, denominated Bundeskanzler for males and Bundeskanzlerin for females, is the title of the head of the Government of Austria. The current Chancellor of Austria is Karl Nehammer. [1]


The Federal Chancellor of Germany, denominated Bundeskanzler for males and Bundeskanzlerin for females, is the title for the head of government in Germany. In German politics, the Bundeskanzler position is equivalent to that of a prime minister and is elected by the Bundestag ("Federal Diet", the directly elected federal parliament) every four years on the beginning of the electoral period after general elections. Between general elections, the Federal Chancellor (together with the whole cabinet) can only be removed from office by a konstruktives Misstrauensvotum (constructive vote of no confidence), which consists in the candidacy of an opposition candidate for the office of Chancellor in the Bundestag. If this candidate gets a majority of the entire membership of the Bundestag, he or she will be sworn in immediately as new Federal Chancellor. [2]

The current German Bundeskanzler is Olaf Scholz of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD)

The former German Empire, the Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany had the equivalent position of Reichskanzler ("Reich Chancellor") as the head of the executive. Between 1871 and 1918, the Chancellor was appointed by the German Emperor. During the Weimar Republic (1919-1933), the Chancellor was chosen by the Reichspräsident ("Reich President") and stood under his authority. This continued (formally) during the first two years of the Nazi regime until the death of President Paul von Hindenburg in 1934. Between 1934 and 1945, Adolf Hitler was dictatorial head of state and government of Nazi Germany, being officially titled "Führer und Reichskanzler" (literally "Leader and Reich Chancellor").


Swiss Confederation

In Switzerland, the Federal Chancellor (German: Bundeskanzler, French: Chancelier fédéral, Italian: Cancelliere della Confederazione) is not the political head of government, but rather its administrative head as the Chief of Staff of the Swiss Federal Government. They are elected by the Swiss Federal Assembly (German: Bundesversammlung, French: Assemblée fédérale, Italian: Assemblea federale) to head the Federal Chancellery (German: Bundeskanzlei) — the general staff of the seven-member executive Federal Council, the Swiss federal 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 (assembly). The chancellery is responsible for the publication of all federal laws.

Swiss cantons

In most Swiss cantons there is a State Chancellor who heads the central administrative unit of the cantonal government. [3] In the Canton of Geneva, the first documents attesting to the existence of a Chancellor go back to the 12th century. In the 16th century the Chancery is officially described as the permanent secretariat of the executive and legislature. The first of these functions still constitutes an important part of its activities in Geneva and other cantons. [4] In the Canton of Berne, the Chancellor is elected by the Grand Council (i.e. Parliament) and has the task of supporting the Grand Council and the Executive Council in carrying out their tasks. The Chancellor directs the staff of the Executive Council, supports the President of the Government and the Executive Council in the performance of their duties, and usually participates as an advisor to the President of the Grand Council in Grand Council sessions. [5]

Foreign minister and diplomatic official

In most countries of Latin America, the equivalents to "chancellor" (Canciller in Spanish and Chanceler in Portuguese) are commonly used to refer to the post of foreign minister. It is often used as a synonym to the full titles of the ministers of foreign affairs. Likewise, the ministry of foreign affairs in Spanish-speaking countries in the Americas is referred to as the Cancillería or in Portuguese-speaking Brazil as Chancelaria. However, in Spain the term canciller refers to a civil servant in the Spanish diplomatic service responsible for technical issues relating to foreign affairs. As to the German foreign service, the term Kanzler (chancellor) refers to the administrative head of a diplomatic mission.


In Finland the Chancellor of Justice (Oikeuskansleri, Justitiekanslern) supervises the legality of actions taken by the 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.


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 a 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.

United Kingdom

In the legal system of the United Kingdom, the term can refer to two officials:

  • The Lord Chancellor (Lord High Chancellor, King's Chancellor) is the occupant of one of the oldest offices of state, dating back to the Kingdom of England, and older than Parliament itself. Theoretically, the Lord Chancellor is the Chancellor of Great Britain. A former office of "Chancellor of Ireland" was abolished in 1922, when all but Northern Ireland left the United Kingdom. The Lord Chancellor is the second-highest non-royal subject in precedence (after the Archbishop of Canterbury). In addition to various ceremonial duties, he is head of the Ministry of Justice, which was created in May 2007 from the Department for Constitutional Affairs (which was created in 2003 from the Lord Chancellor's Department). In this role, he sits in the Cabinet. Until the Constitutional Reform Act of 2005, the Lord Chancellor had two additional roles:
    • Head of the English, but not Scottish, judiciary. In previous centuries, the Lord Chancellor was the sole judge in the Court of Chancery ; when, in 1873, that court was combined with others to form the High Court, the Lord Chancellor became the nominal head of the Chancery Division. The Lord Chancellor was permitted to participate in judicial sittings of the House of Lords; he also chose the committees that heard appeals in the Lords. The de facto head of the Chancery Division was the Vice-Chancellor, and the role of choosing appellate committees was in practice fulfilled by the Senior Lord of Appeal in Ordinary.
    • De facto speaker of the House of Lords. These duties are now undertaken by the Lord Speaker. Jack Straw was the first Lord Chancellor to be a member of the House of Commons, rather than the House of Lords or its predecessor, the Curia Regis, since Sir Christopher Hatton in 1578. [6] [7]
  • The Chancellor of the High Court is the head of the Chancery Division of the High Court of Justice. Before 2005, the judge occupying this position was known as the Vice-Chancellor, the Lord Chancellor being the nominal head of the Division.

Some states in the United States

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

Other governmental positions


In Denmark, the office of chancellor (or 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 to be the real leader of the government. From 1660 until 1848, the title continued as "Grand Chancellor" or "President of the Danish Chancellery", and was replaced in 1730 by the title "Minister of Domestic Affairs". [8] [ better source needed ]


In Estonia, a Chancellor (Kantsler) directs the work of a ministry and coordinates institutions subject to the ministry. A ministry can also have one or several Vice-Chancellors (Asekantsler), who fulfill the duties of the Chancellor, when they are absent. [9] The Chancellor of Justice (Õiguskantsler, currently Ülle Madise) supervises the legality of actions taken by the government and monitors the implementation of basic civil liberties. [10]

United Kingdom

Several posts carry the title of Chancellor in the United Kingdom:

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.

Ecclesiastical position

The chancellor is the principal record-keeper of a diocese or eparchy, or their equivalent. The chancellor is a notary, so that he may certify official documents, and often has other duties at the discretion of the bishop of the diocese: he may be in charge of some aspect of finances or of managing the personnel connected with diocesan offices, although his delegated authority cannot extend to vicars of the diocesan bishop, such as vicars general, episcopal vicars or judicial vicars. His office is within the "chancery". Vice-chancellors may be appointed to assist the chancellor in busy chanceries. Normally, the chancellor is a priest or deacon, although in some circumstances a layperson may be appointed to the post. [11] In the eparchial curia a chancellor is to be appointed who is to be a presbyter (priest) or deacon and whose principal obligation, unless otherwise established by the particular law, is to see that the acts of the curia are gathered and arranged as well as preserved in the archives of the eparchial curia. [12]

In England, the Consistory courts of the Church of England are each presided over by a Chancellor of the Diocese.

In the United Methodist Church, each Annual Conference has a Conference Chancellor, who is the Annual Conference's legal adviser and representative. While the Annual Conference usually hires outside professional counsel in matters that require legal representation, that hiring and representation is done under the supervision, and with the consent, of the Conference Chancellor. [13]

Educational position

A chancellor is the leader, either ceremonial or executive, of many public and private universities and related institutions.

The heads of the New York City Department of Education and the District of Columbia Public Schools, who run the municipally-operated public schools in those jurisdictions, carry the title of Chancellor. New York State also has a Chancellor of the University of the State of New York, the body that licenses and regulates all educational and research institutions in the state and many professions (not to be confused with the State University of New York, an actual institution of higher learning).

In a few instances, the term chancellor applies to a student or faculty member in a high school or an institution of higher learning who is either appointed or elected as chancellor to preside on the highest ranking judicial board or tribunal. They handle non-academic matters such as violations of behavior.

In Germany many heads of university administration carry the title Kanzler (Chancellor) while the academical heads carry the title Rektor (Rector). In order to avoid any misunderstanding, the head of the German Federal Government is therefore usually called by the official title Bundeskanzler (Federal Chancellor).

Historical uses

See also

Related Research Articles

The head of government is either the highest or the second-highest official in the executive branch of a sovereign state, a federated state, or a self-governing colony, autonomous region, or other government who often presides over a cabinet, a group of ministers or secretaries who lead executive departments. In diplomacy, "head of government" is differentiated from "head of state" although in many countries, for example the United States, they are the same person.

Chancellor of Austria Head of government of the Republic of Austria

The Federal Chancellor of the Republic of Austria is the head of government of the Republic of Austria. The position corresponds to that of Prime Minister in several other parliamentary democracies.

Vice-Chancellor of Germany German cabinet member

The vice-chancellor of Germany, unofficially the vice-chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, officially the deputy to the federal chancellor, is the second highest ranking German cabinet member. The chancellor is the head of government and, according to the constitution, gives this title of deputy to one of the federal ministers. It is common that the title is given to the major minister provided by the (smaller) coalition partner.

Chancellor of Switzerland Head of the Federal Chancellery of Switzerland

The Federal Chancellor is the head of the Federal Chancellery of Switzerland, the oldest Swiss federal institution, established at the initiative of Napoleon in 1803. The officeholder acts as the general staff of the seven-member Federal Council. The Chancellor is not a member of the government and the office is not at all comparable to that of the Chancellor of Germany or the Chancellor of Austria.

Federal Council (Switzerland) Federal government of Switzerland

The Federal Council is the seven-member executive council that constitutes the executive branch of the federal government of the Swiss Confederation and serves as the collective head of state and government of Switzerland. It meets in the west wing of the Federal Palace in Bern.

President of Austria Head of state of the Republic of Austria

The president of Austria is the head of state of the Republic of Austria. Though theoretically entrusted with great power by the Constitution, in practice the president is largely a ceremonial and symbolic figurehead.

Lord Chancellor Highest-ranking regularly-appointed Great Officer of State of the United Kingdom

The lord chancellor, formally the lord high chancellor of Great Britain, is the highest-ranking among the Great Officers of State in Scotland and England, in the United Kingdom, nominally outranking the prime minister. The lord chancellor is appointed by the sovereign on the advice of the prime minister. Prior to their Union into the Kingdom of Great Britain, there were separate lord chancellors for the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland; there were lord chancellors of Ireland until 1922.

Constitutional Reform Act 2005 Constitutional reform of the UK Judiciary

The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, relevant to UK constitutional law. It provides for a Supreme Court of the United Kingdom to take over the previous appellate jurisdiction of the Law Lords as well as some powers of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, and removed the functions of Speaker of the House of Lords and Head of the Judiciary of England and Wales from the office of Lord Chancellor.

German Chancellery Office of the Federal Chancellor of Germany

The German Chancellery is an agency serving the executive office of the chancellor of Germany, the head of the federal government, currently Olaf Scholz. The Chancellery's primary function is to assist the chancellor in coordinating the activities of the federal government. The Head of the Chancellery holds the rank of either a Secretary of State (Staatssekretär) or a Federal Minister (Bundesminister), currently held by Wolfgang Schmidt. The headquarters of the German Chancellery is at the Federal Chancellery building in Berlin, which is the largest government headquarters in the world.

Cabinet of Germany Chief executive body of the Federal Republic of Germany

The Federal Cabinet or Federal Government is the chief executive body of the Federal Republic of Germany. It consists of the Federal Chancellor and cabinet ministers. The fundamentals of the cabinet's organisation as well as the method of its election and appointment as well as the procedure for its dismissal are set down in articles 62 through 69 of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany (Grundgesetz).

Chancellery is the office of the chancellor, sometimes also referred to as the chancery.

Government of Austria National government of Austria

The Government of Austria is the executive cabinet of the Republic of Austria. It consists of the chancellor, who is the head of government, the vice chancellor and the ministers.

Federal administration of Switzerland Executive branch of the federal authorities of Switzerland

The federal administration of Switzerland is the ensemble of agencies that constitute, together with the Swiss Federal Council, the executive branch of the Swiss federal authorities. The administration is charged with executing federal law and preparing draft laws and policy for the Federal Council and the Federal Assembly.

Chancellor of Germany Head of government of Germany

The Chancellor of Germany, officially the Federal Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, is the head of the federal government of Germany and the commander in chief of the German Armed Forces during wartime. The chancellor is the chief executive of the Federal Cabinet and heads the executive branch. The chancellor is elected by the Bundestag on the proposal of the federal president and without debate.

The title secretary of state or state's secretary is commonly used for senior or mid-level posts in governments around the world. The role varies between countries, and in some cases there are multiple secretaries of state in the country's system of governing the country.

Minister-President of Lower Saxony

The Minister-President of Lower Saxony, also referred to as Premier or Prime Minister, is the head of government of the German state of Lower Saxony. The position was created in 1946, when the states of Brunswick, Oldenburg, Schaumburg-Lippe and the State of Hanover were merged to form the state of Lower Saxony. The current Minister President is Stephan Weil, heading a coalition government between the Social Democrats and the CDU. Weil succeeded David McAllister following the 2013 state election.

Chancellery (Austria)

In Austrian politics, the Federal Chancellery is the ministry led by the chancellor. Since the establishment of the First Austrian Republic in 1918, the Chancellery building has served as the venue for the sessions of the Austrian cabinet. It is located on the Ballhausplatz in the centre of Vienna, vis-à-vis the Hofburg Imperial Palace. Like Downing Street, Quai d'Orsay or – formerly – Wilhelmstrasse, the address has become a synecdoche for governmental power.

Jörg De Bernardi Swiss diplomat and politician

Jörg De Bernardi is a Swiss diplomat and politician. He held the office of Vice-Chancellor of Switzerland between August 2016 and December 2018, in charge of the Federal Council's affairs.

Minister (Austria) Member of the Austrian National Cabinet

In Austria, a minister is a member of the Cabinet that usually leads a ministry or a division of the Chancellery.


  1. Reuters (2021-12-03). "Immigration hardliner Karl Nehammer to take over as Austrian leader". The Guardian. Retrieved 2021-12-08.
  2. Grundgesetz der Bundesrepublik Deutschland
  3. See German Wikipedia article Staatskanzlei
  4. Web site of Geneva Chancellery retrieved March 2018.
  5. Web site of the Berne Chancellery (French version)
  6. Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Hatton, Sir Christopher"  . Encyclopædia Britannica . Vol. 13 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 63.
  7. "Constitutional continuity: Jack Straw speech at the London School of Economics". 3 March 2009. Archived from the original on 13 March 2009. Retrieved 5 March 2009.
  8. "Denmark". World
  11. CIC 482; CCEO 252—§1.
  12. Canon 482 [...]
    §2. If it seems necessary the chancellor can be given an assistant whose title is vice-chancellor.
    §3. The chancellor as well as the vice-chancellor are by the law itself notaries of the eparchial curia.
    In the 1983 Code of Canon Law for the Latin rite of the Catholic Church, the chancellor may be a layperson, and not necessarily a presbyter or deacon. The office of the Chancellor is mandatory in all diocessan (eparchial) curia. The primary function of the Chancellor is to keep the curial records properly. Beal, New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law, Paulist Press, Mahwah, New Jersey, 2000, p. 635.
  13. As an example, see the Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church (
  14. Kenkyusha's New Japanese-English Dictionary, Kenkyusha Limited, ISBN   4-7674-2015-6
  15. Toby A. H. Wilkinson, Early Dynastic Egypt, Routledge 1999, p. 131
  16. Michael Rice, Who's Who in Ancient Egypt, Routledge 2001, p. 63
  17. pBerlin 10035 in U. Luft, Urkunden zur Chronologie der späten 12. Dynastie, Briefe aus Illahun, Wien 2006, 69 ff.
  18. pLouvre 3230 B in E. Wente, Letters from Ancient Egypt, Atlanta, 1990, 92
  19. Memoirs, Egypt Exploration Society—1958, p. 7
  20. Serdab of the Chancellor Meketre Archived August 28, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
  21. Michael Rice, Who's Who in Ancient Egypt, Routledge 2001
  22. Jan Eivind Myhre, Edgeir Benum, Oslo bys historie: Byen ved festningen: fra 1536 til 1814, 1992
  23. Wade-Evans, Arthur. Welsh Medieval Law . Oxford Univ., 1909. Accessed 31 Jan 2013.