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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.

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Government Chancellors

Austria 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.

Germany 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, being elected by the Bundestag, the German Parliament.

Finland 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 Council of State.

Sweden In Sweden the Chancellor of Justice[?] or Justitiekanslern primarily acts as a solicitor for the Swedish Government in legal disputes. 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, which leads the National Agency for Higher Education.

Switzerland 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 members hold offices containing the word Chancellor.

  • The Lord Chancellor, one of the oldest offices of state, which predates the United Kingdom, dating back back to the Kingdom of England, fulfills a threefold role:
    • De facto chairman of the House of Lords, (the House of Lords in theory has no chairperson, but as its most senior member, the Lord Chancellor, in full court dress and full bottomed wig, sits on the Woolsack[?] and presides over debates.)
    • Head of the Judiciary
    • Head of the Lord Chancellor's department of state, as the head of which he sits in the cabinet.

One of the most famous Lord Chancellors was Saint Sir Thomas More, under King Henry VIII

  • 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 for 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, an office normally held by the Prime Minister, hence his use of Number 10, Downing Street.

  • 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 surrendered to the state by each monarch on their accession to the throne, for which in lieu of the revenues that would otherwise go from it to the monarch, the monarch and a designated number of members of the Royal Family (current it is just the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh) get state salaries on what is known as the Civil List[?]. In reality the post of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancester 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 at in cabinet.

United States In the United States government, the only official granted the title of Chancellor is the Chancellor of the Smithsonian Institution, a largely ceremonial office that has been held since 1784 by every Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

University Chancellors Outside of politics, the title is frequently used to indicate the nominal head of a university. Though not always the case, university chancellors are frequently less involved with the day to day running of the university, and are instead a sort of figurehead. Sometimes universities appoint well known personalities from the community as their chancellor. The current chancellor of the College of William and Mary, for example is former United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

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