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Lord Chancellor

The Lord Chancellor is one of the oldest offices of state in the United Kingdom. However on 12 June 2003 Prime Minister Tony Blair announced his intention to introduce legislation to abolish the office and redirect the powers currently possessed by the Lord Chancellor to other bodies.

The office of Lord Chancellor dates back back to the Kingdom of England, at least as far back as the Norman Conquest, and possibly earlier. Originally, the Lord Chancellor was the officer responsible for keeping the Great Seal of England[?], and was usually a clergyman. Until well into the 17th century, the Lord Chancellor frequently was one of the most important officials in the English government.

Since the initiation of Cabinet government[?], the Lord Chancellor has always had a seat in the government. Occasionally, the Great Seal would be put into commission, and there would be no Lord Chancellor. In those times, the commission was led by the Lord Keeper.

The Lord Chancellor was once also the presiding officer of the Chancery Court in London. (A Lord Chancellor features in Charles Dickens's novel Bleak House[?], where the case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce has been tied up in Chancery for years.

Today, the Lord Chancellor fulfils a threefold role:

  • He is 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.)
  • He is head of the Judiciary
  • Head of the Lord Chancellor's department of state, as the head of which he sits in the cabinet.

In 2003 the governmental responsibilities of the Lord Chancellor will be transferred to a new Department of Constitutional Affairs[?], with an independent judicial appointments commission being set up to appoint new judges and and the Lords getting a new speaker, who will not be a minister.

Among the most famous Lord Chancellors were Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and Saint Sir Thomas More, under King Henry VIII, and Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon under King Charles II.

Lord Chancellors and Lord Keepers, 1068-present

  • Herfast 1068-1070
  • Osmund 1070-1078
  • Maurice, Archdeacon of Le Mans 1078-1085
  • Gerard, Preceptor of Rouen 1085-1092
  • Robert Blouet 1092-1093
  • William Giffard 1093-1101
  • Roger 1101-1102
  • Waldric 1102-1107
  • Ranulf 1107-1123
  • Geoffrey Rufus 1123-1133
  • Robert de Sigillo 1133-1135
  • Roger le Poer 1135-1139
  • Philip de Harcourt, Dean of Lincoln 1139-1140
  • Robert of Ghent, Dean of York 1140-1141
  • William FitzGilbert 1141-1142
  • William de Vere 1142
  • Robert of Ghent, Dean of York 1142-1154
  • Thomas Becket, Archdeacon of Canterbury 1155-1162
  • Geoffrey Ridel, Archdeacon of Canterbury 1162-1173
  • Ralph de Warneville, Treasurer of York 1173-1181
  • Geoffrey, the Bastard Plantagenet 1181-1189
  • William Longchamp, Bishop of Ely 1189-1197
  • Eustace, Dean of Salisbury 1197-1198
  • Eustace, Bishop of Ely 1198-1199
  • Hubert Walter, Archbishop of Canterbury 1199-1205
  • Walter de Gray 1205-1214
  • Richard Marsh 1214-1226
  • Ralph Neville 1226-1240
  • Richard le Gras, Abbot of Evesham 1240-1242
  • Ralph Neville 1242-1244
  • Silvester de Everdon, Archdeacon of Chester 1244-1246
  • John Mansel, Provost of Beverley 1246-1247
  • Sir John Lexington 1247-1248
  • John Mansel 1248-1249
  • Sir John Lexington 1249-1250
  • William of Kilkenny 1250-1255
  • Henry Wingham 1255-1260
  • Nicholas of Ely, Archdeacon of Ely 1260-1261
  • Walter Merton, Archdeacon of Bath 1261-1263
  • Nicholas of Ely, Archdeacon of Ely 1263
  • John Chishull, Archdeacon of London 1263-1264
  • Thomas Cantilupe, Archdeacon of Stafford 1264-1265
  • Ralph Sandwich 1265
  • Walter Giffard, Bishop of Bath and Wells 1265-1266
  • Godfrey Giffard, Archdeacon of Wells 1266-1268
  • John Chishull, Dean of St. Pauls 1268-1269
  • Richard Middleton, Archdeacon of Northumberland 1269-1272
  • Walter Merton, Archdeacon of Bath 1272-1274
  • Robert Burnell, Bishop of Bath 1274-1292
  • John Langton, Canon of Lincoln 1292-1302
  • William Greenfield, Dean of Chichester 1302-1305
  • William Hamilton, Dean of York 1305-1307
  • Ralph Baldock, Bishop of London 1307
  • John Langton, Bishop of Chichester 1307-1310
  • Walter Reynolds, Bishop of Worceter 1310-1314
  • John Sandall, Canon of Lincoln 1314-1318
  • John Hotham, Bishop of Ely 1318-1320
  • John Salmon, Bishop of Norwich 1320-1323
  • Robert Baldock, Archdeacon of Middlesex 1323-1327
  • William Airmyn, Bishop of Norwich 1327-1328
  • Henry Burghersh, Bishop of Lincoln 1328-1330
  • John Stratford, Bishop of Winchester 1330-1334
  • Richard Bury, Bishop of Durham 1334-1335
  • John Stratford, Archbishop of Canterbury 1335-1337
  • Robert Stratford, Bishop of Chichester 1337-1338
  • Richard Bintworth, Bishop of London 1338-1339
  • John Stratford, Archbishop of Canterbury 1340
  • Sir Robert Bourchier 1340-1341
  • Sir Robert Parving 1341-1343
  • Sir Robert Sadington 1343-1345
  • John Offord, Dean of Lincoln 1345-1349
  • John Thoresby, Bishop of Worcester 1349-1356
  • William Edington, Bishop of Winchester 1356-1363
  • Simon Langham, Bishop of Ely 1363-1367
  • William Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester 1367-1371
  • Sir Robert Thorp 1371-1372
  • Sir John Knyvet 1372-1377
  • Adam Houghton, Bishop of St. David's 1377-1378
  • Richard Scrope, Lord Scrope of Bolton 1378-1380
  • Simon Sudbury, Archbishop of Canterbury 1380-1381
  • Hugh Segrave 1381
  • William Courtenay, Bishop of London 1381
  • Richard Scrope, Lord Scrope of Bolton 1381-1382
  • Robert Braybrook, Bishop of London 1382-1383
  • Sir Michael de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk 1383-1386
  • Thomas Arundel, Bishop of Ely 1386-1389
  • William Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester 1389-1391
  • Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of York 1391-1396
  • Edmund Stafford, Bishop of Exeter 1396-1399
  • Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury 1399
  • John Scarle, Archdeacon of Lincoln 1399-1401
  • Edmund Stafford, Bishop of Exeter 1401-1403
  • Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Lincoln 1403-1405
  • Thomas Langley, Dean of York 1405-1407
  • Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury 1407-1410
  • Sir Thomas Beaufort 1410-1412
  • Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury 1412-1413
  • Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester 1413-1417
  • Thomas Langley, Bishop of Durham 1417-1424
  • Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester 1424-1426
  • John Kemp, Archbishop of York 1426-1432
  • John Stafford, Bishop of Bath (later Archbishop of Canterbury) 1432-1450
  • John Kemp, Archbishop of York 1450-1454
  • Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury 1454-1455
  • Thomas Bourchier, Archbishop of Canterbury 1455-1456
  • William Waynflete, Bishop of Winchester 1456-1460
  • George Neville, Bishop of Exeter 1460-1467
  • Richard Stillington, Bishop of Bath 1467-1470
  • George Neville, Archbishop of York 1470-1471
  • Richard Stillington, Bishop of Bath 1471-1473
  • Laurence Booth, Bishop of Durham 1473-1475
  • John Alcock, Bishop of Rochester 1475
  • Thomas Rotheram, Bishop of Lincoln 1475-1483
  • John Russell, Bishop of Lincoln 1483-1485
  • Thomas Rotheram, Archbishop of York 1485
  • John Alcock, Bishop of Worcester 1485-1487
  • John Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury 1487-1500
  • Henry Deane[?], Archbishop of Canterbury 1500-1502
  • William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury 1502-1515
  • Thomas Wolsey, Cardinal Wolsey 1515-1529
  • Sir Thomas More 1529-1532
  • Sir Thomas Audley 1532-1544
  • Thomas Wriothesley, Lord Wriothesley 1544-1547
  • William Paulet, Lord St. John 1547
  • Richard Rich, Lord Rich 1547-1551
  • Thomas Goodrich, Bishop of Ely 1552-1553
  • Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester 1553-1555
  • Nicholas Heath, Archbishop of York 1555-1558
  • none 1558
  • Nicholas Bacon 1558-1579
  • none 1579
  • Sir Thomas Bromley 1579-1587
  • Sir Christopher Hatton 1587-1591
  • in commission 1591-1592
  • Sir John Puckering 1592-1596
  • Sir Thomas Egerton 1596-1617
  • Sir Francis Bacon 1617-1621
  • in commission 1621
  • John Williams, Bishop of Lincoln 1621-1625
  • Sir Thomas Coventry, Lord Coventry 1625-1640
  • John Finch, Lord Finch 1640-1641
  • Sir Edward Littleton 1641-1642
in exile
  • Sir Richard Lane 1645-1653
  • Sir Edward Herbert 1653-1658
  • Sir Edward Hyde 1658-1660
restoration
  • Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon 1660-1667
  • Sir Orlando Bridgeman 1667-1672
  • Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury[?] 1672-1673
  • Heneage Finch, Lord Finch, later 1st Earl of Nottingham 1673-1682
  • Francis North, Lord Guildford 1682-1685
  • George Jeffreys, Lord Jeffreys 1685-1688
  • in commission 1688-1693
  • John Somers, Lord Somers 1693-1700
  • Sir Nathan Wright 1700-1705
  • William Cowper, Lord Cowper 1705-1708
  • in commission 1708-1710
  • Simon Harcourt, Lord Harcourt 1710-1714
  • William Cowper, Lord Cowper 1714-1718
  • Thomas Parker, Lord Macclesfield 1718-1725
  • in commission 1725
  • Peter King, Lord King 1725-1733
  • Charles Talbot, Lord Talbot of Hensol 1733-1737
  • Philip Yorke, Lord Hardwicke 1737-1756
  • in commission 1756-1757
  • Robert Henley, Earl of Northington 1757-1766
  • Charles Pratt, Lord Camden 1766-1770
  • Charles Yorke 1770
  • in commission 1770-1771
  • Henry Bathurst, Lord Apsley (later 1st Earl Bathurst) 1771-1778
  • Edward Thurlow, Lord Thurlow 1778-1783
  • in commission 1783
  • Edward Thurlow, Lord Thurlow 1783-1792
  • in commission 1792-1793
  • Alexander Wedderburn, Lord Loughborough 1793-1801
  • John Scott, Lord Eldon 1801-1806
  • Thomas Erskine, Lord Erskine 1806-1807
  • John Scott, Lord Eldon 1807-1827
  • John Singleton Copley, Lord Lyndhurst 1827-1830
  • Henry Brougham, Lord Brougham 1830-1834
  • John Singleton Copley, Lord Lyndhurst 1834-1835
  • in commission 1835-1836
  • Charles Pepys, Lord Cottenham 1836-1841
  • John Singleton Copley, Lord Lyndhurst 1841-1846
  • Charles Pepys, Lord Cottenham 1846-1850
  • Thomas Wilde, Lord Truro 1850-1852
  • Edward Sugden, Lord St. Leonards 1852
  • Robert Monsey Rolfe, Lord Cranworth 1852-1858
  • Frederick Thesiger, Lord Chelmsford 1858-1859
  • John Campbell, Lord Campbell 1859-1861
  • Richard Bethell, Lord Westbury 1861-1865
  • Robert Monsey Rolfe, Lord Cranworth 1865-1866
  • Frederick Thesiger, Lord Chelmsford 1866-1868
  • Hugh McCalmont Cairns, Lord Cairns 1868
  • William Page Wood, Lord Hatherley 1868-1872
  • Roundell Palmer, Lord Selborne 1872-1874
  • Hugh McCalmont Cairns, Lord Cairns 1874-1880
  • Roundell Palmer, Lord Selborne 1880-1885
  • Hardinge Giffard, Lord Halsbury 1885-1886
  • Farrer Herschell, Lord Herschell 1886
  • Hardinge Giffard, Lord Halsbury 1886-1892
  • Farrer Herschell, Lord Herschell 1892-1895
  • Hardinge Giffard, 1st Earl of Halsbury 1895-1905
  • Robert Threshie Reid, Lord Loreburn 1905-1912
  • Richard Buron Haldane, 1st Viscount Haldane 1912-1915
  • Stanley Buckmaster, Lord Buckmaster 1915-1916
  • Robert Bannatyne Finlay, Lord Finlay 1916-1919
  • Frederick Smith, Lord Birkenhead 1919-1922
  • George Cave, Viscount Cave 1922-1924
  • Richard Burdon Haldane, 1st Viscount Haldane 1924
  • George Cave, Viscount Cave 1924-1928
  • Douglas McGarel Hogg, Lord Hailsham 1928-1929
  • John Sankey, Lord Sankey 1929-1935
  • Douglas McGarel Hogg, Viscount Hailsham 1935-1938
  • Frederick Maugham, Lord Maugham 1938-1939
  • Thomas Inskip, Viscount Caldecote 1939-1940
  • John Simon, Viscount Simon 1940-1945
  • William Jowitt, Lord Jowitt 1945-1951
  • Gavin Turnbull Simonds, Lord Simonds 1951-1954
  • David Maxwell Fyfe, Viscount Kilmuir 1954-1962
  • Lord Dilhorne 1962-1964
  • Lord Gardiner 1964-1970
  • Lord Hailsham of St Marylebone 1970-1974
  • Lord Elwyn-Jones 1974-1979
  • Lord Hailsham of St Marylebone 1979-1987
  • Lord Havers 1987
  • Lord Mackay of Clashfern 1987-1997
  • Lord Irvine of Lairg 1997-2003
  • Lord Falconer of Thoroton 2003-

From June 12, 2003 until all the new institutions that replace it are in place the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs[?], Lord Falconer of Thoroton will serve as Lord Chancellor.



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