The Lord Chancellor
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The Lord Chancellor

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Over the last nine centuries the office of what was once a royal scribe has developed into one of the largest and most complex departments of State. Today, the Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain holds a position which ranges across three branches of government - the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary. He is appointed by the Queen upon the advice of the Prime Minister, and is also a member of the Cabinet. His role in the House of Lords is similar to that of the Speaker in the House of Commons, and as well as being head of the Judiciary, from time to time he functions as a Judge. The Lord Chancellor's responsibilities are reflected in his being, after the Royal Family and the Archbishop of Canterbury, next in precedence in this country.

The Lord Chancellor's department originally held a secondary post, which emerged during the twelfth century, that of the 'Keeper of the Great Seal'. However, today the Lord Chancellor himself is the custodian of the Great Seal.

The earliest extant views of parliament in session show the Lord Chancellor's Woolsack placed in front of the sovereign on the throne whilst the peers and judges sit in benches facing them. The present layout of the Chamber of the House of Lords represents this original scheme.

To this day the Lord Chancellor takes precedence over all other ministers of the crown. He also serves to provide a continuous line of communication between monarch and Parliament, delivering instructions from the sovereign, and may prorogue or dissolve Parliament on the sovereign's behalf.

From the early fourteenth century the Lord Chancellor sat in Westminster Hall as the supreme judge over suits of the Crown or Chancery departments, but since the seventeenth century his judicial work has been almost exclusively performed in the House of Lords.

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Additional Information on
The Lord Chancellor

Since Norman times the King of England has always had a personal secretary, known as the 'Royal Chancellor'. This office grew up within the Royal Chapel, but as the Chancellor and his staff's work increased they began to need their own court - named The Chancery - hence 'Chancery Lane' in London, on the site at which the court was originally located.

The present layout of the Chamber of the House of Lords represents the original positioning of the Sovereign and Lord Chancellor. If one looks at some of the earliest drawings of Parliament in session the Lord Chancellor's woolsack is always placed in front of the Sovereign on the Throne whilst the Peers and Judges sit on benches facing them.

Since increasingly consolidating his position within the House of Lords, the Chancellor has has lost much of his former political grandeur, whilst gaining increasing responsibility as chief of the Judicial system.

A non-legal aspect of the Lord Chancellor's work is his ecclesiastical patronage of over 600 benefices. Advanced Category Search

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