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British official who is custodian of the great seal and a cabinet minister. Until the 14th century the chancellor served as royal chaplain and king's secretary. The office acquired a more judicial character in the reign of Edward III (1327–77). Most of the office's power, exemplified in the administrations of St. Thomas Becket (died 1170) and Thomas Cardinal Wolsey (died 1530), ceased to exist centuries ago. The lord chancellor, however, remained an important post, with responsibilities that included heading the judiciary and serving as speaker of the House of Lords. As Lords speaker, the chancellor stated the question and took part in debates. In 2006 the office's role was redefined through several constitutional reforms. The lord chancellor lost most judicial functions, and the Lords speaker became an elected office. The changes allowed the lord chancellor to focus on constitutional affairs.
Variants of LORD CHANCELLOR
lord chancellor also called Lord High Chancellor or Lord Keeper of the Great Seal
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on lord chancellor, visit Britannica.com.