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The word Chancellor ( lat. Cancellarius ) referred to in the Middle Ages , first the head of the office of a certificate authority and has since been used for high political officials in the state system. In Germany and Austria the designation (also) stands for the head of government.

Holy Roman Empire and German Confederation

Since Ludwig the German headed the royal court chapel, the arch chaplain, who was soon called arch chancellor because of the chancellery function of the court chapel . From 870 this office was held by the Archbishop of Mainz . The office of arch-chancellor belonged to the arch- offices of the Holy Roman Empire and was exercised by the elector of Mainz as arch-chancellor for Germany until 1806 . Accordingly, the electors of Cologne and Trier took over the offices of chancellor for the kingdoms of Italy ( Lombardy ) and Burgundy, which are connected to the empire .

The actual head of the Reich Chancellery was the Reich Vice Chancellor , who was appointed by the Arch Chancellor with the consent of the Emperor. In 1620 the Austrian department of the Reich Chancellery was carved out as the Austrian Court Chancellery , which was headed by the Austrian Court Chancellor . As a result, more and more agendas, including those relating to foreign policy and diplomacy of the empire, were settled in the Austrian court chancellery, the influence of the imperial chancellery was gradually reduced and it only dealt with internal affairs of the so-called inner empire (excluding the Habsburg hereditary countries). The Austrian Court Chancellery developed into the core of the Austrian statehood and the imperial authorities; it remained completely beyond the influence of the imperial estates and the estates of the Austrian states. A well-known court chancellor was, for example, Wenzel Anton Kaunitz .

Even after the end of the Holy Roman Empire , the title of Chancellor was held in the largest states of the German Confederation , the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia . In Austria, for a long time in the 19th century, Prince Metternich acted as " State Chancellor ", and Count Beust even as "Reich Chancellor" from 1868–1871. In Prussia, Prince Hardenberg held office as " Prussian State Chancellor " around 1820 .


Chancellor in Prussia

Chancellor in Prussia was most recently the title of President of the Königsberg Higher Regional Court .

Monarchical federal state 1867–1918

When the North German Confederation was founded , the Prussian Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck presented a draft constitution to the allied governments at the end of 1866. This draft provided for a Federal Chancellor to be appointed by the Presidium of the Federation (the Prussian King). The Federal Chancellor was an official who was supposed to carry out the resolutions of the Bundesrat , the representation of the member states. To a certain extent, the Federal Chancellor would have corresponded to the presidential envoy in the Bundestag of the German Confederation .

This constellation would have made the Federal Council de facto the government of the new federal state. Such a government would hardly have been vulnerable to parliament, the Reichstag. That is why the Constituent Reichstag implemented the so-called Lex Bennigsen : This made the Federal Chancellor essentially a politically responsible minister . Bismarck resigned himself to it, but decided against his original intention to become Federal Chancellor himself. In the new constitution of January 1, 1871 , which renamed the federal state " German Reich ", the title remained Federal Chancellor, and it was not until the constitution of May 4 of the same year that he became " Reich Chancellor ".

With the Act of Representation of 1878, a function was created that was unofficially called " Vice Chancellor ". The law upgraded the state secretaries, but the Reich Chancellor was still the only minister. He was able to issue instructions to the state secretaries, the heads of the highest Reich authorities. In practice, however, the collaboration in the Reich leadership approached a collegial government.

November Revolution and Weimar Republic 1918–1933

At the beginning of the November Revolution of 1918, the Council of People's Representatives was the highest body in the political system. The council had two equal chairpersons. However, the position of one was more important than that of the other: Friedrich Ebert had been “transferred” to the office of Chancellor by his imperial predecessor. That was unconstitutional, but it increased Ebert's reputation and thus his position.

With the law on provisional imperial power of February 10, 1919, the country again had an undoubtedly legitimate government. The chairman of the Reich ministers mentioned in the law, Philipp Scheidemann , acted as Reich Minister- President . With the Weimar constitution of August 1919, the name was again Chancellor .

In both constitutional orders appointed Reich President the Chancellor and the Reich Minister. The Reich Chancellor had a prominent position because he proposed the Reich ministers to the Reich President (the Reich President could not appoint anyone who was not proposed). In addition, the Reich Chancellor determined the guidelines for politics (Art. 56). However, the Reichstag was allowed to withdraw confidence in the government members and thus force them to resign.

After Hitler came to power in 1933, the government as such soon lost its importance and met only rarely. After the death of the Reich President in 1934, the office continued to exist; Instead of holding an election, Hitler combined the functions of the office of the Reich President with his Reich Chancellorship and gave himself the title of “Fuhrer and Reich Chancellor”.

Federal Republic of Germany

The head of government of the Federal Republic of Germany, founded in 1949, has received the traditional title of Federal Chancellor . He is elected as the only member of the government by the Bundestag; together with the federal ministers it forms the federal government .

In the German federal states , the heads of government are Prime Minister, Governing Mayor (Berlin), First Mayor (Hamburg) or President of the Senate and Mayor (Bremen). However, the highest state authorities (assigned to the Prime Minister) are called the State Chancellery or Senate Chancellery . The head of the State or Senate Chancellery is called Head of the State Chancellery or Head of the Senate Chancellery (both abbreviated as CdS ). In Baden-Württemberg, on the other hand, the authority of the Prime Minister is the State Ministry .

Foreign service

In all diplomatic and consular representations of the German Reich and the Federal Republic of Germany, the Chancellor is responsible for the representation's administrative issues. In the German colonies the chancellor assisted the governor in representation and administration of justice.

Great Britain

British Finance Minister is in the German-speaking world as Chancellor of the Exchequer ( English : Chancellor of the Exchequer ), respectively. The British Minister of Justice bears the title of Lord Chancellor ( Lord Chancellor ) and was President of the House of Lords until he was replaced by the Lord Speaker .

Latin America

In some Latin American countries, for example Argentina , Brazil , Chile , Colombia , Panama , Peru and Venezuela , the foreign minister is called canciller (in Spanish) or chanceler (in Portuguese), i.e. chancellor.


The Austrian Court Chancellery was founded by Ferdinand I as early as 1526/27 , but was merged with the Imperial Chancellery of the Holy Roman Empire in 1559. Established again as an independent authority in 1620, it developed into the core of the Austrian statehood, as described above. From 1920 to 1938 and again from 1945, the head of government of the Republic of Austria held the title of Federal Chancellor . From 1918 to 1920 and from May to December 1945 the designation was State Chancellor .


Chancellor ( Russian Канцлер Российской империи / Chancellor of the Russian Empire ) was until 1917 a leading position in Imperial Russia, according to ranking table of the rank class K1 corresponded.


The Chancellor clothed in Switzerland , the Office of the Head of the Federal Chancellery , but not the government. The Federal Chancellery is the staff unit of the Federal Council , the Swiss Federal Government.

Southern European countries

In the embassies or consulates of Portugal , Spain , Italy and also France the canciller or chancelier is an official who deals with certain tasks of the foreign service.

Web links

Wiktionary: Chancellor  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Thomas Winkelbauer , Freedom of the Classes and Princely Power. Countries and subjects of the House of Habsburg in the denominational age Part 1 . In: Herwig Wolfram (ed.): Austrian History 1522–1699 , Vienna 2004, p. 394 ff., ISBN 3-8000-3528-6 .
  2. Information from the Political Archives of the Federal Foreign Office
  3. Табель о рангах , part - Zivile Ränge 1722-1917 , accessed on May 9, 2017.