BBC news has a nice outline of the functions of the Lord Chancellor, pros and cons of having one, and some history, under the heading Changes Explained / End of historic post.
The term chancellor goes back to the Latin and obviously is used in other languages too (Kanzler, Kanzlei). It’s also related to chancel, the eastern part of a church sometimes separated by screens or railings. The earliest OED etymological link is to Latin cancellarius, a court usher who sat ad cancellos or at the screen or lattice separating the judges from the public. This recalls the changes the word bar has gone through in legal English.The Lord Chancellor is the keeper of the Great Seal, which the BBC article says ‘is currently kept in a hidden cupboard’. I wonder how the cupboard is hidden.
The first Lord Chancellor was Angmendus, in the year 605. On the Lord Chancellor’s website (perhaps soon to go? perhaps one should do some downloading of material, since translators usually translate documents that refer to a situation a few years ago) there is a full list of Lord Chancellors. There are some good names there, perhaps as aliases on the Web or for legal bloggers?
The sequence begins:
Angmendus , Cenmora, Bosa, Swithulplus, St Swithin, Turketel…
Later names include Bloct and Weldric. Then there is St. Thomas Becket and even Queen Eleanour.
I am very taken with Swithulplus. (Many Germans can’t even say Swithulplus).