ARCHCHANCELLOR (Lat. Archicancellarius; Ger. Erzkanzler), or chief chancellor, a title given to the highest dignitary of the Holy Roman Empire, and also used occasionally during the middle ages to denote an official who supervised the work of chancellors or notaries.
In the 9th century Hincmar, archbishop of Reims, in his work, De ordine palatii et regni, speaks of a summus cancellarius, evidently an official at the court of the Carolingian emperors and kings. A charter of the emperor Lothair I. dated 844 refers to Agilmar, archbishop of Vienne, as archchancellor, and there are several other references to archchancellors in various chronicles. This office existed in the German kingdom of Otto the Great, and about this time it appears to have become an appanage of the archbishopric of Mainz. When the Empire was restored by Otto in 962, a separate chancery seems to have been organized for Italian affairs, and early in the 11th century the office of archchancellor for the kingdom of Italy was in the hands of the archbishop of Cologne. The theory was that all the imperial business in Germany was supervised by the elector of Mainz, and for Italy by the elector of Cologne. However, the duties of archchancellor for Italy were generally discharged by deputy, and after the virtual separation of Italy and Germany, the title alone was retained by the elector. When the kingdom of Burgundy or Arles was acquired by the emperor Conrad II. in 1032 it is possible that a separate chancery was established for this kingdom. However this may be, during the 12th century the elector of Trier took the title of archchancellor for the kingdom of Arles, although it is doubtful if he ever performed any duties in connexion with this office. This threefold division of the office of imperial archchancellor was acknowledged in 1356 by the Golden Bull of the emperor Charles IV., but the duties of the office were performed by the elector of Mainz. The office in this form was part of the constitution of the Empire until 1803 when the archbishopric of Mainz was secularized. The last elector, Karl Theodor von Dalberg, however, retained the title of archchancellor until the dissolution of the Empire in 1806. H. Reincke in Der alte Reichstag und der neue Bundesrat (Tübingen, 1906) points out a marked resemblance between the medieval archchancellor and the German imperial chancellor of the present day.
See du Cange, Glossarium, s. "Archicancellarius"; and Chancellor.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)