Some have romantically dated the office of chancellor to early seventh-century Kent; many academics would debate the very existence of an Anglo-Saxon royal chancery. Others would apply the term, at least from the tenth century onwards, to the royal writing office of the kings of Wessex from the time of Alfred, that drew up charters of grants made to ecclesiastical establishments or other recipients.

Between 928 and 935 charters issued in the name of King Æthelstan seem dedicated to projecting the concept of the ‘kingdom of the English’. Writing on the diplomas of Æthelred II in 1980, Simon Keynes concluded that the charters were produced not by the clerks of the recipients but by a royal writing office or chancery; however, there does not seem to have been a central record kept.

Latin-literate chaplains serving the royal court could be well rewarded. Under Edward the Confessor, the cleric Regenbald accumulated estates and enjoyed the legal status of a bishop. He was called ‘Royal Chancellor’ in the witness list of a charter dated of 1062 and was probably the man chosen by William I as his ‘Chancellor’. However, the actual latin title cancellarius (chancellor) may not pre-date the Norman Conquest – the 1062 charter being perhaps a later forgery.

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