Lord Chancellor of Ireland

The office of Lord High Chancellor of Ireland (commonly known as Lord Chancellor of Ireland) was the highest judicial office in Ireland until the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922. From 1721 to 1801, it was also the highest political office of the Irish Parliament: the Chancellor was Speaker of the Irish House of Lords. The Lord Chancellor was also Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of Ireland. In all three respects, the office mirrored the Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain.


There is a good deal of confusion as to precisely when the office originated. Until the reign of Henry III of England it is not clear if the offices of Irish and English Chancellor were distinct.[1] Only in 1232 is there the first clear reference to a separate Court of Chancery (Ireland). Early Irish Lord Chancellors, beginning with Stephen Ridell in 1186, were simply the English Chancellor acting through a Deputy. In about 1244 the decision was taken that there must be separate holders of the office in England and Ireland.[2] Elrington Ball states that the salary was fixed at sixty marks a year, equivalent to forty pounds sterling. Although it was twice what an itinerant justice was paid at the time, this was apparently not considered to be a very generous amount: Richard Northalis, Lord Chancellor in 1393-97, complained that it did not cover even a third of his expenses, and asked for an extra payment of twenty pounds a year.

In the earlier centuries the Lord Chancellor was always a cleric, and usually an Englishman. Lay Chancellors became common after the Reformation, and no cleric was appointed Chancellor after 1665, but although there were a number of exceptions, the Crown retained a preference for English-born Chancellors until the mid-nineteenth century.

Lord Chancellors of Ireland, 1186–1922

12th century

  • Stephen Ridell. Appointed in 1186.[3] (first Chancellor)

13th century

14th century

15th century

16th century

17th century

18th century

19th century

20th century


  1. Ball, F. Elrington The Judges in Ireland, 1221–1921 John Murray London 1926 Vol. 1, p. 6
  2. Ball p. 8
  3. Ball p. 6
  4. The history of the Lord Chancellors of Ireland from A.D. 1186 to A.D. 1874
  5. Otway-Ruthven, A.J. History of Medieval Ireland Barnes and Noble reissue 1993 p. 256
  6. Ball p. 79
  7. "The History and Antiquities of the Collegiate and Cathedral Church of St. Patrick Near Dublin, from it Foundation in 1190, to the Year 1819: Comprising a Topographical Account of the Lands and Parishes Appropriated to the Community of the Cathedral, and to Its Members, and Biographical Memoirs of Its Deans" Mason, W.M. p122:Dublin, W.Folds, 1820
  8. Ball p. 80
  9. Otway-Ruthven p. 302
  10. Otway-Ruthven p. 3i6
  11. Ball p. 98
  12. Otway-Ruthven p. 370
  13. Otway-Ruthven, p.386
  14. Otway-Ruthven p. 389
  15. Otway-Ruthven p. 391
  16. Dictionary of National Biography, article on St. Lawrence.
  17. Ball p. 130
  18. Ball p. 131
  19. Ball p. 250
  20. James Roderick O'Flanagan,The lives of the Lord Chancellors and Keepers of the Great Seal of Ireland, 1870, page 345
  21. Ball p. 272
  22. O'Flanagan pp. 536–541
  23. Ball Vol. 2 p. 101
  24. Ball Vol. 2 p. 127
  25. Delaney, V.T.H. Christopher Palles Allen Figgis and Co Dublin 1960 p.29
  26. Delaney p. 29
  27. Delaney p. 177
  28. Healy, Maurice The Old Munster Circuit 1939 Mercier Press edition p. 27
  29. Healy p. 27
  30. Healy p. 105
  31. Healy p. 188
  32. Healy p. 242
  33. Healy p. 263
  • Ball, F. Elrington (1926). The Judges in Ireland, 1221–1921. The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd. ISBN 9781584774280. Retrieved 22 December 2013.
  • O'Flanagan, J. Roderick (1870). "The Lives of the Lord Chancellors and Keepers of the Great Seal of Ireland – from the earliest times to the reign of Queen Victoria". Retrieved 1 January 2015.
  • Smyth, Constantine J. (1839). Chronicle of the law officers of Ireland. London: Henry Butterworth.
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