treasurer

Latin, thesaurarius.

The origins of the English Treasury are 'as mysterious as the migration of eels' (Hollister, 
Monarchy, page 209). The recorded history of treasurers in England goes back to the late-ninth century when a treasurer of King Alfred is recorded. In Domesday Book, Odo the treasurer and Hugh the chamberlain, appear to have been the principal financial officers of Edward the Confessor, and Henry the treasurer and Herbert the chamberlain of the Conqueror. It has been argued, however, that the responsibilities of these officials were mainly confined to custody of the royal treasure at Winchester, the court treasurership only emerging towards the end of the reign of Henry I. At an earlier date, custody of 'a box under the bed' in the royal bedchamber would have defined the treasurer's functions.

It is difficult to reconcile this view with the known sophistication of the Anglo-Saxon monetary and
taxation systems, and it may be safer to assume that the everything 'is older than we think' in financial systems as in many other aspects of early medieval history. Whatever the case, however, it seems clear that the Conquest itself did not introduce central accounting or other major financial changes.

For further information, see L.M. Larson, The king's Household in England before the Norman Conquest (1904); Simon Keynes, The diplomas of King Aethelred 'the Unready', 978-1016 (1980); and C. Warren Hollister, 'The origins of the English Treasury', English Historical Review, vol. 93 (1978), pages 262-75, reprinted in 
C. Warren Hollister, Monarchy, magnates and institutions in the Anglo-Norman world (1986), pages 209-22.
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