Originally, the post of Vice-Chancellor was intended to be inseparable from that of Principal. In 1882, when the university's Royal Charter was amended by the Parliament of Canada to formally recognize the new position of Chancellor, the same amendment also stated that the Principal "shall be Vice-Chancellor of the University."
The university leaders wanted to allow James Alexander Corry, then 62, to take over as Principal before he was too much older, but they did not want Queen's to lose the services of Mackintosh, then 66, so they proposed to make Corry Principal and Mackintosh Vice-Chancellor, responsible for special assignments pertaining to finances and fundraising.
The offices remained divided until Mackintosh retired as Vice-Chancellor in 1965. Since then, despite the 1961 amendment, the two posts have always been jointly held. The Vice-Chancellor performs the duties of the Chancellor in the Chancellor's absence and is officially appointed by the Board of Trustees.