The Office of High Sheriff is the oldest continuous secular Office under the Crown. It is at least 1,000 years old having its roots in Saxon times before the Norman Conquest when the "Shire Reeve" was responsible to the King for the maintenance of law and order within the shire, or county, and for the collection and return of taxes due to the Crown. Today, there are 55 High Sheriffs serving the counties of England and Wales each year, although their role is a little different to their historic counterparts.
The High Sheriff office remained first in precedence in the counties until the reign of Edward VII. In 1908, an Order in Council instead gave the Lord-Lieutenant the prime Office under the Crown, as the Sovereign's personal representative. Lord-Lieutenants were created in 1547 for military duties in the Shires.
Now, the High Sheriff is the Queen's Judicial representative in the County, and the Lord-Lieutenant is a personal one. Both roles now have ceremonial roles and responsibilities, particularly compared to the historic roles. The role is an independent, non-political Royal appointment for a period of one year and The High Sheriffs receive no remuneration and no part of the expense of a High Sheriff's year falls on the public purse.
The history of 'The Shrievalty of Gloucestershire' is described in a ten page booklet written by David Smith a former Gloucestershire County and Diocesan Archivist. Copies are available from Gloucestershire Archives.
The territory covered by a High Sheriff is known as his bailiwick and for Gloucestershire this covers the administrative areas of Gloucestershire County Council and of South Gloucestershire District Council. Historically, the Shires (or Counties) of England were divided into 'hundreds' for purposes of administration, and Gloucestershire is still mapped in this way by GENUKI
Find out about the High Sheriff's Sword, Dress and Badge here >>
The Office of the Queen's Remembrancer is now the oldest judical post to remain in the continual existence since the Middle Ages since the Lord Chancellor.
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