20th April 2020

What is the High Sheriff and what is the role?

The High Sheriff of Surrey is appointed by the Sovereign to hold office for one year. Three names are submitted to The Queen each March. In a ceremony that follows centuries of tradition, Her Majesty uses a brass bodkin to ‘prick’ the name of the High Sheriff for the following year.

In theory, the High Sheriff is The Queen’s legal representative in the county. In practice, today it is largely a ceremonial role but is still the oldest secular office in England and Wales other than the Crown. The office dates back to Saxon times, when the name was ‘Shire Reeve’. Originally, the Shrievalty – as it is known – held many of the powers now taken by the Lord-Lieutenant, High Court Judges, Magistrates, Coroners, local authorities, the Inland Revenue and police.

Members of both Houses of Parliament, clergymen and other certain government officials are disqualified from taking office. Historically, the prospective High Sheriff must hold sufficient land within the County ‘to answer the Queen and her people’. Other than that, there is no formal qualification for the role. The office is unpaid. 

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