The Nomination of High Sheriff in the Lord Chief Justice's Court

Since before the Norman Conquest, the Sheriffs of each county have come annually to the King's Court (the Curia Regis) to give an account of their stewardship and to account for the monies they have collected on behalf of the King.

By the late 1100's, the annual visit was made at Michaelmas when the Sheriff appeared before the King's Court of Exchequer - so called because of the chequered cloth laid on the table before the judges and officials - to produce the revenue of his 'farm'. On one side of this table stood the Treasurer who read out of Doomsday the money due from each piece of land in the shire. This was represented by counters which were placed on different squares on the cloth in an elaborate pattern which the Sheriff sought to match with his returns also represented by counters which in turn were placed on the squares opposite the Treasurer's counters. This sober annual reckoning was known as the ludus computorum - or the game of the counters. Present on the Bench watching the taking of the account were the High Officers of State: the Justicia, the Constable, the Marshall, the Chancellor and in later years, the barons or judges of the Court. One of these barons was responsible for revenue matters and was known as the Cursitor Baron who remained, until 1854, as the judge responsible for receiving from the Sheriffs all feudal dues and monies owed to the King.

Although Sheriffs no longer collect the King's monies, this ancient attendance of the Sheriffs at the King's Court has been recognised by the ceremony of nomination of the new Sheriffs. It is held before a court which still contains vestiges of the old Court of Exchequer. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is invited to preside but he does

not attend. However, the Sheriffs Act 1887 requires two High Officers of State together with two High Court Judges to attend. Nowadays, it is customary for the High Officers of State to be represented by the Lord Chief Justice and a Lord Justice of Appeal.

The badge of the Queen's Remembrancer

 

The meeting is attended by the Clerk to the Privy Council who sits to the right of the Queen's Remembrancer. On the Queen's Remembrancer's left is his Chief Clerk who is responsible for the preparation of the Roll of Sheriffs to be submitted to the Queen for her to pick her choice of High Sheriff. Each of the pages of nominations will be typed on to a single roll of paper to form a Pipe Roll and wound onto two rods. The Roll will be unwound by the Clerk to the Council as the Queen pricks each new Sheriff's name.

The Queen's Remembrancer attends as the successor to the Cursior Baron and the tricorn hat precariously balanced on his full-bottomed wig is the hat formerly worn by the Cursitor Baron whose functions passed to the Queen's Remembrancer in the 1850's. Its function is a reminder that no one* except the Sovereign may have his head covered in the Queen's Court.

Initially the list for each county is read out with the present High Sheriff in third place. The Queen's Remembrancer then calls for one new nomination or name which is given to him by one of the High Officers of State of High Court Judges in turn and the list is then revised for the forthcoming year with the name of the person expected to be the next High Sheriff in first place, followed by the names of his or her two successors. This revised list is then read out by the Remembrancer.

The nominations for Cornwall are dealt with by the Duchy of Cornwall and those for Lancashire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside by the Duchy of Lancaster.

The City of London has the right to appoint two sheriffs (one formerly for the county of Middlesex) but the approbation of the Queen has to be sought from the Queen's Remembrancer which is given in October at the Quit Rents Ceremony.

This ancient ceremony of nomination concludes with a short address of thanks by a High Sheriff to which the Lord Chief Justice replies.

*Except the Lord Mayor of London, but even he has to remove his hat in the presence of the Queen or Her Remembrancer.