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The Office of High Sheriff is the oldest secular Office in the United Kingdom after the Crown, and whilst its roots can be traced back to 7th Century Saxon times, it had been truly established by the 10th Century.

 

The word ‘Sheriff’ derives from ‘Shire Reeve’ or the Anglo Saxon ‘Scir-gerefa’. The King’s Reeve was also known as the ‘High’ Reeve. Some Sheriffs led contingents at the Battle of Hastings. The Normans continued the Office and added to its powers. During the 11th and 12th Centuries a High Sheriff’s powers were very extensive. For example, they judged cases in the monthly court of the hundred; they had law enforcement powers and could raise the ‘hue and cry’ in pursuit of felons within their Shire; they could summon and command the ‘posse comitatus’ – the full power of the Shire in the service of the Sovereign; they collected taxes and levies, all dues on Crown lands on behalf of the Crown, and were in charge of Crown property in the Shire. In short, High Sheriffs were the principal representatives and agents for the Crown and were thus very powerful within the Shire.

 

Of the sixty three clauses in the Magna Carta of 1215, no less than twenty seven relate to the role of the Sheriff.

 

The Sheriffs’ powers and duties evolved and were gradually restricted over succeeding Centuries and the duties of the role have evolved over time. The Office of High Sheriff is now an independent, non-political, Royal appointment for a single year, and they receive no remuneration.

 

Under the Crown, the Office is now second in precedence only to that of the Lord Lieutenant, (but as a matter of courtesy the High Sheriff will yield precedence to the Lord Mayor or Mayor at his or her own civic functions).

 

Historically, ladies have rarely acted as High Sheriff, two notable exceptions being the remarkable Dame Nicola de la Haye (Lincolnshire 1216) who actively repelled French invaders and Lady Ann Clifford (Westmorland 1605). The first modern day woman High Sheriff was appointed to the Bailiwick of Gloucestershire in 1967, and since that time, ladies have been appointed in increasing numbers. In 2012, 47% of the nominees were female.

 

High Sheriffs are responsible, in the Counties of England and Wales, for duties conferred by the Crown, including attendance at Royal visits to the County, the well-being and protection of His Majesty’s High Court Judges when on Circuit in the County and attending them in Court during the Legal Terms, acting as the Returning Officer for Parliamentary Elections in County constituencies, the Proclamation of the Accession of a new Sovereign and the maintenance of the loyalty of subjects to the Crown.

The High Sheriff is the Monarch's judicial representative in the County. A year as a High Sheriff can perhaps be best viewed as an opportunity in some way for an individual to "make a difference”.

The Present Under Sheriff of Glamorgan is Mr. Philip C. Evans

WHAT IS A HIGH sheriff?

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