The appointment of a High Sheriff is a royal prerogative and Her Majesty the Queen tenaciously adheres to this principle.
Once a year, usually in March, she holds a ceremony to appoint her High Sheriffs, marking each appointment by ‘pricking’ the candidate’s name on a parchment roll with a long needle, called a bodkin. The romantic tradition is that Elizabeth I was doing her needlework in the garden when the list was brought to her and, as she had no pen available, she used her needle. However, there is evidence that Henry VIII also pricked the list. Whatever the origin, Elizabeth II still uses a silver bodkin to prick the list to this day.
The appointment of each High Sheriff is endorsed by a Royal Warrant, which confirms the appointment and ‘requires you to take the Custody and Charge of the said county and duly to perform the duties of High Sheriff thereof during HER MAJESTY’S PLEASURE, whereof you are duly to answer according to law.’
The confirmation of the royal appointment occurs within each county at a Declaration Ceremony when the outgoing High Sheriff formally hands over the office to his successor, who makes a solemn oath in front of the Presiding Judge of the County.
The Declaration Oath sworn by each new High Sheriff is as follows:
I, ……………………, of……………………………..in the county of Derbyshire, do solemnly declare that I will well and truly serve the Queen’s Majesty in the Office of Sheriff of the county of Derbyshire and promote Her Majesty’s profit in all things that belong to my Office as far as I legally can or may; I will truly preserve the Queen’s rights and all that belongeth to the Crown; I will not assent to decrease, lesson or conceal the rights of the Queen; and whenever I shall have knowledge that the rights of the Crown are concealed or withdrawn in any matter or thing I will do my utmost to make them be restored to the Crown again; and if I may not do it myself I will inform the Queen or some of Her Majesty’s judges thereof; I will not respite or delay to levy the Queen’s debts for any gift promise reward or favour where I may raise the same without great grievance to the debtors; I will do right as well to poor as to rich in all things belonging to my office; I will do no wrong to any man for any gift reward or promise nor for favour or hatred; I will disturb no man’s right, and will truly and faithfully acquit at the Exchequer all those of whom I shall receive any debts or sums of money belonging to the Crown; I will take nothing whereby the Queen may lose or whereby her right may be disturbed injured or delayed; I will truly return and truly serve all the Queen’s writs according to the best of my skill and knowledge; I will take no bailiffs into my service, but such as I will answer for; I will truly set and return reasonable and due issues of them that be within my bailiwick according to their estate and circumstances and make due panels of persons able and sufficient and not suspected or procured as is appointed by the statues of this realm. I have not sold or let to farm, nor contracted for, nor have I granted or promised for reward or benefit, nor will I sell or let to farm nor contract for or grant for reward or benefit by myself or any other person for me or for my use directly or indirectly my sheriffwick or any bailiwick thereof or any office belonging thereunto or the profits of the same to any person or persons whatsoever; I will truly and diligently execute the good laws and statutes of this realm, and in all things well and truly behave myself in my office for the honour of the Queen and the good of her subjects, and discharge the same according to best of my skill and power.