New High Sheriff for Bedfordshire is nominated at historic ceremony

The name of the new High Sheriff for Bedfordshire was written into history yesterday afternoon, at a glittering, tradition packed, nomination ceremony at London’s High Court that has been taking place since before the Norman Conquest.
Colin Osborne giving a talk about Leprosy Mission.Colin Osborne giving a talk about Leprosy Mission.
Colin Osborne giving a talk about Leprosy Mission.

Colin Osborne MBE, from Sandy, will take office next year as one of the latest holders of the oldest continuous secular office under the Crown in Britain.

In one of the most ancient official ceremonies still practised in this country, which dates back more than 1,000 years to Saxon times, judges and court officials gathered at the High Court, some wearing wigs and court clothing designed centuries ago, in order to preside over the formal nomination of 51 High Sheriffs and their deputies from all over England and Wales.

The nominations took place as part of a time-honoured tradition staged in the country’s finest court room, the Lord Chief Justice’s Court at London’s Royal Courts of Justice, before the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas, Lord Justice Goldring, Mr Justice Silber and Mr Justice Tugendhat.

In Saxon times, sheriffs – or Shire Reeves as they were originally known - of each county went to the Kings or Queens Court, known in Latin as the Curia Regis, to give account for the money they collected on behalf of the monarch.

Now, High Sheriffs no longer collect money for the monarch, but their annual attendance at court has continued and is used to mark the annual nomination of the new sheriffs.

Though the role goes unpaid, High Sheriffs rank among top dignitaries in their areas. They are expected to attend at royal visits to their counties, as well as being entitled to act as returning officers in parliamentary elections.

They also have a responsibility for the well being and protection of High Court Judges when on circuit in the county and for the maintenance of the loyalty of subjects to the Crown, though in practice these responsibilities are delegated to the Chief Constable of Police.

Many are active in local and national schemes that reflect their historical functions, in particular National Crimebeat which seeks to keep young people from going into crime and the DebtCred scheme, which aims to improve standards of financial literacy, so that people are more aware of the dangers of debt, how to avoid it, and how to cope with it.

Before the sheriffs nominated today take up office next March though another ancient ceremony will also take place, this time at the Privy Council in London.

There the Queen, using a silver bodkin in a practice dating back to the reign of Queen Victoria, will prick their names on a parchment list to give their appointments the Royal seal of approval.