New High Sheriff of Norfolk nominated in 1,000-year-old ceremony

Lady Philippa Dannatt has been formally nominated as the next High Sheriff of Norfolk.

Lady Philippa Dannatt has been formally nominated as the next High Sheriff of Norfolk. - Credit: Archant © 2011

The name of the new High Sheriff for Norfolk was written into history yesterday afternoon, in a tradition which has been taking place since before the Norman Conquest.

Lady Philippa Dannatt, of Keswick, will next year become a holder of one of the oldest continuous secular offices under the Crown.

She was formally nominated yesterday in one of the most ancient official ceremonies still practised in this country, when she and 50 other High Sheriff nominees from across the country assembled at the High Court in London.

Lady Dannatt, the wife of General Sir Richard Dannatt, former Chief of the General Staff, will take up the post next March following a Privy council ceremony in which the Queen will use a silver bodkin to prick her name on a parchment list to deliver the royal seal of approval.

Yesterday's ceremony, which dates back from than 1,000 years, saw judges and court officials, some wearing wigs and court clothing designed centuries ago, gather for the formal nominations in 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 king or queen's court, known in Latin as the Curia Regis, to give account for the money they collected on behalf of the monarch.

Now, however, 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.

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The unpaid role is a highly respected position, with High Sheriffs invited to royal visits to their area and being entitled to act as returning officers in parliamentary elections.

They have responsibility for the wellbeing 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.

High Sheriffs are often involved in many charitable initiatives during their time in office, raising awareness and funds for their chosen good causes.