High Sheriff and Under-Sheriff
The High Sheriff is the oldest continuous secular office in England and Wales, dating back over 1,000 years to Saxon times.
In theory, the High Sheriff is the Sovereign's judicial representative in the area (as opposed to the Lord-Lieutenant who is the personal representative). In practice, the role is largely ceremonial but key duties include: acting as the Returning Officer in Parliamentary Elections and attending high court judges sitting in local courts.
A High Sheriff is appointed by The Crown annually in March for each of the counties in England and Wales*. High Sheriffs of counties and cities in Northern Ireland are appointed by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
*The Duke of Cornwall (the Prince of Wales) appoints the High Sheriff of Cornwall, and The Queen, in right of her Duchy of Lancaster, appoints the High Sheriffs for Lancashire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside.
How to Address a High Sheriff
There is no special form of address for either High Sheriff or Under-Sheriff although the appointment may follow the name in official correspondence:
John Smith, Esq
High Sheriff of (County)
In speeches and introductions, the individual would be referred to by name followed by:
The High Sheriff of (County)
The title applies to both male and female holders of the office.
The High Sheriff takes precedence in the County immediately after the Lord-Lieutenant, except when precedence is deferred to a Lord Mayor, Mayor or Chairman of the Local Authority when they are undertaking municipal business in their own district.
For a list of current High Sheriff in England and Wales see http://www.highsheriffs.com
Note: The office does not exist in Scotland where the title Sheriff refers to a different position.