A High Sheriff is an official appointed as Keeper of The Queen's Peace in a county.
Today the role is mainly ceremonial and charitable, with much of the administration being undertaken by an Under Sheriff. A new High Sheriff is installed in April of each year.
In Lancashire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside, High Sheriffs are appointed by The Queen in Right of Her Duchy of Lancaster. The appointment of County Palatine High Sheriffs is confirmed in a separate ceremony to those of the rest of England and Wales.
Each year a parchment called the Lites is presented to Her Majesty by the Chancellor of the Duchy with the names of those recommended to become High Sheriffs for the ensuing year. The Queen marks the selected name with a small hole made by a bodkin. This pricking ceremony is believed to date back to the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Lacking a pen, Elizabeth I decided to use her bodkin to mark each name instead.
Current High Sheriffs for 2007/08 in the County Palatine
High Sheriff of Lancashire: Ruth Winterbottom
High Sheriff of Greater Manchester: Michael Oglesby DL
High Sheriff of Merseyside: Professor Philip Noel Love CBE DL