Golden Jubilee 2002


Berkshire: the Royal County

Berkshire is unique amongst English counties in being a Royal County. The title dates from 1958 when it was granted by the Queen in recognition of Berkshire’s strong royal links. The royal link is maintained not just through the title but also through the county’s 2 crown officers, the High Sheriff and the Lord-Lieutenant.

The High Sheriff’s role is Saxon in origin. Historically the ‘shire-reeve’ was the monarch’s agent for taxation and law and order in the county. The High Sheriff is still nominally responsible for ensuring that writs of the High Court are enforced in the county and for receiving judges visiting the county, although in practice much of this work is carried out by the Undersheriff.

Since medieval times the High Sheriff has been an annual appointment, and the tradition is that it cannot be refused if offered. The present High Sheriff is Timothy Dawson (2002), and the Undersheriff is Nicholas Blandy.

(right) Sir Edward Barry of Ockwells Manor, Bray, High Sheriff in 1907. (Q/Z1/29)

Black and white photograph showing the 1907 High Sheriff in uniform
Photograph of the Lord-Lieutenant walking with the Queen and military cadets

The first Lord-Lieutenants were appointed to counties in 1545 for the purpose of organising the local militia to defend the realm against invasion or rebellion.

Today the Lord-Lieutenant is the Queen’s personal representative in the county for civic matters, and attends royal events in the county. He is also the Custos Rotulorum – the keeper of the county justices’ records. As such he maintains an important link with the county’s archives and Berkshire Record Office. The present Lord-Lieutenant is Philip Wroughton.

(left) Philip Wroughton, Lord-Lieutenant of Berkshire, walking behind Her Majesty the Queen at Bisham Abbey, May 2002.

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