THE Queen has put her own personal mark on the new High Sheriff of Wiltshire, literally, by ‘hand pricking’ him as ready for action with a silver bodkin that is said to have once been owned and used for the same purpose by Queen Elizabeth I.

In an ancient ceremony at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday Her Majesty used the bodkin to prick the name of Swindon born explorer David Hempleman-Adams along with the names of all the other men and women on an official list who are set to become the country’s high sheriffs this year and as such rank among the highest dignitaries in their counties.

Yesterday’s ceremony is one which down the ages has officially signified the reigning monarch’s approval of those nominated to become the country’s High Sheriffs – the oldest secular office in the country. Legend has it that the silver bodkin used to this day to “prick” the names of the Sheriffs on the list was originally used by Queen Elizabeth I, who was embroidering when she was asked to mark the names on the list. She couldn’t find a pen so used the bodkin instead to prick them.

Another story has it that the reason the bodkin came to be used is because the list is traditionally produced on vellum and pricking the vellum is more permanent than making a mark with ink which could be tampered with.

In the coming weeks the High Sheriffs will make declarations in accordance with the 1887 Sheriffs Act and take office after that.

Now the functions of the post of High Sheriff are almost entirely ceremonial, with the only legal functions relating to the enforcement of High Court writs.

However, High Sheriffs are still expected to be ready to attend to the needs of, and provide hospitality to, High Court judges when they preside over the county’s crown courts.

And, ranking as they do among the country’s top dignitaries they are also expected to attend at royal visits to their counties.

They are also entitled act as returning officers in parliamentary elections.