High Sheriff of Gwent

Despite a wealth of technology at his fingertips, the King still uses a hands-on method to appoint High Sheriffs, the oldest secular office in Britain. These once-powerful officials represented the Crown's interest in local districts, presiding over the Law Courts, collecting taxes, organising military forces and raising a posse when required. Today, the Office of High Sheriff is purely a ceremonial role. When appointing the title, H.M. The King gives royal assent by pricking a name on the Sheriff's' Roll with a bodkin. (This practice dates from the reign of Henry VII (1485-1508) on which the names were pricked through vellum).

With some wanting to avoid the appointment of the High Sheriff, the pricking ceremony is in fact, an early form of document security. A mark with a pen on the vellum could easily be erased with a knife, but a hole in the vellum (made from calfskin) could not be removed or repaired invisibly. No matter how high the bribe, no official could disguise a hole pierced against the appointee's name. The practice of the Monarch pricking the names of High Sheriffs survives to this day, taking place in the middle of March each year.

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