The Office of the Queen’s Remembrancer is now the oldest judicial post to remain in continual existence since the Middle Ages since the Lord Chancellor – whose post predates that of the Remembrancer by some 60 years – has decided to renounce his judicial duties.
The Office originated in the Michaelmas Term of 1164 when King Henry II sent his senior civil servant, Richard of Ilchester who subsequently became the Bishop of Winchester, to the Court of Exchequer to help the Treasurer (now the Chancellor of the Exchequer) supervise the annual collection of taxes. Richard was ordered to ‘put the King in remembrance of all things owing to the King’. Thereafter the King’s Remembrancer attended all the sittings of the Court of Exchequer until it was abolished in 1882.
When the revenue functions of the Court of Exchequer ceased in the 1830’s the King’s Remembrancer assumed all the ceremonial duties of the Court and these were enshrined in various statutes such as the Queen’s Remembrancer’s Act 1859, The Sheriffs’ Act 1887 and the Coinage Act.
The Queen’s Remembrancer as the last surviving member of the old Court of Exchequer is required to wear on top of his full bottomed wig, the black tricorn hat of the former Cursitor Baron (judge) of the Court of Exchequer and is also the Custodian of the Great Seal of Exchequer which is the seal of Office of the Chancellor of Exchequer but is placed in the care of the Remembrancer.
He is present and supervises the Nomination of High Sheriffs where he reads the Roll of those Nominated to Her Majesty the Queen as High Sheriffs for each of the counties of England and Wales (except Cornwall where the nomination is made by the Duke of Cornwall, and those for Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Lancastershire which are made by the Queen in Her role as the Duke of Lancaster).
The Roll is a continuous sheet of paper about 7m long bearing the three names for each county put in Nomination by the Court on 12 November each year and submitted to the Queen at a meeting of the Privy Council the following February or March to prick the name of Her choice by means of a silver bodkin. By convention she pricks the first name on the Roll for each County.
The Royal Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire was the main source of iron, coal and timber for the King up until the Civil Wars in 1642 -1649. During the Commonwealth the stocks of these materials were much depleted and King Charles II in 1668 ordered the King’s Remembrancer, Lord Fanshaw, to appoint Commissioners to supervise the planting and management of the timber in the Forest to ensure that the King had a good supply of timber in particular so as to provide an adequate supply of oak for building the ships of the Royal Navy.
The Queen’s Remembrancer still appoints Commissioners (16 in number) for this purpose and presides each year at the Speech House over their deliberations when they select the parts of the Forest to be inclosed and replanted each year and those parts to be reopened where the young trees are sufficiently mature for the enclosure fences to be removed.
by Under Sheriff – Caroline Breckell MVO DL