For the first time in living memory, part of the annual Rule of Law Celebration will be open to the public.
The event is one of the oldest and brightest examples of British tradition and one of Wiltshire’s greatest shows of pageantry.
It has been held continuously since the signing of the first Magna Carta in 1215 and celebrates law and order in the county.
This year’s event takes place on Sunday, March 12, and marks the end of the High Sheriff’s shrieval year.
The office of High Sheriff is one of the oldest in the country, pre-dating the Magna Carta and reaching back into Saxon times, when the shire reeve was responsible to the king for the maintenance of law and order within the shire, or county, and for the collection and return of taxes due to the Crown.
Today, the High Sheriffs remains the sovereign’s representative for matters of law and order and takes an active interest in the administration of justice. The appointment is honorary and there is no remuneration.
The Rule of Law celebration was traditionally held at the start of each Assizes session. The assizes were courts held in principal towns around the country where travelling judges were assigned the most serious cases put forward by local courts or quarter sessions.
As such, one role of the High Sheriff was to host and offer protection to the travelling judges and the Rule of Law ceremony was one way of demonstrating the power and majesty of the law to the people of the county.
Today, the Rule of Law celebration marks the handover from one High Sheriff to the next and is used to reflect on the good works of the office holder throughout the year.
This year’s celebration will be hosted by the current High Sheriff of Wiltshire, the Marchioness of Lansdowne.
The full celebration consists of a civic reception in the Guildhall; a public procession through the streets of Salisbury; and a thanksgiving service in the Cathedral (to coincide with Sunday Evensong.
The public centrepiece of the event will be the procession from the Guildhall to the Cathedral.
The procession will consist of the Lord Lieutenant; the High Sheriff of Wiltshire and sheriffs of surrounding counties; Wiltshire-based judges; armed forces and emergency services chiefs; Wiltshire Council officials; and the mayor of Salisbury and those of surrounding Wiltshire towns.
They will be led by the Salisbury town cryer, and accompanied by the city beadle and traditional mace bearers.
Each member of the procession will be in full ceremonial dress, adding to the display of British pageantry.
The event normally takes place in private, in front of an audience of invited guests.
The town cryer will announce the start of the procession from the steps of the Guildhall shortly after 4.10pm on Sunday, March 12.
The procession will then make its way mainly via pedestrianised streets to the Cathedral where it should arrive at the West Door by 4.25pm.
Spectators can view at any point along the procession route. It is expected to last 10 to 15 minutes.