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Salisbury Hosts Spectacular Rule of Law Celebration

High Sheriff of Wiltshire Pradeep Bhardwaj  hosted the annual Rule of Law Celebration in Salisbury, reports Rahul Laud

On Sunday 3rd March 2024, Salisbury witnessed one of the biggest and & brightest examples of British tradition staged in Wiltshire for many years, as the High Sheriff of Wiltshire  Pradeep Bhardwaj Esq. hosted the annual Rule of Law Celebration in the City of  Salisbury – consisting of a Civic Reception in The Guildhall; a Ceremonial Procession through the streets of Salisbury; and a thanksgiving Legal Service & Choral Evensong in the Salisbury Cathedral.

The public centerpiece of the event was the Procession from The Guildhall to Salisbury  Cathedral – with the Lord Lieutenant; the High Sheriff of Wiltshire and visiting High  Sheriffs of several other counties; luminaries from the Judiciary Judges; members of the Armed Forces & Emergency Services; local government officials; Mayors and  Deputy Mayors of several towns in the County participating, led by the Salisbury Town  Cryer and accompanied by the City Beadle and traditional Mace Bearers.

The Processors adorned full ceremonial dresses with gold braids, wigs, chains, and medals,  showcasing a wonderful exhibition of British pageantry. It provided a great opportunity for members of the public to enjoy this wonderful spectacle.

The Town Cryer announced the start of the Procession from the steps of The Guildhall at Salisbury Market Square and thereafter the procession made its way mainly via pedestrian streets to the Salisbury Cathedral arriving at the West Door, with the  Town Cryer and City Beadle leading the Mayoral group, followed by the Sergeant at  Mace leading the Governmental group, the Assistant Mace Bearer leading the Judicial group, and finally the 3rd Mace Bearer leading the Shrieval and Lieutenancy group. 

‘Shire-Reeves’ – have been an integral part of the fabric of English counties (Shires)  for over 1000 years. It is the oldest secular office in the country, pre-dating the Magna Carta and going back to Saxon times. Originally Sheriffs had extensive powers for convening and judging criminal cases, raising a posse, acting as law enforcers, maintaining prisons, turning out the county militia, raising taxes, and generally supporting the Sovereign in maintaining law & order within their county boundaries. Over the years, most of these executive roles have been superseded by the formation of the National Courts Service, the Judiciary, the Police and Prison  Services, the Territorial Army, and the Inland Revenue.

Today’s High Sheriff – is the sovereign’s representative for matters of law and order.

This Year’s High Sheriff –  Pradeep Bhardwaj Esq.  has embraced the theme of Inclusion, and worked relentlessly to build a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture supporting organizations to promote equality, diversity, and inclusion, reduce discrimination, encourage equal opportunities, break down barriers for participation and involvement, and importantly promote and facilitate greater engagement and interaction between communities and people to achieve peace and reconciliation in the county and its people. 

The ‘Rule of Law‘ was formally enshrined in the Magna Carta of 1215 which confirmed that every citizen has the constitutional right to trial by a jury of twelve fellow citizens and that they are presumed innocent unless & until proven guilty. 

Upholding the Rule of Law has always been a central theme of the High Sheriff’s role,  and over the centuries they have held regular celebrations to recognize its significance. These normally take the form of an annual Thanksgiving or ‘Legal’ Service hosted by the High Sheriff and attended by the county Judiciary and Law Enforcement agencies. 

The copy of the Magna Carta on display in Salisbury Cathedral is generally regarded as the best one still surviving and when a thief attempted to steal it in 2018, he was apprehended by local bystanders, who were subsequently given a High Sheriff’s  Reward for their bravery. It was therefore quite appropriate that the ceremony was held in Salisbury Cathedral and was preceded by a public procession through the City for all citizens to witness.

The Rule of Law Service 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 country.

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