Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Evensong for Her Majesty's Courts of Justice

Sometimes, just sometimes, you find yourself at an event which makes you proud in a quirky sort of way.

Traditionally, Justice services initiated by the High Sheriff were held on the first day of each Assize to pray that God give his blessing and guidance to the visiting High Court Judges in their work. Given that the office of 'High Shire-reeve' was initiated towards the end of the tenth century, this is something that is part of the very foundations of our country.

Admittedly, the job is mostly ceremonial these days, with the original powers having been superseded by Parliament and the office of Lord Lieutenant, or through delegation to local authorities, the Police, the magistrates, the Civil Service and, last but not least, HM Revenue & Customs.

There is a uniform, which consists of a black velvet frock coat, matching breeches, stockings and buckled shoes. There is even a sword, and I noted a discreet hook on the end of one of the tails of the jacket to prevent the sword from dragging along the ground.

The service was a gathering of the great and the good of Suffolk society, with both Liberal Democrat Peers (Lord Phillips of Sudbury and Ros) plus far too many Tories, Lord Tebbit amongst them. Nigel, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, was there in his robes, various civic dignataries in their chains of office, and all in all it was a fine affair, with the cathedral choir in good voice.

The address was given by the former Master of the Rolls, Lord Bingham of Cornhill, who turned out to be, by Suffolk standards, an appalling liberal, talking about the rights of homosexuals, amongst others, to be treated equally under the law. Was that Lord Tebbit I heard muttering away in the background?

And once the service was over, we all retired across the road to the Athanaeum for tea and surprisingly good sandwiches. I was introduced to Charles and Sarah Michel, and to Eddy Alcock, who are councillors in Mid Suffolk and on Suffolk County. They seemed like nice people, which does go to demonstrate that Conservatives aren't evil, just misguided for the most part...

It was, however, time to go home...

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