A WINDERMERE woman has been nominated to become the next High Sheriff of Cumbria at a glittering, tradition-packed ceremony at London’s ancient Royal Courts of Justice.

Diane Ruth Matthews will take office next year as one of the latest holders of the oldest continuous secular offices under the Crown in Britain.

Judges and court officials gathered at the Royal Courts of Justice, some wearing wigs and court clothing designed centuries ago, in order to preside over the formal nomination of 51 High Sheriffs and their deputies from all over England and Wales.

The court was also crowded to capacity with the sheriffs in waiting and their families.

The nominations took place as part of a time-honoured tradition staged in the country's finest court room, the Lord Chief Justice’s Court at London's Royal Courts of Justice, before the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, Lord Justice Pill, Mr Justice Simon and Mr Justice Wilkie.

In Saxon times, sheriffs – or Shire Reeves as they were originally known - of each county went to the Kings or Queens Court, known in Latin as the Curia Regis, to give account for the money they collected on behalf of the monarch.

Now, High Sheriffs no longer collect money for the monarch, but their annual attendance at court has continued and is used to mark the annual nomination of the new sheriffs.

Though the role goes unpaid, High Sheriffs rank among top dignitaries in their areas.

They are expected to attend at royal visits to their counties, as well as being entitled to act as returning officers in parliamentary elections.

They also have a responsibility for the well being and protection of High Court Judges when on Circuit in the County and for the maintenance of the loyalty of subjects to the Crown, though in practice these responsibilities are delegated to the Chief Constable of Police.

Before the nominated sheriffs take up office next March another ancient ceremony will also take place, this time at the Privy Council in London.

There the Queen, using a silver bodkin in a practice dating back to the reign of Queen Victoria, will prick their names on a parchment list to give their appointments the Royal seal of approval.