Sheriffs in England

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Highlighting the facts behind Susan Varno’s newest novel.

Thank you for this opportunity to share my research. In my newest release, Posing as a Princess, (The Shady Side of the Law, Book 2). Sheriff Weston Chandler is ordered to escort a German princess to a ceremony with the King. However, the woman who announces she’s the princess is in fact decoy who intends to escape before they reach London. It takes place in England in 1821.

Choosing English Sheriffs Since the 10th Century

Richard_Goodricke_1574-241x300 Highlighting History Since ancient times, England has been divided into shires, similar to later American counties. A “reeve” was a royal official responsible for keeping the peace in a shire on behalf of the King. The Reeve also collected taxes and delivered the portion due to the Crown. Thus, he was the “Shire Reeve” or Sheriff.

Dating back to the 10th Century, (, the sheriff is the oldest secular office under the Crown. To be appointed sheriff, the man had to be of noble birth or at least a gentleman who owned a landed estate. The Provisions of Oxford in 1258 decreed each sheriff would serve but one year and could not be reappointed within the next three years. This may explain why in the stories of Robin Hood, the Sheriff of Nottinghamshire is never named. The famous thief must have carried out his escapades under the terms of several different adversaries.

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16th Century Bodkins

Each November 12, the current sheriff of each shire makes a list of possible candidates to replace him. By February, the lists from all the shires have been delivered to London. There, a tribunal of High Court judges and Privy Council members chooses three names from each shire. These names are written on two parchment rolls.

When the king (or queen) receives the parchments, he pricks a little hole next to the name he chooses for sheriff of each shire. Then he signs the bottom. Since the reign of Elizabeth I, the monarch has used a bodkin to prick the hole. Not being provided with a pen one year, she used her bodkin instead. There are several definitions for bodkin. The most likely one in this case is “a long pin for fastening the hair.”

Each sheriff’s term lasts for one year beginning on March 25. Today the office is mostly ceremonial.



About the Book: Posing as a Princess

Fun-filled adventure: She’s a professional thief, and he’s the Sheriff of Nottingham.

Posing-as-a-Princess400px-188x300 Highlighting History England, March 1821: Hired to impersonate a German princess, Ruth Fitzhenry barely speaks the language and has only a passing resemblance to the real royal. After midnight, Sheriff Weston Chandler finds Ruth in his bed. The king has ordered him to deliver the princess to London. Despite his suspicions, he loads the “princess” and her “aunt” into his carriage. En route, opposing forces try to kidnap the woman they believe is the princess. If they discover Ruth is a decoy, what might these scoundrels do to her?

 West is falling in love with a woman he can’t have. She’s been promised in marriage to a German prince. And Ruth is falling for the most righteous man she’ll ever know. When he discovers the truth, he will hate her for lying, deceiving, and embarrassing him. Secrets revealed, scandals uncovered, the sheriff finds himself in the middle of non-stop danger with the most intriguing woman he’s ever met.

Excerpt from Posing as a Princess

(After sunset in a woods where they just ate a supper of fresh caught fish and stale bread)

Below her chin, his mouth moved inch by inch across her neck until his lips wandered behind her ear. Heavenly, so heavenly, and a promise of more to come. He headed back the other way, then raised his head. He stroked his thumb over her lower lip.

Please hurry. This is wonderful, but I have plans to carry out this night.

His lips floated over hers. Ruth fell into his kiss. Other than hanging on to him, she was so entranced she forgot to do anything else. She let him have his way with her mouth. Then he stopped.

He stopped?

She hadn’t even opened her mouth to welcome his tongue. He turned away and lay back against the rocks. She balled her fist and socked his bicep.

He flinched. “What’s wrong now?”

“That was half a kiss. I demand the other half.”

“You are too young and inexperienced. You do not understand the consequences of too much kissing.”

She made another fist, but he jumped to his feet. She boosted herself up until she stood beside him. “You are so devilishly righteous. Do you analyze the consequences every time you kiss a woman?”

He glared at her. “Consider our situation.”

“Only you and I know what happens here. I will repeat this to no one. You will do the same.”

Ruth started to sit down. From her neck to her toes, she ached. The chilled evening air made her shiver, and being angry didn’t help any of her symptoms. From behind her, West put his arms around her waist. He pressed his front against her back. He stroked his hands over her stomach and down her hips.

He whispered in her ear. “No one will ever know?”

Within his grasp, she twisted around until she could slide her arms under his.

West kissed her. This time, his tongue and hers danced; a waltz followed by a country reel. His hands stroked her back. Hers caressed his waist. They swayed; they almost tottered. The kiss endured; moist, tasty, exciting, and overwhelming. They both sighed. They both moaned. She couldn’t tell who made which sounds.

Finally, he broke away. “Oh, goodness.”

“Oh, West.”

About the Author: Susan Varon

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When I was eleven, I saw Walt Disney’s Peter Pan. The message of that movie is you have to grow taller and older, but you never have to give up make believe. And I never have. Later, I realized all my “Wendy Darling” fantasies were romances. For several years, I wrote and published romantic short stories.

            Historicals have always been my favorite romance genre. Take me to another time. Show me how people lived and loved. What intrigues me most is how did women survive and gain power in a male dominated world? My favorite romantic conflict is between a powerful woman and the man who thinks he can tame her.

I married the quintessential bad boy and tamed him, though I didn’t mean to. We have two sons. My husband died four years ago. I miss my hero every day. I’m busy writing my third book LITTLE LOST LORD for my series “The Shady Side of the Law.”





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Caroline Warfield, Author

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