UK Politics

Queen welcomes Sarah Clarke as first female Black Rod

The Queen and the new Black Rod, Sarah Clarke Image copyright PA
Image caption The Queen and the new Black Rod, Sarah Clarke

The first female Black Rod has been presented with her ceremonial staff by the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

Sarah Clarke, who previously ran the Wimbledon tennis championships, follows in a 650-year line of men in the role.

As well as the key ceremonial role of banging on the Commons door at the State Opening of Parliament, Black Rod controls access to the House of Lords.

During their meeting in a private audience room, the Queen presented the 3.5ft ebony rod to Ms Clarke.

Image copyright PA
Image copyright PA

Ms Clarke will be known as The Lady Usher of the Black Rod and is set to be introduced to the House of Lords when peers return from their break next week.

She said at the time her appointment was announced last year: "I am both deeply honoured and delighted to be invited to take up the role of Black Rod."

She said the House of Lords was "a place where the smallest detail is as important as the big picture and the depth of heritage and tradition is second to none", adding: "I am truly looking forward to starting work."

Ms Clarke, who has previously worked in senior roles at four Olympic Games, the London Marathon and UK Sport, replaces David Leakey, who has retired.

Image caption David Leakey has retired from the role
Image copyright PA
Image caption Black Rod is best known for summoning MPs to hear the Queen's Speech

Black Rod summons MPs to the Lords to hear the Queen's Speech but has the door to the House of Commons slammed in their face, and has to knock three times to gain entry.

They are the monarch's representative in the House of Lords and the routine is symbolic of the House of Commons' independence from the Crown.

The UK Parliament website says Black Rod is also "responsible for organising access to and maintaining order within the Lords chamber and its precincts".

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