Her Majesty The Queen has today approved the appointment of Sarah Clarke as the new Black Rod. She will formally take on the duties of Black Rod early next year, succeeding David Leakey CMG, CBE the current Black Rod who leaves the post at the end of this year.
Sarah Clarke is currently the Championships Director at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, where she is responsible for the organisation of The Championships, Wimbledon. She has previously held roles at four Olympic Games, the London Marathon and UK Sport.
Sarah Clarke is the first woman to be appointed to the role of Black Rod in its 650-year history. As such, she will be known as The Lady Usher of the Black Rod. Black Rod is appointed by the Monarch on the recommendation of a selection panel chaired by the Lord Speaker.
Black Rod is a senior official in the House of Lords who, as well as their famous role in summoning the House of Commons to hear the Queen’s Speech at the State Opening of Parliament, heads a department that includes the Yeoman Usher and the House of Lords Doorkeepers. Black Rod also leads on business resilience and continuity planning for the House of Lords.
Commenting Sarah Clarke said:
“I am both deeply honoured and delighted to be invited to take up the role of Black Rod.
“Over many years I have been fortunate to work at the heart of some of the world’s most complex events and institutions. To be given the opportunity to join such an experienced and dedicated team is a great privilege. The House of Lords is a place where the smallest detail is as important as the big picture and the depth of heritage and tradition is second to none. I am truly looking forward to starting work.”
Lord Fowler, Speaker of the House of Lords said:
“I am very pleased to welcome Sarah Clarke to the role of Black Rod. As the first woman to take on the role, this is a historic moment for the House.
“People are most familiar with Black Rod for the part they play at State Opening, but the job is much more than that. Some of the most important work happens behind the scenes in organising addresses to Parliament by visiting heads of state and other state events, as well as ensuring we have appropriate plans in place to keep the important work of the Lords going in a crisis. Sarah’s fantastic record at Wimbledon and elsewhere shows she is the right person for the task.
“The Lords has a great record of women taking on senior political roles. Five of the last seven Leaders of the Lords and the current Leader of the Opposition have been women as well as both my predecessors as Lord Speaker. I am sure Sarah will continue that tradition and do an exemplary job as Black Rod.”