The new Lady Usher of the Black Rod, Sarah Clarke, took her seat in Black Rod’s box in the House of Lords chamber for the first time on 20 February from 2.30pm.
Black Rod is responsible for controlling access to and maintaining order within the House and its precincts. She also has important ceremonial duties, including the State Opening of Parliament, one of the most well-known images of Parliament
When the Queen is seated upon the Throne, Black Rod (the Queen’s representative in Parliament) is sent to summon MPs from the House of Commons. The doors to the Commons chamber are shut in Black Rod’s face: a practice symbolising its autonomy from the monarchy. She strikes the door three times before it is opened. Once the door is opened she enters the chamber and announces the Queen’s summons. The Serjeant at Arms, carrying the Mace, then leads the procession to the Lords followed by the Speaker and Black Rod.
Sarah Clarke was appointed to the post in November 2017 and started work in the role on 12 February 2018.
Image: Copyright House of Lords 2018 / Photography by Roger Harris