First female Black Rod in 650 years ‘honoured’

A woman has been appointed Black Rod in the House of Lords for the first time in the prestigious role’s 650-year history.

The appointment of Sarah Clarke, who is currently in charge of organising the Wimbledon championships, has been approved by the Queen.

She will replace David Leakey and be known as The Lady Usher of the Black Rod when she starts the new job next year.

Black Rod is the senior official responsible for looking after the buildings, services and security of Parliament.

House of Lords

Image: Black Rod looks after Parliament’s buildings and security

Every year, they are thrust into the limelight when they have a door slammed in their face when calling for MPs to hear the Queen speak at the state opening of Parliament.

Veteran backbencher Dennis Skinner often marks the occasion with a humorous heckle.

Last year he shouted: “Get your skate’s on, first race is at half-past two”, following reports that the Queen was worried the event would delay her journey to Royal Ascot.

He has previously yelled “Royal Mail for sale. Queen’s head privatised” and “Have you got Helen Mirren on standby?”

preview image

Video: Dennis Skinner’s 2017 Queen’s speech joke

Ms Clarke said she was “honoured” to be working in a place where “the smallest detail is as important as the big picture and the depth of heritage and tradition is second to none”.

The House of Lords Speaker said her appointment marked a “historic moment” in British political history.

There have only been 60 holders of the Black Rod position since its earliest mention in letters dated from 1361.

The role derives its name from the “black rod” staff, which is 1.06m (3.5ft) long and decorated with a golden lion.