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State & Ceremonial

Meet Sarah Clarke – Her Majesty’s first Lady Usher of the Black Rod

It has been announced that Sarah Clarke has been appointed as The Queen’s new Lady Usher of the Black Rod – the first woman to hold the position in the job’s 650-year history.

Miss Clark will be tasked with leading ceremonial aspects of Parliament, including the State Opening.

Other key responsibilities that she will undertake on a daily basis include the organisation and coordination of events in Parliament, ensuring they all run smoothly.

She will also be in charge of security at the Palace of Westminster, will deal with the media and will chair the Business Resilience Group which ensures both Houses of Parliament have resilience arrangements for emergencies such as flooding, fire and other incidents.

Sarah Clarke is currently the Championships Director at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, where she is in charge of organising and managing Wimbledon.

She has previously held roles at four Olympic Games, the London Marathon and at UK Sport.

Until Miss Clarke’s appointment, all of the previous Black Rods have been retired senior military officers. This is not a requirement of the job, however, the most important background for candidates is an extensive past in event management.

The position usually comes with a knighthood if the appointee not already received the honour. It is unknown whether Miss Clarke will become a Dame.

Black Rod is the monarch’s representative in the House of Lords and symbols the House of Commons’ independence from the Crown.

Around 60 people have held the position since the 14th Century – all of them men.