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State & Ceremonial

Sarah Clarke is officially invested as the first female Black Rod by The Queen at Buckingham Palace

The Queen held a private audience with Sarah Clarke at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday where she was officially invested as the first female Usher of the Black Rod.

At the meeting, Her Majesty presented Ms Clarke with her ebony Black Rod and the chain of office.

She is the first woman to hold the post of Black Rod in the House of Lords in the 650-year history of the role.

Ms Clark is now tasked with leading ceremonial aspects of Parliament, including the State Opening.

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

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

She replaced Lieutenant General David Leakey who retired from the role earlier this year.

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

She had also held roles at four Olympic Games, the London Marathon and UK Sport.

Until Ms Clarke’s appointment, all of the previous Black Rods have been retired, senior military officers; but this is not a requirement of the job. 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.