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Historic change as Britain names first female ‘Black Rod’

Britain’s state opening of parliament will be managed by a woman for the first time in 650 years, after the appointment on Friday of Sarah Clarke as the first female “Black Rod”.

Tasked with banging on the House of Commons door to summon MPs to the Queen’s Speech, Black Rod plays a key role in the opening of British parliament following an election.

The role falls to a member of the House of Lords — from where the monarch addresses lawmakers — and the new appointment will see Clarke named the first “Lady Usher of the Black Rod”.

The former director of the Wimbledon tennis championships, Clarke will take up the role of managing political players in January after “Gentleman Usher” David Leakey steps down.

Clarke said she was “both deeply honoured and delighted” to be offered the post.

“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,” she said.

As well as managing the state opening of parliament, Black Rod also runs other ceremonial state events.

Clarke’s staff will include the Lords’ doorkeepers and the Yeoman Usher, who is in charge of carrying the mace used to bang on the House of Commons door.


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