What is the Black Rod? Why the role is so important ahead of King’s speech

Sarah Clarke

Sarah Clarke is the current Usher of the Black Rod

Dorothy Reddin

By Dorothy Reddin

Published: 07/11/2023

- 08:49

King Charles and Queen Camilla will attend the State Opening of Parliament today

The Black Rod of the House of Lords ensures that order is maintained within the House of Lords, especially during the King's Speech.

Today, when King Charles and Queen Camilla take their seats, the serving Black Rod will be sent from the Lords Chamber to the Commons Chamber to summon MPs to hear the King’s Speech.

Traditionally the door of the House of Commons is slammed in Black Rod's face.

This is meant to symbolise the Commons' independence.

WATCH NOW: King Charles at State Opening of Parliament in 2022

The Usher of the Black Rod will then bang three times on the door with the rod.

The MPs then follow the Black Rod to the House of Lords in a loud manner, which is meant to signal MPs' independence.

This custom dates back to 1641.

The current Usher of the Black Rod is Sarah Clarke, who took up the position in 2018.

Sarah Clarke

Sarah Clarke using the black rod in 2022


Clarke is the first woman to hold the role in its 650-year history.

She heads a team of up to 30 people responsible for the day-to-day running of the House of Lords.

Her ceremonial uniform will consist of black shoes with black buckles, silk stockings, black breeches, a black coat, and a black rod.

The current rod dates back to 1883 and is inscribed with a French motto.

Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth II looking at the black rod in 2018


King Charles and Sarah Clarke

King Charles standing beside Sarah Clarke earlier this year


It states: “Honi soit qui mal y pense", which translates to "Shame be to him, who evil thinks".

The rod is three and a half feet long and is decorated with a gold lion with a gold orb.

The State Opening of Parliament is expected to begin after King Charles is seated on the throne around 11.30am.

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