Who is the Black Rod? Links to Queen Elizabeth II, Westminster, role and responsibilities explained

Black Rod Sarah Clarke was the last person to see the Queen lying-in-state after the service was closed to the public

Thousands of mourners have flocked to London, Windsor and royal sites across the UK today to watch as Queen Elizabeth II is laid to rest.

The royal family, including Prince George and Princess Charlotte, will be among the 2,000 people gathered at Westminster Abbey to remember the late monarch on Monday morning, before a committal service follows at Windsor Castle.

The Black Rod is officially known as the Lady Usher of the Black Rod (Photo: Getty Images)

The service follows the end of Queen’s lying-in-state period at Westminster Hall this morning, which saw hundreds of thousands of people queue for more than 10 hours to pay their respects.

The process has seen a river of people snaking along the Thames around the clock, with members of parliamentary staff and Black Rod Sarah Clarke the last people to file past the coffin.

The official solemnly walked past the coffin of Her Majesty, paused, bowed, and appeared to wipe away a tear as she walked away in an emotional scene this morning.

But who is the Black Rod and what do they do? Here’s what you need to know.

What is the Black Rod?

The Black Rod is officially known as the Lady Usher of the Black Rod or, if they are male, the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod.

They are a senior officer in the House of Lords, responsible for controlling access to and maintaining order within the House and its precincts.

The Black Rod reports to the Clerk of the Parliaments, the top administrator for the House of Lords which provides all other services for Members of the Lords.

Who is the Black Rod?

Since early 2018, the position of the Black Rod has been held for the first time in its 650-year history by a woman, Sarah Clarke OBE.

Ms is also the first woman to hold the posts of Serjeant-at-Arms for the House of Lords, Secretary to the Lord Great Chamberlain and to be appointed an Officer of the Order of the Garter.

Before taking on the role, she was Championships Director in charge of the administration of The Championships, Wimbledon. She was the first woman to hold this post and the first woman to be a Grand Slam Tournament Director.

Sarah Clarke was the last to pay her respects to the Queen during the lying-in-state at Westminster Hall (Photo: Getty Images)

Ms Clarke was appointed as the new Black Rod on 17 February 2017, succeeding Lieutenant General David Leakey after he retired.

She formally took on the duties as Lady Usher of the Black Rod in February 2018.

What does the Black Rod do?

The duties of the Black Rod in Parliament fall into ceremonial and administrative responsibilities.

They head a department that plays a significant part in the House of Lords Administration’s "front of house" delivery to members and the public, with a key role in the day-to-day running of the House’s sittings.

It is the role of the Lady Usher of the Black Rod to maintain order in and organise access to the House of Lords. This is a position appointed by the Crown.

The Black Rod is also the Secretary to the Lord Great Chamberlain. This position is appointed by the Lord Great Chamberlain and sees them take part and be responsible for the Palace of Westminster’s major ceremonial events.

This includes the organisation and delivery of ceremonial events, such as State Opening and state visits to Westminster, and the daily administration of the King’s residual estate in the Palace of Westminster, including the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft, the Robing Room and the Royal Gallery.

The Black Rod’s role at the State Opening of Parliament is one of the most well-known images of Parliament.

They are sent from the Lords Chamber to the Commons Chamber to summon MPs to hear the Queen’s Speech and, traditionally, the door of the Commons is slammed in the Black Rod’s face to symbolise the Commons independence.

He or she then bangs three times on the door with the rod. The door to the Commons Chamber is then opened and all MPs – talking loudly – follow Black Rod back to the Lords to hear the Queen’s Speech.