Black Rod: What or who is the Black Rod? The bizarre tradition

John Bercow peerage 'not a good idea' says former Black Rod

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Black Rod will play an important role in Tuesday’s Queen Speech. While the event will be very different this year as the Queen has cancelled her appearance, Prince Charles will step in instead.

The Government will outline its legislative agenda for the new parliamentary session today in the Queen’s Speech.

The speech has been written for Prince Charles by Government ministers and typically lasts 10 minutes.

But the Queen’s Speech always starts with a bizarre ritual, involving the Black Rod.

So who is this person, what do they do, and why is the door slammed in their face?

What is the Black Rod?

Alongside many other important members of Parliament, Black Rod was in attendance during today’s ceremony.

Black Rod, whose full title is the Lady or Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, is a senior official in the House of Lords.

The incumbent holder of this position is Sarah Clarke, who was appointed to the role on February 12, 2018, and is the first woman to hold the post.

Black Rod is a senior officer in the House of Lords who is responsible for controlling access to and maintaining order within the House of Lords.


Black Rod is the Monarch’s representative in the Lords and is symbolic of the Commons’ independence from the Crown.

Her role is best known for the State Opening of Parliament, when she knocks on the door of the House of Commons to summon MPs for the Queen’s Speech.

When Black Rod summons MPs to the House of Lords to hear the Queen’s Speech, she (or he) has the door to the Commons slammed in her face and has to knock three times to gain entry in a custom which dates back to 1641.

The unusual custom is believed to symbol the Commons’ independence from the Queen and the Lords.

After Black Rod knocks upon the Commons’ door and is admitted.

MPs are requested to attend the Queen’s Speech, after which, MPs pair up and follow Black Rod.

Mr Johnson and Leader of the Opposition Sir Keir Starmer will lead the charge.

MPs are expected to follow behind Black Rod “in a boisterous way” which is supposed to signal their independence – another tradition which dates back to Charles 1, who in 1642 tried to arrest five MPs.

Since this incident, the House of Commons has maintained its right to question the right of the monarch’s representative to enter their chamber, although they cannot bar them from entering with lawful authority.

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