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The Queen hands over Black Rod to first woman ever to hold the title in historic Buckingham Palace ceremony

Mirror logo Mirror 13/02/2018 Mikey Smith
a man and a woman standing in a room: Credits: PA © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: PA

The Queen has handed the ceremonial Black Rod to the first woman ever to hold the title.

Sarah Clarke was officially invested as Lady Usher of the Black Rod in a ceremony in the private audience room at Buckingham Palace.

The monarch presented her with the thin, ebony Black Rod and chain of office.

a close up of a person: Credits: PA © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: PA Ms Clarke is the first woman to hold the post in the House of Lords in the 650-year history of the role.

She has taken over from former Black Rod David Leakey, and met the Queen ahead of her formal introduction into the Lords next week.

Black Rod is the senior official responsible for maintaining order at the House of Lords, and is thrust into the spotlight each year at the State Opening of Parliament, when sent to bang on the door of the House of Commons to summon MPs to hear the Queen's Speech.

a person cutting a cake: Credits: PA © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: PA Ms Clarke was responsible for the organisation of the annual Wimbledon tournament as championships director at the All-England Lawn Tennis Club, and has previously held roles at four Olympic Games, the London Marathon and UK Sport.

Black Rod is appointed by the monarch, and the Queen approved Ms Clarke's position in November, on the recommendation of a selection panel chaired by the Lord Speaker.

The present rod dates from 1883 and is emblazoned with the heraldic motto "Honi soit qui mal y pense", translated as "Shame be to him, who evil thinks".

a group of people standing next to a person in a suit and tie: Credits: AFP © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: AFP It is three-and-a-half feet long, decorated with a gold lion and garter and has a gold orb as a chivalric centrepiece.

As well as organising access to and maintaining order within the House of Lords, Black Rod acts as secretary to the Lord Great Chamberlain, with responsibility for major ceremonial events in the Palace of Westminster.

Ms Clarke has said she is "both deeply honoured and delighted" to be offered the post.

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