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Black Rod

Black Rod is a traditional official of the House of Lords of the Parliament of the United Kingdom and also the Lord Chamberlain[?]'s Department. The official title is "Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod" and the title is derived from his staff of office, an ebony staff topped with a golden lion.

The office was created in 1350 by royal letters patent, but the current title dates from 1522. Black Rod has a number of official duties, he is the personal attendant of the sovereign in the Lords, the usher and doorkeeper at meetings of the Order of the Garter, and he is responsible for maintaining order in the Lords. He has the task of arresting any Lord guilty of breach of privilege or other Parliamentary offence, but is also responsible for maintaining the security of the Palace of Westminster.

Currently the Black Rod is most prominent for his part in the historical ceremonies surrounding the state opening of Parliament and the monarch's speech in the Lords. He summons the Commons to attend the speech and leads them to the Lords. As part of the ritual, as Black Rod approaches the doors to the chamber of the House of Commons to make his summons they are closed in his face. Black Rod then strikes three times with his staff, and in reply to the challenge "Who is there?" answers "Black Rod". He is then admitted and issues the summons of the monarch to attend. This ritual is derived from the attempt by Charles I of England to arrest five members in 1642, a breach of privilege; the doors were closed on him, and the House of Commons has continued to maintain its right to bar the monarch's representative.

His equivalent in the House of Commons is the Serjeant at Arms[?].



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