Page last updated at 16:45 GMT, Wednesday, 6 August 2008 17:45 UK

Black Rod

Photo of Black Rod knocking at the Commons' door
Black Rod bangs his black rod on the Commons' door

Black Rod is a senior official of the House of Lords responsible for its day to day management.

His full title is "Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod".

Black Rod is also Secretary to the Lord Great Chamberlain and Serjeant at Arms of the House of Lords.

His combined roles give him responsibility for the Royal apartments in the Palace of Westminster and also security, works and domestic services in the Lords.

A similar role is taken by the Serjeant at Arms in the House of Commons.

State opening

Black Rod also performs an important ceremonial duty at the state opening of Parliament each year.

When the Sovereign has arrived in the House of Lords and is ready to deliver the Speech, Black Rod is dispatched to summon the members of the Commons.

Black Rod walks from Central Lobby to the Commons carrying the short black staff that is the symbol of his office.

As Black Rod approaches the entrance to the Commons Chamber, the door is slammed shut in his face. This tradition symbolises the Commons' independence from the Sovereign and stems from the Civil War era when the King, Charles I, entered the Commons with troops, demanding to know who had spoken or voted against him.

Charles I was later arrested and executed for treason. No reigning monarch has set foot in the House of Commons since this time.

Undeterred by the barred door, Black Rod hammers on the door to the Commons with his black rod.

The door is eventually opened and Black Rod is allowed in.

He enters and bows respectfully before informing MPs that their presence is requested in the House of Lords.

They then follow him back to the House of Lords to hear the Queen's Speech which sets out her government's policies and legislative programme for the session.

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