Sports supremo Sarah Clarke appointed first ever female Black Rod
Wimbledon boss Sarah Clarke has been named the first ever female Black Rod in a landmark appointment.
The All England Lawn Tennis Club director will succeed David Leakey as the most senior official maintaining order in the House of Lords.
She said she was "deeply honoured and delighted" to take on the title of The Lady Usher of the Black Rod - the first woman to take the job in its 650-year history.
Her work will include summoning the House of Commons to hear the Queen’s Speech at the State Opening of Parliament.
Ms Clarke is currently the championships director at the All England Lawn Tennis Club and has previously held roles at four Olympic Games, the London Marathon and UK Sport.
She said today: “I am both deeply honoured and delighted to be invited to take up the role of Black Rod.
“Over many years I have been fortunate to work at the heart of some of the world’s most complex events and institutions.
"To be given the opportunity to join such an experienced and dedicated team is a great privilege.
"The House of Lords is a place where the smallest detail is as important as the big picture and the depth of heritage and tradition is second to none. I am truly looking forward to starting work.”
Lord Fowler, the Speaker of the House of Lords, said the appointment of a woman to the role was "a historic moment for the House".
“The Lords has a great record of women taking on senior political roles," he said in a statement.
"Five of the last seven Leaders of the Lords and the current Leader of the Opposition have been women as well as both my predecessors as Lord Speaker.
"I am sure Sarah will continue that tradition and do an exemplary job as Black Rod.”
Mr Leakey is set to step down from the job at the end of the year, with Ms Clarke taking over in early 2018.
Some 60 people are thought to have held the position of Black Rod since 1361.