Augustus William James Clifford, 1st Baronet

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About Augustus William James Clifford, 1st Baronet

Sir Augustus William James Clifford, 1st Baronet, MP (1788–1877), British Royal Navy officer and court official, usher of the Black Rod.

Clifford, was born abroad on 26 May 1788, the illegitimate son of William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire (1748–1811), and Lady Elizabeth Foster (1759–1824), and educated at Harrow. He entered the Royal Navy as a midshipman in May 1800, and was promoted to a lieutenancy in 1806. He served at the reduction of Ste. Lucie and Tobago in 1803, and throughout the operations in Egypt during 1807; was at the capture of a convoy in the Bay of Rosas in 1809 (for which he received a medal), and in the operations on the coast of Italy 1811–12.

After this, as captain[1], he was for many years actively employed in naval duties, being several times mentioned in the London Gazette for his courage in cutting-out expeditions and on other occasions. For some time he was engaged in attendance on the Lord High Admiral, the Duke of Clarence, afterwards William IV, and in 1828 he took out Lord William Bentinck as governor-general to India. This was his last service afloat, and he was not actively employed after 1831.

He obtained the rank of rear-admiral 23 Mar. 1848 [2], vice-admiral 27 Sep. 1855[3], admiral of the blue 7 Nov. 1860, and admiral of the red 1864, becoming retired admiral 31 March 1866.

He was M.P. for Bandon 1818–20; for Dungarvan, 1820–2; and again for Bandon from 23 July 1831 to 3 Dec. 1832. He was nominated a C.B. 8 December 1815, knighted 4 August 1830, and created a baronet 4 August 1838. The Duke of Devonshire, then lord chamberlain, appointed him on 25 July 1832 Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, which office he held, much to his satisfaction, until his death. On various occasions between 1843 and 1866 he acted as deputy lord great chamberlain of England, in the absence of Lord Willoughby d'Eresby.

He died at his residence in the House of Lords 8 February 1877.

He married, on 20 October 1813, Lady Elizabeth Frances Townshend (2 August 1789 - 10 April 1862 Nice), sister of John, fourth marquess of Townshend. Captain William John Cavendish, R.N., succeeded his father as second baronet.

Clifford was a patron of the arts, and formed a unique collection of paintings, sculpture, etchings, engravings, and bijouterie.

National Portrait gallery

Sir Augustus William James Clifford, 1st Bt

1 portrait of Sir Augustus William James Clifford, 1st Bt

Sir Augustus William James Clifford, 1st Bt

by William Giller, after Frederick Richard Say
mezzotint, published 1844
19 3/8 in. x 14 1/2 in. (493 mm x 368 mm) plate size; 27 in. x 19 5/8 in. (687 mm x 500 mm) paper size
Given by Mrs Masterman, 1964
Reference Collection
NPG D33452


Sir Augustus William James Clifford, 1st Bt (1788-1877), Naval officer and court official. Sitter in 1 portrait.


William Giller (1805-circa 1868). Artist associated with 8 portraits. 
Frederick Richard Say (1805-1860). Artist associated with 24 portraits.

Black Rod

  (Redirected from Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod)

The Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, generally shortened to just Black Rod, is an official in the parliaments of a number of Commonwealth countries. The position originates in the House of Lords of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. His equivalent in the House of Commons is the Serjeant at Arms.


The office was created in 1350 by royal letters patent, though the current title dates from 1522. The position was adopted by other members of the Commonwealth when they copied the British Westminster system. The title is derived from the staff of office, an ebony staff topped with a golden lion, which is the main symbol of the office's authority.


Black Rod in the United Kingdom



Black Rod is formally appointed by the Crown based on a recruitment search performed by the Clerk of the Parliaments, to whom he reports. Prior to 2002 the office was held by a retired senior officer from the British Army, the Royal Navy or the Royal Air Force and was rotated between each service. It is now advertised openly. Black Rod is an officer of the English Order of the Garter, and takes the rank of knight bachelor. His deputy is the Yeoman Usher of the Black Rod.


Official duties

Black Rod has a number of official duties: he is the personal attendant of the Sovereign in the Lords; as secretary to the Lord Great Chamberlain he is responsible as the usher and doorkeeper at meetings of the Order of the Garter (stemming from the Garter Statute 1522); and, as the Sergeant-at-Arms and Keeper of the Doors of the House he is concerned in the admission of strangers to the House of Lords.

Black Rod further has the task of arresting any Lord guilty of breach of privilege or other Parliamentary offence, such as contempt or disorder, or the disturbance of the House's proceedings. He is also responsible, as the representative of the Administration and Works Committee, for more important services; the black rod is used to tap the governor's shoulder as a blessing from the Queen and security of the Palace of Westminster. Either Black Rod or his deputy, the Yeoman Usher, is required to be present when the House of Lords, upper house of Parliament, is in session, and plays a role in the induction of all new Lords Temporal into the House (but not of bishops as new Lords Spiritual).

The Salary (2008) for the position was £81,600


Ceremonial duties


The Mace

Black Rod is in theory responsible for carrying the Mace into and out of the chamber for the Speaker of the House of Lords (formerly the Lord Chancellor, now the Lord Speaker), though this role is delegated to the Yeoman Usher and Deputy Serjeant-at-Arms, or on judicial occasions, to the Lord Speaker's deputy, the Assistant Serjeant-at-Arms. The mace was created in 1876.


State Opening of Parliament

Black Rod is best known for his part in the ceremonies surrounding the State Opening of Parliament and the Throne speech. 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 slammed in his face. This is to symbolise the Commons' independence of the Sovereign. Black Rod then strikes the door three times with his staff, and is then admitted and issues the summons of the monarch to attend. This ritual is derived from the attempt by King Charles I to arrest five members in 1642, in what was seen as a breach of privilege, though strictly the King was entitled to enter the chamber. After that incident, the House of Commons has maintained its right to question the right of the monarch's representative to enter their chamber, though they can not bar him from entering with lawful authority.

In recent years, Black Rod has 'suffered' a friendly jibe on this annual occasion from the outspoken Labour MP Dennis Skinner.


Other parliaments, other ushers

Before the Acts of Union 1707 united the English and Scottish parliaments, there was a Gentleman Usher of the White Rod who had a similar role in the Scottish Parliament.[1] This office no longer exists.

Gentleman ushers exist for all the British orders of knighthood, and are coloured as follows:

• The Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod -- Order of the Garter

• The Gentleman Usher of the Green Rod -- Order of the Thistle

• The Gentleman Usher of the Scarlet Rod -- Order of the Bath

• The Gentleman Usher of the Blue Rod -- Order of St Michael and St George

• The Gentleman Usher of the Purple Rod -- Order of the British Empire

Black Rods (UK) from 1361

• c.1361–1387: Walter Whitehorse

• 1387–1399: John Cray

• 1399–1410: Thomas Sy

• 1410–1413: John Sheffield

• 1413–1415: John Athelbrigg

• 1415–1418: William Hargroave

• 1418–1423: John Clifford

• 1423–1428: John Carsons

• 1428–1459: William Pope

• 1438–1459: Robert Manfield (joint)

• 1459–1461: John Penycok

• 1461–1471: vacant?

• 1471–1485: William Evington

• 1483–1485: Edward Hardgill (joint)

• 1485–1489: Robert Marleton

• 1489–1513: Ralph Assheton

• 1495–1513: Hugh Dennys (joint)

• 1513–1526: Sir William Compton

• 1526–1536: Sir Henry Norreys

• 1536–1543: Anthony Knyvett

• 1543–1554: Sir Philip Hoby

• 1554–1565: John Norreys

• 1554–1591: Sir William Norreys (joint)

• 1591–1593: Anthony Wingfield

• 1593–1598: Simon Bowyer

• 1598–1620: Richard Coningsby

• 1605–1620: George Pollard (joint)

• 1620–1642: James Maxwell

• 1642–1661: James Maxwell and Alexander Thayne (Parliamentary)

• 1645–1661: Peter Newton (Royalist)

• 1661–1671: Sir John Ayton

• 1671–1683: Sir Edward Carteret

• 1683–1694: Sir Thomas Duppa

• 1694 – 25 August 1698: Sir Fleetwood Sheppard

• 5 December 1698 – 1 June 1710: Admiral Sir David Mitchell

• 1710–1718: Sir William Oldes

• 1718–1727: Sir William Saunderson, 1st Baronet

• 1727–1747: Sir Charles Dalton

• 1747–1760: Sir Henry Bellenden

• 1760 – 6 September 1765: Sir Septimus Robinson

• 1765–1812: Sir Francis Molyneux, 7th Baronet

• 1812 – 25 July 1832: Sir Thomas Tyrwhitt

• 25 July 1832 – 8 February 1877: Admiral Sir Augustus Clifford, 1st Baronet

• 3 May 1877 – 23 June 1883: Sir William Knollys

• 24 July 1883 – 7 October 1895: Sir James Drummond

• 11 February 1896 to 23 July 1904 - Sir Michael Biddulph

• August 1904 – 16 December 1919: Sir Henry Stephenson

• January 1920 – 14 May 1941: Lieutenant-General Sir William Pulteney

• October 1941 – 15 August 1944: Air Chief Marshal Sir William Mitchell

• January 1945 – 18 January 1949: Vice Admiral Sir Geoffrey Blake

• 18 January 1949 – 18 June 1963: Lieutenant-General Sir Brian Horrocks

• 18 June 1963 – October 1970: Air Chief Marshal Sir George Mills

• October 1970 – 18 January 1978: Admiral Sir Frank Twiss

• 18 January 1978 – January 1985: Lieutenant-General Sir David House

• January 1985 – January 1992: Air Chief Marshal Sir John Gingell

• January 1992 – 8 May 1995: Admiral Sir Richard Thomas

• 9 May 1995 – 8 May 2001: General Sir Edward Jones

• 9 May 2001 – 30 April 2009: Lieutenant-General Sir Michael Willcocks

• 30 April 2009: Lieutenant-General Sir Freddie Viggers