Beefeaters at the Tower of London

The Tower of London is one of the most visited destinations in the entire world, and no visit to the Tower would be complete without seeing a Yeoman Warder of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London, Member of the Sovereign’s Body Guard of the Yeoman Guard Extraordinary…or, as is more commonly known: Beefeaters!

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The Beefeaters are often confused with ‘Yeomen of the Guard’, a distinctly different corps of Royal Bodyguards. Beefeaters at the Tower of London are the ceremonial guardians, and historically, they would have been responsible for the safeguarding of the Crown Jewels, and looking after prisoners kept at the Tower.  Becoming a Yeoman Warder is not easy; at present there are 37 Yeomen Warders at the Tower of London.  A candidate must have at least 22 years of service in the Armed Forces. In addition to length of service, all Yeomen Warders must also have been awarded the ‘Long Service and Good Conduct’ medal during their time in the armed forces.  You can also check out the Yeomen Warders’ webpage on the official website of the British Monarchy.

Why are they called Beefeaters?

Beefeaters at the Tower of LondonNobody knows for sure. The most popular speculation is that the term originated from the fact that the Yeomen of the Guard were allowed to eat as much beef as they liked from the King’s table. ‘Beefeater’ eventually became a term used to distinguish between the Body Guard at the Tower of London, and the Royal Bodyguards working in other locations.

Yeomen Warders have been in service at the Tower of London since 1485, when the corps was formed by King Henry VII, although their origins date back even further. Traditionally Beefeaters had been men. But Moira Cameron of Argyll, Scotland made history when she became the first female Yeoman Warder ever in 2007. Today, Moira is still the only female member of the Beefeater team!

The job of Beefeater has its’ perks, of course; Yeomen Warders have the unique privilege of being able to live in the Tower! A portion of their salaries is given over as rent and many of the apartments in the Tower date from the 13th century. Although an interesting place to live, the wife of one Beefeater says it’s impossible to order a pizza to be delivered to the Tower because nobody ever believes that is where they live!

Margaret’s Top Tip for Seeing the Beefeaters at the Tower of London

Just seeing the Yeomen Warders can be exciting enough, but to get a true Tower of London experience, join along on a tour of the Tower of London led by one of the Beefeaters themselves! The tours are of no additional cost on top of your admission ticket, and joining a Beefeater tour is the only way to get admission into the church in the Tower – St. Peter ad Vincula. Entertaining, engaging, and charming, nobody knows more about the Tower than the Yeoman Warders and since tours leave every 30 minutes, you’ve got no excuse to miss it! Check out the video below.

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