What Is Unique About the Yeoman Warders/Beefeaters of the Tower of London?

Yeoman Warders, or ‘Beefeaters’, are the guards of the Tower of London.  However, their role has expanded and changed dramatically since their beginnings as protectors of the Tower of London and Crown Jewels.  Here are a few enlightening facts about Yeoman Warders:

–         Yeoman Warders as a traditional institution

Formed by Henry VIII in 1509, the Yeoman Warders still guard the Tower of London to this very day, and thus have become a symbol of ceremony and tradition.

–         The name ‘Beefeaters’

The origin of the term ‘Beefeaters’ has been contested and debated.  Yet it is most believed to derive from the time when Yeoman Warders were in fact paid part of their salary in beef.  This is a practice that was common right up until the 1800s.

–         In theory, Beefeaters are meant to guard the Crown Jewels and look after prisoners

However, their role has become very different in the modern age.  They have become more of a tourist attraction, and act as guides, relating the dramatic history of the Tower of London to captivated visitors.

–         The Yeoman Warder Ravenmaster

The Ravens cannot be underestimated in terms of their symbolic importance to the Tower of London.  They are believed to have been living in the tower since the time of Charles II.  The legend of the Tower of London states that should the ravens ever leave the tower, the monarchy will crumble and disaster will ensue in England.

As the title suggests, the Yeoman Warder Ravenmaster is responsible for the welfare of the ravens, and, as such, this warder has a key symbolic role to play.

–         Ceremony of the Keys

Every night at the Tower of London, at precisely 9.53 pm, the ‘Ceremony of the Keys’ is enacted.  The Chief Yeoman Warder meets the Military Escort, comprised of ‘Tower of the London Guard’ members.  Upon securing the gates of the tower, a ritualistic exchange of phrases is undergone.  Incredibly enough, the one and only time this ceremony was interrupted was during the Second World War, when there was an air raid.

Beefeaters hold a fascinating place in the history of the Tower of London.  Today, however, their significance lies mostly in that they act as thrilling tour guides, relating the dramatic narrative of the past.

for more information about the Beefeaters and the Tower of London from an experienced official guide, click here.