Yeomen Warders

Yeomen Warders

Infobox Military Unit
unit_name=Yeomen Warders of Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress The Tower of London

caption=Badge of the Yeomen Warders
country=United Kingdom
role=Palace and Fortress Guard
ceremonial_chief=HM The Queen
ceremonial_chief_label=Colonel in Chief
identification_symbol=Rose, Thistle and Shamrock
identification_symbol_label=Collar Badge

"Beefeater" redirects here. For other uses, see Beefeater (disambiguation)".

The Yeomen Warders of Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London, popularly known as the Beefeaters, are ceremonial guardians of the Tower of London. In principle they are responsible for looking after any prisoners at the Tower and safeguarding the British crown jewels, but in practice they act as tour guides and are a tourist attraction in their own right, a point the Yeoman Warders acknowledge.

The Yeomen Warders are often incorrectly referred to as Yeomen of the Guard, which is actually a distinct corps of Royal Bodyguards. W. S. Gilbert shared this confusion by naming his operetta The Yeomen of the Guard when it appears to be about Yeomen Warders.


The name "Beefeater" is of uncertain origin, with various proposed derivations. The most likely is considered to be the Wardens' payment in rations that included beef, as well as mutton and veal, and various historical commentators have noted a preference for beef among the Wardens and the Yeomen of the Guard. Count Cosimo, grand duke of Tuscany, visited the Tower in 1669 and commented "A very large ration of beef is given to them daily at court...that they might be called Beef-eaters".cite book
title=Encyclopedia Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature and General Information
chapter=Yeomen of the Guard
publisher=Encyclopedia Britannica Co.
] It has been suggested that beefeaters were privileged with a ration of beef from the King's table. [cite web
title=Welcome the Yeowoman Warder
date=September 3 2007
publisher=The Globe and Mail

Some etymologists have noted its similarity to " _ag. hláf-æta", the Old English term for a menial servant, lit. "loaf-eater," the counterpart of hlaford "loaf-warden" and , which became "lord" and "lady" respectively. [cite book
title=More Words Ancient and Modern
author=Ernest Weekley
publisher=Ayer Publishing

Conjectures that derive the name from French "buffetier" (waiter) are, according to the OED, historically baseless.

It may also have a simpler explanation: feeding beef to elite troops to make them strong is just good nutrition planning for your army. This may also be connected to the etymology of the word "beefy" meaning strong and large, since the general public would not have been able to afford beef as a regular part of their diet. Retiring as a Yeoman Warder and continuing to eat beef rations would have been seen as a generous reward in a society that may not otherwise have cared for their aging population. Beefeater may once have been a nickname applied to all such elite troops, or it may have been a nickname applied to only those lucky enough to continue their meat ration in retirement. [author=Simon Riggs

Composition and duties

Yeoman Warders began guarding the Tower in 1485; today there are 35 Yeomen Warders and one Chief Warder. All warders are retired from the British Armed Forces and must be former senior non-commissioned officers with at least 22 years of service. They must also hold the Long service and Good conduct medals. NCOs from the Army, Royal Marines and Royal Air Force are eligible to apply, but members of the Royal Navy are not, because while members of the other services take oaths to the Crown, members of the Navy take an oath to the Admiralty.

The Yeomen Warders normally wear an 'undress' uniform of dark blue with red trimmings. When the sovereign visits the tower, or the warders are on duty at a state occasion, they wear red and gold uniforms very similar to those of the Yeoman of the Guard.

The Yeoman Warders and their families live in tied accommodation inside the fortress paying council taxes and a portion of their salaries for rent. They must own a home outside of the fortress to go to when they retire. Some of the accommodation date back to the 13th century. The community of the Tower of London is made up of these Yeoman Warders and their families, the Resident Governor and officers, a chaplain and a doctor.

Yeoman Warders participate in the Ceremony of the Keys each night.

On 3 September, 2007 a service woman, Moira Cameron, became the first female Yeoman Warder in the history of the institution. Miss Cameron joined the Army in 1985 at age 20. Aged 42 and Warrant Officer Class 2, she became eligible not long before her appointment. Previously, she served as Regimental Administration Office Warrant Officer (RAOWO) with the Adjutant General's Corps. [Caroline Davies, "Woman to join Beefeater corps at Tower" at [ Telegraph] .]


The Yeoman Warder Ravenmaster (also known as the Ravenmaster for short) is one of the Yeomen Warders who has the responsibility to maintain the welfare of the Ravens at the Tower of London. The ravens are fed on raw meat (e.g. beef) which is bought at Smithfield Meat Market by the Ravenmaster.

Legend maintains that should these ravens ever leave the tower, the tower and the monarchy will crumble. The source of this legend and the origins of the ravens themselves are unknown; however, the earliest documented reference to them is in 1895. Historic Royal Palaces, the organization that runs the tower, now accepts that the custom and legend probably started in Victorian times. However, it is thought that ravens have been living in the Tower of London since at least the time of King Charles II. In order to prevent the ravens from flying away, their wings are clipped slightly, and unevenly, so that they cannot fly in a straight line for any appreciable distance.

The warders comment that the "real beefeaters" at the Tower of London are the Ravens, which receive a daily ration of beef.



External links

* [ "The Monarchy Today"] Article in the official website of the British Monarchy
* [ Encyclopedia Britannica] Yeoman Warder
* [ "The Ravenmaster"] BBC News article

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