January 03, 2007
After 500 years, a woman joins ranks of Beefeaters
A lot of training is involved in becoming a Tower of London Beefeater
A woman has been appointed to the ranks of the Tower of London’s Yeoman Warders for the first time in their 500-year history.
The unnamed woman, who will take up her post this summer, was selected ahead of five men as one of the Tower’s tourist guides.
Historic Royal Palaces confirmed last night that it was in the process of appointing the female Yeoman Warder, adding that she had been the best candidate for the job. “It’s very exciting.
It’s great for the body of general Warders and it will be great for the Tower and its visitors,” said a spokeswoman for the charity.
The Beefeaters, or to give their full name, “Yeoman Warders of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London, and Members of the Sovereign’s Body Guard of the Yeoman Guard Extraordinary”, date back to 1485. They were formed by Henry VII after his victory at the Battle of Bosworth and originally guarded prisoners and the Crown Jewels.
There have been Beefeaters at the Tower of London for over 500 years
The origin of the name Beefeater is unknown. According to Historic Royal Palaces, the most likely derivation is from the daily ration of meat they received for their duties. Records from the 19th century show that the Yeoman Guards received a daily ration of 24lb (11kg) of beef, 18lb mutton and 16lb of veal.
The Yeoman Warders, who number 38, were one of the last bastions of male-only employment. They must all be former senior NCOs from the Army, RAF or Royal Marines and have served for a minimum of 22 years. Once employed as a Beefeater, they are given a grace-and-favour apartment at the Tower.
Although known for their scarlet and gold ceremonial garb, the Yeoman Warders wear an informal blue uniform while guiding visitors around the Tower.
The spokeswoman for Historic Royal Palaces said last night that the charity would reveal the name of its new employee by the end of the month: “The Tower of London is in the process of appointing its first female Yeoman Warder. The successful candidate is currently serving in HM Forces and will join her new colleagues in the Yeoman Body at the Tower of London in summer 2007.
“Historic Royal Palaces is committed to encouraging diversity.”
The post of Yeoman Warder could be bought for 250 guineas until the Duke of Wellington ended the practice in the 1826
The Duke also abolished a minimum height requirement of 5ft 9in
A typical day starts at 6am. Tasks include posing for photographs with tourists and reciting the history of the Tower
One important duty is to check on the ravens. Charles II decreed that there must always be six at the Tower. The current ravens are called Hardey, Thor, Odin, Gwyllum, Cedric, Hugine and Munin. Acoording to legend, if the ravens ever left the Tower of London then disaster could befall England
Source: Tower of London; Times Database