Beefeaters, also known as Yeoman Warders or “Yeoman Warder 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,” are a common sight in the Tower of London and have been around since 1485.
Beefeaters are easily recognizable around the world and represent a view into British culture to millions, even to those who have never even visited the United Kingdom. Beefeaters have two uniforms. But their most well-known uniform that is worn on state occasions consists of a red and gold tunic with a Tudor-style bonnet and an Elizabethan ruff, popularized by Queen Elizabeth I herself during her long reign. But rather than pose for tourists’ photos each day, what exactly does the job of a Beefeater involve?
Following King Henry VII’s defeat of Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, Henry VIII starting using Beefeaters as his personal bodyguard. But the role of Beefeaters has changed considerably over the last 500 years of British history. The modern-day role of Beefeaters is now mainly ceremonial.
I first saw Beefeaters on a visit to the Tower of London. Beefeaters work hard as tour guides to tourists who flock to London and to the Tower of London. If you have any questions about the Tower of London or any of its famous prisoners, they will be able to tell you what you want to know.
One of the ceremonial duties of the Beefeaters involves taking care of the ravens that reside at the Tower of London. According to British legend, if the ravens ever leave the confines of the Tower of London, this will spell doom for the United Kingdom.
Beefeaters also take part in the famous lying in ceremony of each successive King or Queen. The lying in ceremony is the period prior to the sovereign’s coronation, where they traditionally spend the night at the Tower of London. On the following day, the Beefeaters will also be present to witness the new Sovereign’s coronation.
In addition to working as tour guides for tourists at the Tower of London, taking care of the ravens and attending coronations, Beefeaters also take part in the Lord Mayor’s Show and they are present during other state events that take place throughout the year.
The job of Beefeaters is steeped in centuries’ long tradition and elaborate ceremonial duties.