Why are they called Beefeaters? Are Queen’s Yeoman Warders real soldiers, what do they do at Tower of London

The Beefeaters are a tourist attraction in their own right

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Beefeaters are instantly recognisable figures around London.

The beefeaters are a tourist attraction in their own right and are synonymous with the royal family during important events including the Queen’s state funeral which will take place on Monday 19 September.

But where does the name beefeater come from and what is their role at the tower of London?

The Beefeaters often work as tour guides at the Tower of London.(Getty Images)The Beefeaters often work as tour guides at the Tower of London.(Getty Images)
The Beefeaters often work as tour guides at the Tower of London.(Getty Images)

Where does the name Beefeaters come from?

The beefeaters official title is ‘The Yeomen Warders of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London, and members of the Sovereign’s body guard of the Yeomen Guard Extrordinary.’

The exact origin of the name beefeater is unknown but there are a number of theories as to where the name derived from. The term was commonly used for the English in general during the 17th Century.

Some believe the word beefeater was used to describe the Yeomen Warders who commonly produced and ate broths made of meat. Some etymologists also claim the name derives from the word buffetier which was an old French term for a waiter or servant.

What was the role of beefeaters?

The Yeoman Warders were formed in 1485 by King Henry VIII and in Tudor times their role was to guard any prisoners in the Tower of London and to protect the most valuable items in the tower, which were the crown jewels.

In modern times they have a more ceremonial role and they often work as tour guides at The Tower of London. Beefeaters are usually retired soldiers who have served in the British Armed Forces. They must have at least 22 years of service and must also hold the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.

What uniform do Beefeaters wear?

The Yeoman Warders typically wear an ‘undress’ which is a uniform of dark blue with red trimmings. When they visit the sovereign or are on duty at a state occasion they will wear a red and gold uniform.

What traditions do the Beefeaters have?

The Beefeaters have a ritual named the Ancient Ceremony of the Keys which has taken place every evening for over 700 years. During this ceremony they shout the words “Halt! Who comes there?”

They then lock the outer gates of the castle for the night and deliver the keys to the monarch’s representative in the tower who is known as the Resident Governor.