Yeoman Warders have been in service at the Tower of London since 1485, when the corps were formed by King Henry VII, but actually their origins date back even further. In order to serve as a Yeoman Warder nowadays, an applicant must have 22 years of service in the British armed forces, along with awards for distinction and good conduct. The applicant should also be between 40 and 55 years old on appointment. A potential Yeoman Warder should have a good memory to be able to remember the numerous facts from the history of the Tower.
Although the correct term is Yeoman Warder, most people know the members of the famous guard by their nickname — Beefeater. The origin of the nickname Beefeater is not clear. Some historians believe that the original Warders got some meat as part of their payment. Others suggest that they had the privilege of eating beef from the Royal Kitchen.
However, nowadays the only creatures at the Tower with a steady diet of beef are the ravens, who serve as a symbol of the British monarchy. According to legend, if the ravens leave the Tower, the monarchy will fall. That’s why one Yeoman Warder, the Ravenmaster, is responsible for the ravens.
The Ravenmaster takes good care of the birds. The ravens are fed nuts, berries, fruit, meat, and blood-soaked biscuits. In the evening, the Ravenmaster whistles a special tone to call the ravens to bed — they are put into spacious cages to protect them from foxes. Every three weeks he trims the feathers on their right wings to prevent them from flying away.
Traditionally, Yeoman Warders had only been men. The first female Yeoman Warder (Beefeater) started her work at the Tower of London in 2007 — breaking over 500 years of male-only Beefeater history. Moira Cameron of Argyll, Scotland passed all the tests and is now the only woman Yeoman Warder. Other women have applied for the job, but Moira is the only successful lady so far!
The job of Yeoman Warder has its bonuses, of course. Yeomen Warders have the unique privilege of being able to live in the Tower! A portion of their salaries is given over as rent and many of the apartments in the Tower date from the 13th century. Although an interesting place to live, the wife of one Beefeater says it’s impossible to order a pizza there. Nobody ever believes that people could live in the Tower!