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Is Britain Ready for a Lady Beefeater?
Tower of London receives first female yeoman warder
David Michael Weber (crossfire)     Print Article 
Published 2007-01-19 09:09 (KST)   

Britain has had female queens and a female prime minister but is Britain ready for a female Beefeater?

The Tower of London has a new Beefeater guard and it's a woman, the first ever. Plus she's reportedly frightened of ravens; a problem since ravens are a protected commodity at her new work place.

The Tower of London in the morning mist
©2007 David Weber

Moira Cameron, hailing from Argyll, Scotland is the first woman ever to be chosen as Beefeater. She beat five other male candidates for the position. Two women have applied for the position in the past but Cameron was the first to be successful.

One of the Tower's Beefeater yeoman warders
©2007 David Weber

The Beefeaters have been guarding the Tower of London since the late 15th Century. Their official title is the Yeoman Warder of Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London. They were first established by Henry VII shortly after he took the crown from Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.

Theirs was the task to protect the illustrious Crown Jewels and guard the number of high profile prisoners who spent time at the Tower and sometimes were executed on nearby Tower Hill.

The origin of the word "beefeater" is unknown. Some theories say the term comes from the ration of beef the Yeoman Warders received. Recent theories suggest the word beefeater is derogatory term by Londoners who thought the guards were a little too pampered.

The White Tower Keep
©2007 David Weber

Two hundred years ago records show that the Yeoman Warders received a daily ration of 24 pounds of beef, 18 pounds of mutton, and 16 pounds of veal. Obviously the beefeaters must have divided this large amount amongst their family and close friends. One should hope at least or otherwise prisoners of the Tower could have easily escaped knowing that no guard would be able to chase them down without suffering a massive heart attack.

The legendary ravens of the Tower whose very presence keeps the monarchy stable.
©2007 David Weber

Nowadays, yeoman warders face the grim, daunting task of greeting millions of tourists every year with historical insights and personal anecdotes whilst cracking quips and puns to the amusement or horror of their gathered audience.

To be considered for the position of yeoman warder, a candidate must have at least 22 years of military service and have reached the rank of a senior NCO (non-commissioned officer) with a good service record. Warders must learn the history of the tower by heart particularly the bloody and ghostly bits which are always favorites with visitors.

A Beefeater carries out the arduous task of informing and entertaining visitors.
©2007 David Weber

Yeoman warders receive a yearly salary of 占20,000 ($40,000), rented accommodations within the Tower, and a blue uniform with red trimmings for most duty days and red and gold one for special occasions such as when the monarch is visiting.

A potential new recruit?
©2007 David Weber

There are currently over 30 Yeoman Warders including the Chief Yeoman Warder, the yeoman gaoler who was once in charge of the Tower's prisoners, and the ravenmaster. The ravenmaster has the all important responsibility of looking after the clipped-winged ravens who protect the British monarchy by simply never leaving the Tower.

Moira Cameron's appointment has not been met with entirely wide open arms from people or yeoman warders. According to some reports, a number British citizens and yeoman warders are not pleased with the breaking of tradition by admitting a woman into their ranks. Apparently a woman can serve Britain in the armed forces, rule as queen, and govern as prime minister but is somehow unsuitable to wear a blue or red frock and a puffy hat while chatting up the millions of visitors that drop by every year.

Cameron will take up her duties in September after swearing-in speech ceremony that dates back to the mid-14th Century.

- A snippet of a Beefeater Yeoman Warder 

©2007 OhmyNews
A native Tennesseean, David M. Weber is currently at the grammatical grindstone cranking out gerunds, dangling modifiers and perfecting tenses as an English teacher in Japan. In his travels, he has hiked the Inca Trail, been mugged in Mexico City, broke his leg in Switzerland, attempted to bike through Mexico and failed, climbed Pyramids in Egypt and Mexico, drank great quantities of beer at Oktoberfest and gambled at Monte Carlo.
Other articles by reporter David Michael Weber

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