Yeomen of the Guard or Yeomen Archers was created
to guard the new King,
Henry VII. As then, their
sense of duty and commitment to their Monarch is absolute. They no longer carry the
harquebus, or a quiver of arrows with the
long-bow of by-gone days, or indeed protect the body of the
Sovereign in its true meaning, but they are as proud and
certainly no less loyal to their Sovereign, because, they are
Queen’s Body Guard of the Yeomen of the Guard (The Body Guard).
Below is a short history of The Body Guard and
within the site a
more comprehensive and detailed history
by Thomas Preston. Their
uniform and weaponry are
described in fine detail and certain myths are dispelled. Find
biographies of the
Monarchs from 1066 (including
Lady Jane Grey). This site provides
an insight into their
ceremonial duties. the site's broken
into hyperlinked-sections for easy reference or, if you have a
spare afternoon and a flagon of mead, just browse through the pages. Either way, enjoy your time here.
A common misconception is that the
Yeoman Warders or Yeomen of the Guard (In Extraordinary) and The
Yeomen of the Queen's Body Guard of the Yeomen of the Guard are
one and the same....they are not. Although both Corps are
made up of former British servicemen and servicewomen that have served at
least 22 years in the Army, Marines, Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, there are several differences in the duties
and uniform of these Corps.
The Yeomen of the Queen's Body Guard of
the Yeomen of the Guard (The Body Guard) are summoned for duty
and live across the whole of the British Isles. Their
Headquarters is at St James's Palace and have no duties at The
Tower of London. Most of the Yeomen have a full time
second career outside of The Body Guard. Their uniform
is in the Tudor style and scarlet red. The distinct
difference in the ceremonial uniform worn by either Corps is the
shoulder belt or crossbelt. The shoulder belt had a
practical function when their armoury included the heavy harquabus
and the belt supported the weight of this cumbersome weapon.
The harquabus hasn't been used since the 1600s.
The Tower Warders are salaried and must live within the bounds of the
perimeter walls of The Tower of London
and it's their full-time second career. Below, is a former Chief Yeoman Warder
John Keohane (the current CYW is Peter McGowran) modelling the daily Blue Undress that visitors to The
Tower of London will see. On Ceremonial occasions
they wear exactly the same uniform as the Yeomen of the Queen's
Body Guard, less the shoulder belt.
Gentlemen, "May you never die a
Yeoman Warder" (which is meant as a
tribute not an insult).
Yeomen of the Queen's Body Guard
Ceremonial Dress with Shoulder Belt
Blue Undress (Day Uniform)
earliest official form of body guard
of which anything is known is that of the
Sergeants-at-Arms who were mounted
guards raised by
Richard 1 in 1191. They were
originally sons of
knights, and later patents were granted to
esquires. By the 15th century
however, their role had been extended in such a way that the
protection of the sovereign was no longer their first duty.
first positive mention of a royal guard in English history is
found in the records of
Edward I’s reign (1272–1307), where the
description occurs “Crossbow men of the Household”. Nothing is
actually known of this guard beyond the fact that it had a very
short existence, as it is not mentioned again, and the long-bow
was then becoming the national weapon, being much quicker in
performance. The State records of Edward II’s reign mention:
“archers on foote for garde of the Kinge’s
body who shall go before the Kinge as he traveleth through the countrye”
II maintained this
guard of archers, increasing its size and giving it thus a certain
permanency, which had not previously existed. Each successive monarch
since this time may be assumed to have enrolled a personal Body
Guard, though details are not now available in all cases,
Henry V, the hero of
Agincourt in 1415, and his “Archers
of the Household” who accompanied him abroad and fought with him on the
battlefield. These were maintained until the reduction of
Henry VI’s household in 1454, when the
Wars of the Roses put an end to all but
hereditary State and Household appointments.
had been a long dynastic power struggle even before the forty years of
battles (Wars of the Roses)
Edward III. The feuding
bloodlines, or Houses, the
House of Lancaster (its badge being a red
rose) and the
House of York (its badge being a white rose)
fought for the possession of the Crown of England and the power, wealth
and influence that went with it. The Wars of the Roses began at St
and saw the weak Lancastrian King Henry VI (he often suffered from bouts
of madness) deposed by the House of York and the new King,
Edward IV, enthroned in 1461. In
1483, and seventeen battles later, a fourth King,
Richard III (House of York)
became Sovereign of England but by now, and thousands dead in battle,
the rival Houses wished for peace. The decision was that the throne
should be offered to Henry Tudor,
Earl of Richmond, on condition that he
marry Elizabeth, eldest daughter of Edward IV, thus uniting the Houses
of York and Lancaster and ending this costly war both in money and
lives. Henry Tudor accepted the invitation and eventually embarked from
Harfleur, France, for England in July 1485 with his “private guard of
faithful followers,” and a small military force of about 2000 men.
Being himself of Welsh extraction, most of his adherents being Welshmen,
and his private guard being Welsh born, it was but natural that Henry
Tudor selected Wales as his base. He stepped ashore at the village of
Milford Haven on the 1 August
1485; he was soon joined by the Welsh, who flocked to his Standard. With
an increasing force Henry pressed forward to attack
King Richard III.
the Eve of St Bartholomew's Day, 22 August 1485, they met at the
Battle of Bosworth Field.
Richard III was killed and it
is said that the Royal crown, that he had worn over his helmet on the
battle field, was found in a hawthorn bush by Henry’s “private guard”.
The crown was placed on the head of Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, who
was then and there
King Henry VII of England. This
historical episode was commemorated in the
Henry VII Chapel, Westminster Abbey, by
after his death in 1509. There, in its stained glass windows can be seen
at the present day, the design of the Crown on the
hawthorn bush under the Tudor rose, with the initials HR on the sides.
From Bosworth, King Henry proceeded to Leicester and thence to London,
where, on the 1 September, he attended a Thanksgiving Service at St
Paul’s Cathedral, and deposited there the three Standards under which he
had fought and those he had captured on the field of battle. Hall, the
historian, described them minutely, “The first had an Image of
St George; the second, ‘a Fiery Dragon
beaton on white and green
sarsenet,’ the Ensign of
Cadwaladr, the last King of the Britons;
the third was of ‘Yellow
Tartine’ on which was painted a ‘Donne
Kowe’ which being interpreted means
dun cow.” Henry VII was surrounded by
his “private guard” of fifty men, now known as the Yeomen Guard or the
Queen’s Body Guard of the Yeomen of the Guard is now the oldest Royal
Body Guard, and also the oldest military corps now existing in this or
any other country, pre-dating the
Gentlemen-at-Arms by 24 years and the The
Queen's Body Guard for Scotland,
The Royal Company of Archers, who were
founded in 1676. Though The Body Guard can be traced to the armed
personal guards of the
Saxon and Norman Sovereigns, its real
historical origin is to be found in the body guards of the Plantagenet
Kings of eight hundred years ago. These latter guards however, were
known by various designations, such as “Cross Bowmen of the Household,”
and “Archers of the Guard of the King’s Body,” and were often created
anew by the Monarch on his accession.
King Henry VII, the first of the
Tudor dynasty, to make his Royal Body Guard a permanent institution and
confer on it a definite title, a title it continues to hold.
may well be asked why Henry did not retain the name “Archers” of the
Guard, seeing that it was these archers who had become the terror of the
men-at-arms and won the glorious victories of
Poitiers, and defeated the
hitherto invincible mailed cavalry. Historians of the time say that
there is no doubt King Henry VII conferred the title of Yeomen of the
Guard as a proclamation to the people that he had selected his
body-guard not from the nobility, but from that class just below them
who had proved themselves as the national strength of the country at
home and abroad. In the pardons granted by the King on his
this class is described as “Yeomen or
Gentlemen just below the rank of
Esquire.” Such was the status of the
Yeomen of the fifteenth century.
its creation as a permanent Corps, the Body Guard of the Yeomen of the
Guard has an absolutely unbroken history of over 520 years; for even
during the brief period of
The Commonwealth between
1649-1659 it continued to serve with King
Charles II during his enforced
absence in France, and at the
Restoration accompanied him on his return
to England, took its historic place in his triumphal entry into London,
and stood around him at his immediate Coronation.
is certain, therefore, that Henry VII created The Body Guard between The
Battle of Bosworth
on 22 August and the 18 September 1485 when a warrant was issued to a
“To William Browne, Yeoman of
the King’s Guard, for good service
that our humble and faithful
servant hath heretofore done unto us
as well beyond the seas as at
our late victoreuse journeye”
King took the occasion of the great ceremony of his Coronation on the 31
October to let it be known that the Yeomen of the Guard who attended him
were not for his personal protection, but for the upholding of the
dignity and grandeur of the English Crown in perpetuity, his successors,
Kings and Queens of England, for all time. The
full title of the Guard in the old Latin MSS Warrants of the Tudor
of the Guard (of our Body)
of our Lord the King”
title has been retained to this day, only being modernized since the
Queen Elizabeth II to that by
which it is know today:
Queen’s Body Guard of the Yeomen of the Guard”
designation “Yeoman” is of interest, as it was introduced for the first
time into the Body Guard upon the institution of this
body. As far as the etymology of the word is concerned, the most
probable origin is believed to be a derivation from “gau”, meaning
“district” and the word “man” signifying “man of the district”.
term “yeoman” had for some time been applied to subordinate members of
the sovereign’s household, but previous Body Guards had been designated
“The Cross-Bowmen of the Household”, “Archers of The Guard”, “Archers of
the Crown”, “Archers of the Household”, “The Body Archers”, or “The
King’s Bowmen”. The 14th and 15th centuries, the golden period of
English agriculture, saw the rise and prominence of the yeoman class and
its recognition by the State. The yeomen helped to fill in a
large gap between the upper class and the
labourers. They lived well and in the winter
did not have to contend with the hunger and cold endured by those who
served them. Thus they were well suited to make fine soldiers, for as a
wise statesman propounded
"To make good infantry it requireth men
bred not in a servile and indigent fashion, but in some free and
plentiful manner". The rewards granted took the form of
appointments, such as bailiffs of certain towns, keepers of parks or
castles, carrying emoluments, fees, commodities and profits.
title of “The King’s (or Queen’s) Body Guard
of the Yeomen of The Guard” has persisted to the present day, though
during the Victorian era it had been altered to “The Royal Guard”.
Before leaving the subject of correct designations, it is intriguing to
discover the origin of misapprehensions, which have arisen in relation
to the Yeomen of The Guard. A common acceptation of the work “yeoman” as
coming from the “yeu”, the wood from which bows were then made, is as
incorrect as the assumption that the yew trees of this country provided
the source of our bows. In fact the best bows were imported from abroad,
being mad from yew trees grown slowly on high ground in a dry climate.
the nickname of “Beefeaters” as applied to the Yeomen has been misquoted
in its origin. The authentic source of the misnomer is to be found in
the narration by Count Cosmo, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, on his travels
in England in the 17th century. The Count was frequently at court in
1669, and in referring to the Yeomen of The Guard, he stated: -
are called ‘Beefeaters’, that is Eaters-of-Beef, of which a considerable
portion is allowed them daily by the Court
nickname was evidently in use at about that time, as it is on record
that a respected member of parliament ironically applied it to the
Yeomen of The Guard in a speech made in the House of Commons on the 9th
fighting weapons of The Body Guard at
Bosworth Field were those of the
soldier – the
pike and the long bow.
as technology developed these were replaced by the breech-loading
Harquebus, also called Arquebus or Hackbut.
This was a long, portable smoothbore matchlock gun. Although it was the
first gun fired from the shoulder it was generally fired from a support,
against which the recoil was transferred from a hook on the gun.
It was invented in Spain but its name seems derived from German words
meaning "hooked-gun". The bore varied and
its effective range was less than 650 feet (200m).
worn only by The Body Guard, is one of the most prized and
distinctive features of the dress. It was originally the buff-coloured
service cross-belt for supporting the heavy butt of the harquebus
and afterwards of the equally ponderous matchlock. The massive
swivel for attachment to the fire-arm can still be seen on the
Wilkinson sword is carried on the left hip within its black-leather
scabbard. But for cleaning, the sword is never drawn.
Body Guard also carried an ornamental partisan or halberd (spear type
weapon), similar to that carried to the present day at all ceremonial
duties. Our partisans are eight feet long with a wooden shaft.
A nine inch tassel of red and gold hangs beneath a steel gilt blade with
the insignia of the reigning Monarch.
- Yeoman Guard
Yeoman State Dress worn is, in its most striking characteristics, the
same as it was in Tudor time some 521 year ago. Because so few changes
have taken place in the accoutrements of The Guard,
it is not difficult to envisage its appearance through a great part of
English history. Although in 1809 the ancient records of
The Guard were destroyed during a disastrous fire at St James’
Palace, enough information has been
compiled from other sources to provide a
DOUBLET - Scarlet cloth Tudor,
embroidered, back and front cut whole. Full sleeves gathered into
wrist band with one hole and small button. Four skirts pleated
into waist. Three small buttons and holes on left shoulder, and
five small buttons and holes on left side seam. Blue Velvet and
Gold lace shoulder strap on left shoulder with one large button.
EMBROIDERY - Rose, Thistle and
Shamrock, with scroll and ER surmounted by a Tudor Crown on back and
front. Trimmings: 3/8 inch gold spot lace and blue velvet.
Linings: white cotton, body and sleeves, blue shalloon skirts.
BUTTONS - Gilt, crown and German
SERGEANT-MAJORS - On right arm
four chevrons of ¾ inch gold spot lace surmounted by crown.
BREECHES - Scarlet cloth, split
falls, ¾ inch gold spot lace garter, with gilt buckle at knee; and three
small buttons and holes. Red, white and blue ribbon rosettes at knee.
HAT - Flat brimmed black velvet
Tudor hat, gossamer body, crown 5 inches deep, brim 2 ¾ inches. Red,
white and blue ribbons in bows all round close above brim.
SWORD BELT - Maroon leather,
diced, 3 ¼ inches wide, laced as Shoulder Belt with large baldrick frog,
gilt oval buckle the width of belt, with gilt metal slide.
SHOULDER BELT - Scarlet cloth 3¼
inches wide, lined blue shalloon; four rows gold 3/8 inch light of blue
velvet between the laces; two gilt eyelets 4 inches from bottom of each
end with blue ribbon tie; a large gilt swivel riveted with two plates to
end of belt.
HOSE - Scarlet Merino stockings or
SHOES - Patent-leather Oxford,
with rosette-buckle, and red, white and blue ribbon rosettes.
(Note, if any Yeoman arrived for duty with a pair of patent-leather
shoes the Messenger Sergeant Major would have a coronary, regardless of
what the Official Court Dress Regulations may state. There is
friendly rivalry between the various Regiments/Corps regarding the
quality of the shine on one's shoes. Wearing patent leather is
seen as the lazy option).
RUFFS - White muslin, four rows 3
inches deep, goffered into neck band with tape drawstring.
CLOAK - Blue Inverness with hood,
lined Scarlet Italian, gilt rose clasp at neck, and eight buttons.
Generally only worn at the laying-in of state of a Monarch.
GLOVES - White cotton, buttoned at
the cuff (used to be buckskin).
PARTIZANS - (Yeomen Only) - Steel
head, blue and gilt with Royal Arms and Royal Cypher and crown, fitted
into long gilt socket, below which is a large yellow and crimson tassel.
A lance wood staff 6 feet 2 inches long to top of tassel, steel shoe.
STICK - (Sergeant-Majors and
Officers Only) - Black varnished stick, silver boss let in top device,
Royal Cypher and crown, with rose, thistle, and shamrock, and motto,
plated band, eyes for tassel, plated ferrule.
SWORD - Gilt hilt, half basket,
with three bars; Royal Crest; Crown pommel; white fish-skin grip, gilt
wired. Blade blued and gilt, with Royal Cypher and Crown; Black
leather scabbard, gilt locket with hook, Royal Cypher engraved above
hook; gilt shoe.
The weight of the tunic, breaches, hat and ruff combined is 16lbs
(7.2kg); the sword weights 1lb (.45kg) and the partisan weights 7lbs
(3.15kg). The total marching weights of The Body Guard kit weighs
the reign of
Queen Elizabeth I the ruffs
were added, which indeed are worn today. However, in the time of
the Stuarts lace and plumed hats took the place of the ruffs and round
hats. This history of the English Monarchy, from 1485 to present day, is
told by the gold embroidered emblems on the back and front of the tunic.
To emphasize the reconciliation of the Houses of York and Lancaster the
coats of the Guard bore the Tudor Crown, with the York and Lancaster
Roses superimposed below it, and the initials HR (Henry Rex). The
initials changed with each succeeding monarch, i.e. ER (for
either Edward Rex or Elizabeth Regina), or CR
(for Charles Rex), or JR or AR (for James Rex or Anne
Regina). The only instance of the King and Queen’s initials being both
embroidered on the tunic was during the reign of
William III and Mary II
(1689-1694/1702) when they appeared entwined WM RR.
is well know
was the rightful heir to the Throne, but she refused to be crowned
William of Orange her husband
was proclaimed King and crowned with her. By her order both their
initials were embroidered on the coats of the Guard. The Stuarts
added the motto “Dieu et mon droit” but strange to say, they substituted
St Edward’s Crown for the Tudor Crown.
Queen Anne reverted to the
Tudor Crown, and added in 1709, the
Thistle, on the confirmation of the Union of England and Scotland.
Here may also be noted the curious historical fact that when King James
I of Scotland married the daughter of
Henry VII in 1502, one of the
most prominent features of the royal ceremony in the Banqueting Hall in
Edinburgh Castle was the stone corbels on the walls supporting the roof,
which were elaborately carved with the Tudor rose between two thistles
the national emblem of Scotland.
Only after 200 years was the double
emblem reproduced in England (below).
The Georges again
Tudor Crown to the
St Edward’s Crown, and in 1801
George III added initials GR.
In 1901 King Edward VII
adopted the Tudor Crown but in 1953
Queen Elizabeth II adopted
the St Edward’s Crown.
embroidery now consist of the Crown, the superimposed York (white) and
Lancaster (red) Roses, the Thistle and the Shamrock, underneath is the
motto “Dieu et mon droit” (God and My
Right) with the initials ER (Elizabeth Regina) on either side.
the past, the rich attire of the Yeomen of The Guard was worn only on
ceremonial occasions, a different uniform naturally being supplied when
marching or fighting. For jousts and tournaments special uniforms were
also supplied. These were at their most magnificent during the reign of
Henry VIII, who spent a fortune
on arraying his Guard in a most
manner. At royal funerals black ‘caules’ or coats were worn, with black
hats, or crepe bands round the bonnets, black gloves, and even the
partisans had black fringes.
the early 19th century, when uniforms were still issued annually, the
discarded dress becomes the property of the wearer on receiving his new
commanded, however, that in future every Yeoman should receive an
allowance of £9 in lieu therefore, in order to prevent the dresses being
brought up by person for theatrical or other public exhibitions. In
William IV’s reign the duties
of the Yeomen became lighter and the annual issue ceased, new uniforms
being supplied only as required.
Workers of the tunic:
Gertrude Elizabeth Boud was born 1882 and originally lived in Ilford and
worked as a military tailoress. After losing her husband at Gallipoli in
WW1 she moved to London with her 3 children. She found work at
Pimlico making the full dress uniforms of the Yeomen of the Guard. The
cuttings of the gold braid used for the uniforms was classed as a 'perk'
and she was allowed to take home any little snippings. This could be
quite profitable in that after hours of unwinding the gold thread from
the cotton base, a small ball of gold thread could then be taken to the
local pawnbroker and Gertrude would receive a £1 or so for it. Most
welcome as her wages at the time were only about £1 and 6 pence per
In about 1936 Gertrude had to change employment and it is not known what
company she worked for but it was situated in Lea Bridge Road,
Silvertown, London where she trained women in the making of the
uniforms. Upon the outbreak of WW11, in September 1939, the making of
Body Guard uniforms was abandoned and made way for the making of
Officer's uniforms for the war. Gertrude moved to Barking and worked in
Bromley by Bow, London eventually retiring at the age of 75 years and
passing away at the age of 82 years old. Webmaster comment:
Thank you Gertrude and to all of those ladies that worked on these very
heavy and superbly made uniforms. I think I'm still wearing the one in
- Scarlet Cloth, double-breasted, stand collar. The collar and
cuffs of dark blue (Life Guards) Velvet. The skirts turned back
with white cloth. There are nine buttons in each row down the
front and two at the waist behind. Three pointed slashes of
scarlet cloth on the cuffs, embroidered, and having three small buttons
down the centre of the embroidery. Three pointed sword flaps of
scarlet cloth on the skirts, with a large button at each point.
White silk linings.
EMBROIDERY - Gold: rose, shamrock and thistle device,
on the collar, cuff slashes and sword flaps and at bottom of skirts.
BUTTONS - Gilt, mounted, the rose, shamrock, and
thistle surmounted by the Imperial Crown.
EPAULETTES - Loose gold bullion, with device in
TROUSERS - Blue cloth, with stripes of gold oak-leaf
lace 2½ inches wide on the side seams.
HAT - Black silk cocked hat, with special pattern
embroidered loop and bullion tassels
PLUME - General’s 11 inch white swan feathers with
red feathers under.
SWORD - Straight, special pattern. Gilt hilt, with
folding guard. Black scabbard with gilt mountings.
SWORD KNOT - Gold lace strap, with bullion tassel.
WAIST SASH - Gold “train” lace, 2 ¾ inches wide, with
three rows of narrow crimson silk; long bullion tassels hanging on the
left side, 19 inches long in all.
BOOTS - Plain military, patent leather.
SPURS - Gilt, straight, embossed rose, shamrock and
GLOVES - White cotton.
- Gold gimp and orris cord with gilt tags, worn suspended from end of
epaulette on right side by the Captain. Lieutenant, Ensign, and
Adjutant. (Not worn by Exons.)
CLOAK - Dark blue serge, Inverness pattern, fastened
with one hook and eye, five gilt crown buttons with German border (plate
II, No 33). The cape forms part of the garment, and should be long
enough to reach to the knuckles, and has three buttons in front.
Scarlet lining throughout. Gilt rose cloak clasps and chain on cape.
MESS DRESS - Evening dress of His Majesty’s
GOLD STICK is carried by the Captain. Ebony
with gold mountings and tassel.
SILVER STICKS are carried by all other Officers when
on duty. Ebony with silver mountings and tassels.
All sticks are presented personally by the Sovereign
its inception The Body Guard has been headed by a
Captain of the Guard; an important and highly
prized position that grew in power as successive Captains were
appointed a member of the
Privy Council and
Vice-Chamberlain, thus, becoming
the executive-officer of the
Lord Chamberlain. Other officers of
The Body Guard in descending order are
Ensign or Standard Bearer,
Clerk of the Check and Adjutant
Exon. Non-Commissioned Officers are
Messenger Sergeant Major, Divisional
Yeoman Bed Goer and
Yeoman Bed Hanger
and Yeomen. Confusingly, several of the 66 serving Yeomen
are also Commissioned Officers, some commanding Territorial Army
units throughout the Country. These men have completed
their 22 years service in the Armed Forces as Warrant Officers
or Senior Non-Commissioned Officers and have now accepted a
Commission. They are not however eligible as Officers in
The Body Guard.
duties of the Guard during the first three centuries of its history were
of a most
onerous nature. The Guard was absolutely responsible for the personal
safety of their Sovereign. The Captain, being also Vice-Chamberlain of
the Household, was practically responsible for the correct performance
of all Court ceremonials. The duties of guarding the interior of the
Palaces were entirely in the hands of the Yeomen of the Guard who were
posted on all the doors of the Palace, both inside and out. They
collected the Sovereign’s meals, they tasted the food before it was
placed on the
table, they carried out every evening an elaborate ceremonial known as “making
the King’s bed” and an Officer of the Guard slept on a truckle bed
outside the King’s bedroom. Today the existence of the “bed”
duties is still acknowledged, though of course, never carried out by the
Yeoman Bed-Goer (YBG) and Yeoman Bed-Hanger (YBH). Until the Guard
ceased their daily duties in and around the Royal Palaces early in the
last century, yeomen lived within the Palace; we are now permitted to
live in own homes, indeed with the exception of the Messenger Sergeant
Major, we are not allowed to live-in. We are summoned only when
required, approximately eight times a year which includes an annual
Roll Call and
Roger Monk Dinner. This
was instituted in
Queen Victoria’s reign and developed into
an Annual Inspection in the grounds of one or other of the Royal
Palaces; mostly taken by the Sovereign or a member of the Royal Family.
The late Duke of Connaught frequently inspected the Guard. In a few
instances a distinguished soldier of the day has been honoured by being
selected to take it – Field Marshal Viscount Wolseley, Sir Donald
Stewart, Earl Roberts, and Sir George White. The first Inspection was
held by King
Edward VII when, as Prince of
Wales, he was about to leave England on a visit to India. The inspection
of the Guard in the Gardens of Buckingham Palace by Queen Victoria
formed part of the Diamond Jubilee Ceremonials in 1897.
original Guard was 50 in total. The permanent Guard made its first
public appearance at the
Coronation of its founder
Henry VII. The strength of The Guard was
soon after increased to 120, and has varied considerably
since then, though its average membership has been 150 –200.
Henry VIII, who inherited a full
treasury from his thrifty father, gradually raised the number of yeomen
to the highest lever they ever, and strove to make them the most
splendid and powerful Body Guard in Europe.
In 1510 their number
complement stood at 600. Henry VIII’s extravagance was such, however,
that by 1524 he realized that there must be a check to his household
expensed and the yeomen were reduced in number to about 300, fluctuating
somewhat according to the varied duties they were call upon to perform.
Charles II re-organized the
royal households, and founded, for the first time, a permanent regular
army (mainly at the instigation of his brother, later
James II), he fixed the
establishment of the yeomen of The Guard much as it remains to this day:
should be noted that the rank of ‘Corporal’, which was introduced into
the new regular army, was a very different status from what it is now.
At that time the rank Captain was referred to as ‘Corporal’.
to the Yeomen of The Guard until 1823 was by purchase and the majority
of The Guard were civilian. From 1830 candidates must have served
in the Army or Marines. In 1955 the first Royal Air Force
candidate was accepted and two (including myself) currently serve.
Until 2011 members of the Royal Navy were excluded from becoming Yeomen
due to their tradition of not swearing allegiance to The Queen; this has
now changed and two have been sworn-in and now on duty with the Yeoman
Warders. As already mentioned, selection is made from service
personnel who have served with distinction,
and a very long list is maintained of those seeking entry to this exclusive and
venerable “Body Guard”. Successive monarchs have confirmed rules for
the selection of suitable candidates, some emphasizing that candidates should be
'of tall personage, strong, active and of manlie presence' (in
Queen Victoria's reign this
included the mandatory wearing of a beard)'.
candidates (servicemen and servicewomen)
must have completed no less than 22 years in the Army, Royal Marines, Royal
Air Force or Royal Navy, attained the rank of at least Sergeant or Petty
Officer (at least Chief Petty Officer for The Yeoman Warders) and
awarded the Long
Service and Good Conduct Medal. All Yeomen must
retire at the ripe old age of 70, if only to give others a chance of
joining. During Queen Victoria's reign there was a minimum height
restriction of 5ft 10in but since Edward VII's reign this restriction
has but been disregarded. Edward VII is anecdotally attributed to
stated 'if he's tall enough to fight for his country, he's tall
enough to be one of my body guard' . There is a
very long list of candidates and places limited to 60.
The Body Guard were supporters of Equal Opportunities as far back as
1855 with the appointment of a Sergeant John Breeze 11th Hussars. John
Breeze was the veteran of many campaigns including the Crimean War, but
on 5 November 1854, during the bloody Battle of Inkermann he lost his
right arm and then was an unfortunate victim of the Crimean winter where
many dying and injured soldiers were left unattended on the harbour at
Balaklava. He was invalided out of the Army in 1855 and accepted
into The Body Guard in the same year.
last personal appearance on the battlefield of an English monarch surrounded by his Body Guard
George II who won a glorious victory
against the French at the
Battle of Dettingen in 1743. And between
1720 and 1830 a certain civilian element was admitted to The Body Guard
but upon the
William IV in 1830
his majesty commanded that in future no one could belong to his Body
Guard who had not served in the regular Army or Marines. Furthermore, it
was stipulated that no one under the rank of Captain could become an
Officer and no one under the rank of Sergeant could be a Yeoman in the
King’s Body Guard.
Officers and Yeomen of The Guard are re-sworn under each new Sovereign,
and their ancient privileges are confirmed.
These included exemption from public or parish offices and duties and
from serving on juries, as well as confirmation of accustomed
on State occasions. From the outset, the Yeomen of The Guards were paid
for their service in The Guard, but, as can be imagined, appointment as
a yeoman of the King’s Body Guard was far more valuable than any pay
could make it. There was originally no actual salary given to the
Captain, as he held a number of great offices of the state, but the
Standard Bearer received £40 a year, and the Clerk of
the Cheque £20 (£ = librae = pound) a year. The pay of the yeomen varied
from 6d (d = denarii = pence) to 1s (s = solidi = shilling) a day.
Early in Henry
VIII’s reign a yeoman is recorded as being paid at 12d a day as Petty
Captain of 'The Garbrielle', whilst the ordinary
Yeomen of The Guard received 8d a day as long as they were employed at
sea. At the time when Henry VIII had raised his Guard to 600 they were
being paid varying amounts according to their personal circumstances, as
the King’s extravagance began to tell on his treasury and those who were
house-holders were willing to take little pay. Even so, it became
necessary to effect a reduction in The Guard, many being retired, others
being placed on half-pay, and only called upon for expeditions abroad,
receptions of foreign envoys, and for great ceremonials or stately
I, upon the recommendation of his Captain of The Guard, had the
yeomen’s pay raised from 2s to 2s 4d per day in the summer and from 1s
8d to 2s for the winter, the year being divided equally. After Charles
II acceded to the throne the Captain received a salary for the first
time, amounting to £1,000 per annum. The Lieutenant and Ensign at this
time received emoluments of £500 and £300 respectively, the Clerk of the
Cheque and Corporals £150 and £100 respectively and Yeomen in
daily-waiting were paid £30 per annum, while 70 Yeomen, not in-waiting,
were paid £15.
Re-cap: £sd or lsd - £ = librae =
pound - s = solidi = shilling - d = denarii =
for admission to the King’s Body Guard become so keen that appointments
being in the hands of the Captains, who received the greater part of the
sums paid, it is not difficult to see that his recommendations often
went in the direction of those who could afford to pay most. This
practice was certainly in force in James I’s reign (1603 – 25), for he
specifically mentioned in orders for the household of the Prince of
Wales dated 16 October 1610 that:
“these places of my Guard
be not traffickt or sould, but freely disposed of for merit and
sufficiency, for otherwise it must needs be a hindrance to my service to
have hem impoverished by purchasing their places in a mercenary manner”.
the reign of
Queen Anne a century later the
purchases of appointments was said to be very prevalent. She
declared it to be highly dishonourable to Her Majesty, prejudicial to
her service, introductive of corruption and extortion, and discouraging
to virtue and true merit.
spite of these clear directives, appointments to The Guard were being
William IV’s reign (1830 – 37), when
the Lieutenancy was valued at £8000, the Exonship at £3500, whilst
appointment as Yeoman was attracting about £350. It was during this
reign, however, that appointment by purchase was finally abolished.
over 250 years the Yeomen of the Guard maintained their reputation as
fighting men on many well-known occasions, as at Therouanne,
Tournai, Siege of Boulogne, Dixmuyden
Battle of the Spurs, Neumuden, Namur
and at the
Battle of Dettingen; they also
served at sea as well as upon land. When Henry VIII fitted out a British
fleet he appointed the Captain of the Guard to the command of one of the
men-of-war. The Sovereign, and gave him ’60 of the tallest of the
Guard.’ They have been traced to nearly every country in Europe not only
as the personal guard of English monarchs (as with Henry VII, William
III, and George II), but as attendants of Royal Ambassadors to foreign
Courts, as with
Sir Charles Somerset to the
Emperor Maximilian in 1501. It is said that a Yeoman of the Guard saved
the Emperor’s Standard in the reign of Henry VIII. After the Battle of
Dettingen in 1743, when the Guard made their final appearance on the
field of battle as the armed attendants on
King George II, although the
heroes of the victory, the duties of the guard became entirely
ceremonial and domestic, until on the outbreak of the Great World War in
By the King’s command The Body Guard resumed at once its ancient useful
and honoured duty of guarding the Royal Palaces, thus releasing the
civil police required elsewhere. Later, the King placed the whole of the
Guard, who had already volunteered for active service, at the disposal
of the military authorities for the training of the new armies at home
and for active service abroad with the troops in the field. Of the
veteran Officers and Yeomen chosen for these duties many earned further
honours and distinctions, one rose to the rank of Lt Col and several
became Majors and Captains. During the Second World War 1939-45, as in
the First World War 1914-18, Yeomen of the Guard were again allowed to
join the Services and civil defence services, bringing further honour
and glory to the records of the Guard.
member whether Officer or Yeoman, is appointed for his active service
record, preference going to members of fighting arms of the Army and
Royal Marines and since 1945 from the Royal Air Force, the first, Flight
Sergeant Hewlett, being appointed in 1955.
records of The Guard teem with striking episodes, but in such a brief
history it is only possible to mention a few of the more important:
Great Review of the Army at Tilbury on the 5 August 1588 when Queen
Elizabeth I, clad in armour, rode down the ranks and addressed them in
stirring terms on the approach of the Spanish Armada which, as is well
know, failed to invade these islands.
Guy Fawkes in the cellars of the
Houses of Parliament, where he was hidden preparing to blow them up on
the 5 November 1605. This episode is popularly known and remembered as “The
Gunpowder Plot.” The Guard continues to search the cellars on the
morning of the Opening of Parliament.
protective role of the Yeomen was evident in the 18th century, when a
perfidious attempt was made by a madwoman to stab the King.
Fortunately a Yeoman warded off the blow and another wrenched the knife
from the miscreant’s hand. A few years later, when
George III was attending a state
performance at Drury Lane Theatre, a madman suddenly rose from the front
of the house and fired a pistol at the King, who was seated in the front
of his box. The shot passed between the two Yeomen standing before him,
and in the embroilment, which followed,
none of them managed to seize the offender.
multifarious duties performed by the Yeomen of The Guard are
full of fascination and amply repay study. They encompass, as
their founder intended, not only the personal protection of the
monarch, but also the upholding of the dignity of the Crown.
from the guarding of the outer doors of the Palaces and doors to
ante-rooms, they lined the approaches to the audience chambers
at all state ceremonies, and accompanied their sovereign
whenever he went out. The most elaborate precautions were taken
in serving the Royal dinner, when one
of the Yeomen would be required to take a sample of the food
before it was permitted to go forward to the King’s table. Even
the making the King’s bed had its own set of rules and to this
day the connection with this ancient and quaint ceremony is
maintained in the descriptions affixed to the names of certain
yeomen on the Muster Rolls – YBH (Yeoman of Bed Hanger) and YBG
(Yeoman Bed Goer) – though, needless to say, the duties
concerned have long been obsolete. It is relevant to note,
however, that these estimable duties extended to the ‘viewing of
such houses as should be fit to entertain his Majesty’ on
progresses through the country, which was a feature of Tudor
previously stated, the position of Captain of The Guard was of
particular significance. Not only was he answerable for the
sovereign’s personal safety, but he also carried the
responsibility for ensuring that all details of court ceremony
were accurately performed. In addition, it was his duty to look
after and protect, together with the Yeomen, important guests
such as foreign potentates and ambassadors, escorting them to
and from the royal presence. Indeed, on many occasions the
Captain was actually dispatched abroad, accompanied by a group
of Yeomen, to escort diplomatic missions to great emperors or
kings, or to act himself as an ambassador. Negotiations for
royal marriages were often included in such missions. In cases
where a noble had to be arrested, perhaps for plotting against
the sovereign, the Captain was
responsible for apprehending him. Several times in their history
the Yeomen of The Guard found themselves in the ironic position
of having to seize a great or royal personage who, a few years
earlier, had actually come under their protection. Such was the
Cardinal Wolsey, the Lord Protector Somerset,
and Anne Boleyn.
appointments of Captain of The Guard and Vice-Chamberlain were
held by one official until towards the end of the
17th century. As the daily duties of The Guard in attendance on
Sovereign gradually diminished, the connection
of the two appointments became unnecessary and was finally
severed. The Vice-Chamberlain became a separate appointment and
was bestowed on an official whose duties were of a less
important nature. Whilst the
Captaincy of The Guard, shorn of its daily and hourly
responsibilities, became a ministerial and honourable sinecure,
as it is at the present day. Though no longer Vice-Chamberlain,
the Captain is under the direct orders of the Lord Chamberlain,
and with The Guard attends his Sovereign,
as a member of the Royal household, on all state occasions.
Clerk of the Cheque had special responsibility for maintaining
the roll of everyone connected with the royal household, in
addition to handling large sums of money in his capacity of
paymaster. Until modern times a portion of The Guard was
mounted, as a travelling escort to the monarchs of England. The
Yeomen of The Guard figure prominently in a number of old
engravings and examples of sculpture, in some instances being
shown on horse back, always very closed to the
Sovereign’s person whether in representations of battles
or ceremonial occasions.
at this time of the Commonwealth the King’s Body Guard continued
its celebrated history, serving Prince Charles (eventually
Charles II) during his enforced absence abroad. At the
restoration The Guard accompanied him on his return to England,
taking its historic place at his triumphant entry in to London,
and at his magnificent coronation.
addition to attending the sovereign, the Yeomen were also called
upon to serve the Queen and heir to the throne. During George
III’s long illness, the Prince of Wales became Regent, in 1811.
The King’s portion of the Yeomen of The Guard was transferred to
Carlton House, where Prince George resided. This led to a
significant change in the board and pay of The Guard. At the
time, the yeomen were the only court officials still receiving
their meals at St James Palace, which it was then contended was
an unnecessary extravagance and should cease. Arrangements were
made for payment in lieu of these meals, thus dispensing with
the ancient position of The Guard as part of the royal
William IV decided that no more civilians were to be allowed in
The Guard, he commanded that lists of retired officers and
non-commissioned officers, recommended for distinguished service
in the field, desirous of becoming members of his guard should
be kept by the Commander-in-Chief; and that when vacancies
occurred selections should be made from these lists and
submitted to the Captain of The Guard for final approval. The
Lieutenancy was assigned to a Colonel or Lieutenant Colonel of
the Army or Royal Marines; the positions of Ensign and Clerk of
the Cheque were to be held by a Lieutenant Colonel or Major; and
Exons were to be selected from Captains.
far as the Exons were concerned, it became the duty of the
Captain to lay before the sovereign the names of four officers
from which one was to be chosen. It has always been considered
the privilege of the Captain to present prominently the name of
the officer he wished to see appointed, and this selection has
almost always been confirmed, though of course the monarch
reserved the royal prerogative of confirmation. Promotion to the
higher grades of Clerk of the Cheque and Adjutant, Ensign and
Lieutenant now takes place within the corps. The Captain
exercises the right of approval of all Warrant Officers and
Sergeants selected by the Commander-in Chief for appointment to
the rank of Yeoman.
The Yeomen are
three Divisions and undertake at
eight duties in the course of a year. Although the function of
guarding the outer doors of the royal palaces no longer comes
with their jurisdiction, any
State duties to be performed inside
the palaces are undertaken, as they always have been, by Yeomen
of The Guard.
the 19th century a leading feature of the monarch’s life was
their journeyings throughout the realm, indeed, these often
extended to the Continent. In March 1486 Henry VII set out
on the first progress of his reign, travelling with ‘Great
Noblesse. Esquire, Gentlemen and Yeomen in defensible array’,
and spent Easter at Lincoln, where he carried out his first ‘Maundy’
ceremony. In June
the King and Queen, attended of course by the Yeomen Guard, set
sail for Calais, where they kept open court for a month.
there were many tournaments, jousts, festivals, progresses and
celebrations throughout this reign, the inordinate splendour of
the scenes to be witnessed during that of Henry VIII, surpassed
anything ever known before, or indeed since, being well
documented by historians of the time. Apart from the usual
progresses and ceremonial rejoicings, that occurred in 1520 and
event which has been described as probably the most recklessly
extravagant and magnificent pageant the world has ever seen.
This momentous occasion became known as ‘the
Field of the Cloth of Gold’, taking its
name from the rich decoration of the pavilions with cloth of
gold. The pageant was held to mark the ratification of a treaty
drawn up between Henry VIII and Francis I of France, in which
Henry had agreed to restore the fortified city of Tournai in
Flanders to France. The copious records of the time show the
incredible proportions of the two King’s suites. Henry VIII’s
retinue was estimated at 3997 persons and 2087 horses.
Each of The
Guard, of whom the tallest and most erect were selected, had two
coats, one of goldsmith’s work with the Tudor rose on the back
and front, the other of red cloth with a rose on the breast and
the crown imperial. Queen Catherine accompanied Henry VIII,
having 55 Yeomen as her special guard (see
current Roll), who were clothed in white satin doublets, with
green velvet coats and crimson arrow girdles. All the Yeomen had
broad grey cloth jackets for travelling.
Elizabeth I was renowned for her annual progresses through the
country, which apparently she particularly enjoyed. In May
1578 the Queen honoured the Earl of Leicester with a visit to
his Wanstead mansion, where she stayed for four days. It is
recorded that the Earl entertained the whole guard in
celebration of this auspicious event.
progresses of the Sovereigns had to be carefully planned and
organized well in advance, as warrants of James I’s reign show.
One dated 16 March 1616 indicated that two Yeomen ushers were
“sent to view such houses as should be fit to entertain his
Majesty, and also such towns and villages as should be
convenient to lodge his Majesty’s train in the progress in to
Scotland and return from thence”.
The Standard /
original Standard of The Body Guard, bearing the Welsh emblem of Henry
VII ie the Red Dragon of
Cadwaladr, last King of the Britons,
perished in the calamitous fire at St James’s Palace in
1809. King George IV presented a new Standard to The Guard at
Buckingham Palace on 5 July 1938.
Standard is of a crimson damask. In
the centre are the Royal Badge of the rose, thistle and shamrock
combined, the letters GR and the Royal motto "Dieu et mon droit", the
whole ensigned with the Imperial crown. In the corners are Badges
of the Royal Houses of Tudor, Stuart, Hanover and Windsor.
current ensign was presented by Queen Elizabeth II in 1985 and is
similar but for the Sovereign's initials. The image below shows
the ensign's reverse view.
Top-left corner: The hawthorn
bush crowned and the letters HR. Represent Henry VII at the Battle
of Bosworth when the Royal Crown was found in a hawthorn bush and placed
on Henry Tudor's head by his 'Body Guard'.
corner: The thistle crowned. Is that of the badge of James
I depicting the thistle which represents the confirmation of the union
of England and Scotland.
corner: The white horse courant on a green mount ensigned
with the Royal Crown. Represents the House of Hanover.
Bottom-right corner: Represents the House of Windsor.
The Monarch's name was changed for political reasons from the Royal
House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (a German House) to the House of Windsor
during the First World War. In fact, until designed by
Garter, King of Arms, there
was no badge for the House of Windsor.
George VI requested that Garter replace
the original Standard's design from that of VR (Victoria Regina)
in the corners to that of the badge of The House of Windsor. After all,
Victoria was already a member of the House of Hanover.
Order of Service
a. The Sovereign arrives at the Saluting Base and is received
with a Royal Salute; b. The Sovereign inspects the Body Guard;
c. The Standard is consecrated thus:
The Captain - "Reverend Sir, on behalf of the King's/Queen's
Body Guard I ask you to bid God's blessing on this Standard.
Chaplain - "I am ready so to do. Forasmuch as men at all times
have made for themselves signs and emblems of their allegiance to
their rulers, and of their duty to uphold those laws and institutions
which God's providence has called them to obey, we, following this
ancient and pious custom are met together before God to ask His blessing
on this Standard, which is to represent to us our duty towards our
Sovereign and our Country. Let us, therefore, pray Almighty God of
His mercy to grant that He may make it to be to those who following it a
sign of His presence, and so increase their faith and hope in Him, who
is King of kings and Lord of lords. In the name of the Father and
of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, I do consecrate and set apart this
Standard, that it may be a sign of our duty towards our King/Queen and
our Country in the sight of God. Amen. Let us pray. Our
Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy kingdom come, Thy
will be done, in earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily
bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass
against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.
Amen. The grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and
the fellowship of the Hoy Ghost, be with us all evermore. Amen.
d. The Sovereign presents the Standard; e. The
Standard is received with a General Salute and is marched to the centre
of the Guard, the band playing God Save King/Queen; f. Address by
the Sovereign; g. The Chaplain replies; h. The Guard gives
a Royal Salute, followed by three cheers for the Sovereign; i.
The Officers will fall out and be received by the Sovereign; j.
The Guard will march past in fours and return to St James' Palace under
the command of the Clerk of the Cheque and Adjutant.
Guard has a totally ceremonial role today. The scene of an ancient
ceremony, such as the
Opening of Parliament or a
Coronation, is greatly enhanced by the
military precision and sumptuous apparel of those taking part. The
British are renowned for their love of pomp and ceremony associated with
age-old traditions and, with the termination of so many monarchies
throughout the world, the United Kingdom is peculiarly rich in its
historical scenes of pageantry. Closely embodied in the great
ceremonies connected with the Crown is a select coterie of retired
soldiers, marines and airmen who have given
distinguished service to their sovereign and country.
the 2 June 1953 it was present at the Coronation of Her Majesty Queen
Elizabeth II. In the same year a detachment of the Guard was present in
Northern Ireland for the opening of the Northern Ireland Parliament by
Her Majesty. In 1969 the Guard was at Caernarvon Castle when
Charles, The Prince of Wales, was installed and presented to the Welsh
people by Her Majesty the Queen; just as the first Prince of Wales was
presented to them by his father
King Edward I on the same spot in 1284.
On 25 July 1985 Her Majesty the Queen presented the Guard with a new
standard in the Gardens of Buckingham Palace to mark the quincentenary
of its existence. Her Majesty has also inspected the Guard every fourth
Year. The customary annual occasions on which The Body Guard is
State Visits by Foreign Heads of State, the
Garter Knights, Buckingham Palace
Garden Parties, The
State Opening of Parliament,
Investitures and the Diplomatic Party at
addition, The Guard is present at services for Orders of Chivalry and
has attended Royal Weddings and sadly for the lying-in state and
funerals of Monarchs. Their last Royal laying-in of state was for our
beloved Queen Elizabeth The Queen’s Mother in April 2002 when they stood
on the corners of the catafalque guarding her coffin. Other
laying-in of state occasions that The Body Guard has attended are those
of the Duke of Wellington in 1861 and Sir Winston Churchill in 1965.
Those occasions were at the Sovereigns special instruction as a tribute
to their great services to their country.
has been a brief of history of the most ancient of Corps. To
expand your knowledge look at
History 1485-1885. The Body
Guard exists today to a large extent as it did 534 years ago. As
former servicemen, they are proud to have fought yesterday for our
Sovereign and Country and as proud and honoured to guard Her Majesty
today. They keep alight the memory of those Yeomen Guard that
served before us.
Queen’s Body Guard of the Yeomen of the Guard”
(Yeomen of the Guard (of our body)
of our Lord the King)
The Official History
of the Guard, by Colonel Sir Reginald Hennell, CVO, DSO, OBE,
Lieutenant, published in 1904 (amended in 1958 and 1991)
The Yeoman of the Guard 1485 – 1885 by Thomas Preston published 1886
The Yeomen of the Guard 1485 – 1985 by Julian Paget published 1984
The Yeomen of the Guard 1823 – 1903 by Ian McInnes
Extended Essay written
between 1973-1975 by Anita R Hewerdine
BBC History - Monarchs
Old England. A Pictorial Museum Vol I, II
British Arms of Dominion
Portraits of Tudor Nobility