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ROLL CALL (Past and Present)

Chief Yeoman Warder John Keohane. Image courtesy of Stephen Pond, Historic Royal Palaces.No history of the Yeomen of the Guard would be complete without some notice of the Yeoman Warders.  They are however a distinct Corps, and have duties to perform quite different from those of the Yeomen of the Guard described in the foregoing pages.  The origin of the Warders of the Tower can of course be traced back to the time when the fortress was used as a prison – to the days in fact when the first prisoner, Flambard Bishop of Durham, was sent there by Henry I, in the year 1100.  It is noteworthy that Flambard contrived to evade the vigilance of the Warders, and the Tower’s first prisoner made his escape.

It was in the reign of Edward VI, while the Duke of Somerset was prisoner in the Tower, that, to win the favour of the Warders and to make his imprisonment as pleasant as possible, he promised them that if ever the King set him at liberty he would try and get them his Majesty’s cloth for their livery.  Being pardoned soon after, the Duke kept his promise, and fifteen of the Warders were sworn in as extraordinary Yeomen of the Chamber and received liveries like the Yeomen of the Guard in ordinary, but they had no cross-belts given them, as they did not carry the carabine or arquebuss.  This absence of the cross-belt has ever since been and still is the distinguishing mark between the two Corps when they are paraded together on State occasions.

The principal duty of the Warders, that of looking after the State prisoners, being now happily a sinecure, the men have for many years been employed in various capacities in the Tower, but principally in conducting parties of visitors through the building and explaining, after a fashion, what they thought were the most interesting features.  This plan has long been condemned as unsatisfactory, for however intelligent a Warder may be it is impossible for him to anticipate correctly the wishes of the many visitors by showing them just what they want to see.  A new arrangement is said to be in contemplation by which the Warders will be employed to give “watch and ward” at certain fixed points in the Tower while visitors with a reliable guide-book in their hands will be at liberty to inspect at their leisure the objects which interest them most.  This will make a visit, to the Tower much more enjoyable and instructive than it has been hitherto. 


The following extracts are in chronological order.  They must not be taken to be all or anything like all the references to the Warders which are to be found in the Tower archives and other places.  They were discovered while searching for information concerning the Yeomen of the Guard, but, so far as the author knows, they have not heretofore appeared in print, and may therefore be acceptable to the readers of these pages. (Words of author in 1885).

When Edward VI, established his Guards in the Tower the following penalties and punishments were ordered to be enforced: No Guard to leave the Tower without leave, or be fined for the first offence 12d., for the second 3s, for the third to be imprisoned three days, and for the fourth offence the be dismissed and punished.” When we consider what the value of money was in the reign of Edward VI, we shall be able to comprehend how severe these penalties were.

When the historian Paul Hentzner visited the tower in 1598 he records that in the armoury he saw “spears out of which you may shoot, shields that will give fire four times, a great many rich halberds, commonly called partizans, with which the guards defend the royal person in battle.”

This confusion of the words halberd and partizan is worth noticing, as it will account for many blunders both in pictorial and written descriptions of the Yeomen of the Guard.  The halberd is a battle-axe and the partizan a kind of spear.  The former has been carried by the Gentlemen Pensioners, now the Gentlemen-at-Arms, ever since their formation 1509, white the Yeomen of the Guard and the Yeoman Warders, have from the reign of Henry VIII, carried the partizan and not the halberd.


 On 17th May, 1678, the Warders petitioned Charles II, for payment for three year’s arrears of pay. They stated that “they had paid for food and clothes, and if they did not get their pay they were like to be ruined.”  Sir John Robinson, Lieutenant of the Tower, was ordered to report on the subject, and, this report being made, the matter was referred to the Lord Treasurer, but the result is not recorded.  We find however that on 7th February, 1682, a similar petition was presented and was “referred to Lord Dartmouth, Master-General of His Majesty’s Ordnance, to examine the report.” 


 This interesting document gives so much information concerning the early history of the Warders that I have printed it in extenso as well as the Order in Council made thereon. It was read before Charles II and his Privy Council on 10 May 1683.

“In obedience to your Majesty’s commands at the Council Board on 7 February last past, I have examined the allegations set forth in the Petition then presented to your Majesty by several of the Yeomen Warders of your Majesty’s Tower of London, and according to the best information I can obtain do find:-

That by your Majesty’s Warrant, dated the 22nd of June, 1667, to Sir John Robinson, Knight and Bart, late Lieutenant of the Tower, your Majesty was pleased to direct and signify your pleasure, that your Majesty found fit to make some considerable retrenchment of your expenses in all the parts thereof (and amongst others) of that in your Tower of London, viz, that whereas there were forty Yeomen of the Guards Warders of the Tower whose pay came to £851 13s 4d per ann., your Majesty did by the said Warrant then order that the places of the said Warders which then were or thereafter should become void should not be supplied till the number of the said Warders was reduced to twenty.

But by your Majesty’s Warrant bearing date the 26th day of November, in the 24th year of your Majesty’s reign, Anno Domini 1672, your Majesty then thought fit for several reasons to annul and revoke the former warrant.  And your Majesty’s will and pleasure further was that they should be completed and made up the number to forty in all, and that they receive the same pay and allowances as formerly according to the old establishment, your Majesty’s Warrant of the 16th March, 1667, or any other order, to the contrary not withstanding, from which time they have been mustered the number of forty, and the present list of their names is here annexed, with the places of abode of such as have no houses in the Tower, and those that do really live in the Tower, and such others as let their houses to tenants, and do not inhabit there as I humbly conceive they ought to be obliged to do, for your Majesty’s better service.

It doth, likewise appear that the petitioners have not received their coats for the year 1678, nor for the several years elapsed since 1680.  But if they were now clothed once and continued yearly for the future (if it shall be so thought fit) I humbly conceive your Majesty need not be at the charge of so many coats to be made for the present as the petitioner’s desire or pretend to.

By the ancient establishment of the Yeomen Warders in the Tower of London, they were forty in number, there being no other sort of paid Guard in the said fortress, only an additional force from the Militia Hamlets drawn in by order of the Constable or Lieutenant of the Tower for the time being from time to time as they judged necessary. But this your Majesty’s ancient and Royal citadel is now guarded and garrisoned by five companies of your Guards and three independent companies and have been continued ever since your Majesty’s happy restoration for the necessary defences of the Tower, sot that in all there are eight companies of foot constantly quartered, or may be quartered for the security of that place, and a good proportion of your Majesty’s Gunners will speedily be conveniently lodged there as an additional and useful strengthening to the former Guards, and of the forty Yeomen Warders there are that live in the Tower seventeen that have houses, and that do not live in the Tower five, and that have no houses, but live at a distance, as the annexed roll mentions, eighteen; so that of the forty Warders upon the present establishment there are twenty-three that do not lodge in the Tower, whereby they are not rendered so capable of discharging their duty as I humbly conceive is intended by the establishment.

This being the state of the matter of fact (according to the information I have received), and that your Majesty is further pleased to command my opinion what is best to be done for your Majesty’s service, I most humbly submit it to your Majesty’s approbation, that in consideration the old establishment of forty are not a sufficient Guard, but ought to be much increased in number, if there were no other Guard in the Tower as formerly; but since your Majesty hath otherwise provided a much greater security for this place, and that the chief duty of the Warders is at present only to lodge and look after their particular prisoners, and to attend a few at a time only for opening the gates, for their first duty no more can be necessary then those that have houses to lodge their prisoner in, and for their common ward at the gates twenty-four may be a sufficient number, being but four day’s duty at six each day: though four at a time may be enough to be always present at the gates, yet in regard the present Warders have bought their employments, which hath been always accustomed, and that they have been in your Majesty’s service (many of them) long, without any fault layd on their charge. ‘tis humbly proposed only for the future as they die off that your Majesty may be eased of that charge till they, by death or other ways, be reduced to the number of twenty-four’.  And I am the more inclinable to think twenty-four a sufficient number because that number may with ease be provided with convenient houses, whereby they will be all capable of lodging prisoners and lodging in the Tower according to their duty and the use intended them by the old and present establishment.

But the Honourable Thomas Checke, Esq., Lieutenant of your Majesty’s Tower of London, desires me humbly to represent to your Majesty’s consideration some recompense for the prejudice he shall sustain by the loss of so ancient a perquisite which his predecessors always enjoyed.

And I further lay before your Majesty that not only the Warders but all your officers belonging to the Tower may live themselves in the proper houses appointed for the necessary discharge of their places, and not suffered to let their houses to tenants, by which means strange families become inhabitants within your Tower, which may be very prejudicial to your Majesty’s service, and is contrary to an Order of Council, dated the 4 July 1620, made upon a report of Sir Edward Coke, as may more largely appear with the reasons in the said Order of Council, and at the same time your Majesty forced to hire quarters at your own charge for lodging your Commissioned Officers upon their necessary duty: and if your Majesty shall please to have it particularly examined I am humbly of opinion there may be convenience found within the Outward and Inward Walls of the Tower for lodgings to be fitted for all your Majesty’s soldiers, gunners, warders, and officers that may be most necessary for your service, without further charge to your Majesty.

All which is most humbly submitted to your Majesty’s pleasure.

 ORDER OF 10 MAY 1683

His Majesty in Council having considered of the said report, was pleased to approve thereof, and to order, and it is hereby ordered accordingly, That the Warders of the Tower of London shall be now clothed for one year, and for the future shall be continued to be clothed yearly, and that their number shall be reduced from forty to four-and-twenty by degree, as any of then shall die, or their places otherwise become void, which twenty-four Warders are to dwell in the Tower, and housed are to be provided for such as have none according to the said reports, to enable them to lodge such prisoners as shall be committed to their charge according to their duty by the old and present establishment: And his Majesty further taking notice of the Lord Dartmouth’s opinion in the said report that convenience may be found within the Outward and Inward Walls of the Tower for lodgings to be fitted for all His Majesty’s soldiers, gunner, warders, and officers most necessary for His Majesty’s service, His Majesty was pleased to appoint the Right Honourable the Lord Keeper, Lord President, Lord Privy Seal, Earl of Sunderland, Earl of Clarendon, Earl of Craven, Earl of Conway, Earl of Nottingham, Earl of Rochester, Lord Dartmouth and Mr Secretary Jenkins, to be a Committee  of this Board to consider of the best manner of lodging His Majesty’s soldiers, gunners, warders, and officers with the most convenience in the Tower as aforesaid. And that they give all necessary orders for the performing thereof; and their Lordships are further to enquire what persons that have a dependence upon his Majesty’s service with the Tower, and by virtue thereof enjoy any houses or lodgings, and do not dwell therein themselves, but hire the same out to tenants, strangers there, whereby His Majesty’s service may receive prejudice, which his Majesty was pleased to declare to be a practice which he would not suffer.  And therefore their Lordships are to take care to cause the same to be rectified.

And in regard that the defence of the Tower is now provided for by a sufficient garrison, as is mentioned in the said report, and that the said Warders are to be reduced to the number of twenty-for as aforesaid, His Majesty was further pleased to order, and it is herby ordered accordingly, that for the future the Guard of the Gate of the Tower be kept by a convenient number of the soldiers of the garrison there, under the command of the Non-commission Officers, by which means the Warders will be the better able to look carefully after their particular prisoners, which is the chief part of there duty.

And as to the opening, shutting, and looking after gates, His Majesty was pleased to order that the Gentleman Porter for the time being to perform the same duty which is executed by a Town Major in other garrisons.  And His Majesty was also pleased to order that the Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners of His Majesty’s Treasury do give order for the clothing of the said Warders as soon as conveniently may be, and likewise that such care be taken for the satisfaction of their arrears of salary as may consist with the present condition of His Majesty’s affairs.  And so to what relates to the prejudice which Tomas Cheeke, Esq., Lieutenant of the Tower, will receive by the reduction of the said Warders to twenty-four by not supplying the first sixteen vacancies that shall happen by death or otherwise (it being an ancient perquisite of his place to fill such vacancies), His Majesty was graciously pleased to declare his Royal intention to take care that the said Thomas Cheeke shall receive a fitting recompense for the same.


The following extracts show the cost of the Lieutenant and the Warders two hundred years ago:-

Demands of Thomas Cheeke, Esq., Lieutenant of Tower, of salaries due to himself, the Gentleman Porter, and forty Yeomen of the Guard; 

Christmas Quarter, from 30 Sept 1681 to 25 December following being 87days                     - £258 16s 0d
Lady-day Quarter, from 26 December 1681 unto and for the 25 March 1682 being 90 days - £266 0s 0d

The number of Warders on the pay-list on 30 September, 1685, was thirty-two, and on the 17 December 1686 there were a Gentleman Porter and twenty-nine Warders, so that the order, not to fill up vacancies appears to have been carried out.

An important order was made by King James II, on 30 July, 1687, which directed that “in future the salaries of the Lieutenant of the Tower, the Gentleman Porter, and the Yeomen Warders, be placed on the establishment of the army, and be paid as the rest of His Majesty’s garrisons are paid.”


It was reported on 10 March, 1691, that a Yeoman Warder had been arrested by three men and carried to Wood Street Compter without the men having first obtained leave to Lord Lucas, Chief Governor of the Tower, to make the arrest.  This proceeding being “a manifest breach of the privilege of His Majesty’s household,” the three men were ordered into custody.  Thereupon they admitted their mistake, made due apology, and were set at liberty. 


On 12 June 1707, the Earl of Essex was sworn in as Constable of the Tower, and at the same time took the oaths as Lord Lieutenant of the Tower Hamlets.  At the same time the Lord Chamberlain was directed to deliver up the custody of the tower to the Earl of Essex, and to declare to all “inferior officers of the said place, and particularly to the Gentleman Porter (who is to deliver up the keys to the Earl of Essex), that it is Her Majesty’s pleasure that they be obedient to the said constable and to the Lieutenant, who are each of them according to their respective patents jointly and severally to take the charge and care of the said Tower, and of all things therein which are committed unto them.”

On 15 April 1713, it was ordered that all commitments of prisoners to the Tower be directed to the Constable or to the Deputy Lieutenant.

The special duties of the Warders are plainly indicated in the following extracts:- 


For carrying the Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer to tryal, 2 days vizt. 24, 25, and 27 June, and 1 July, 1717 -          £  8 0s 0d
For carrying Lords Widdrington, Carnwath, and Nairn to be bayled ye 22 July 1717                                                     £  6 0s 0d
For pens, wax, papers for 3 years at £5 per annum                                                                                                                £15 0s 0d
For bonfires the same tine, at £5 per annum                                                                                                                           £15 0s 0d
For perambulations the same time at £10 per annum                                                                                                             £30 0s 0d
                                                                                                                                                                                                        £74 0s 0d

The allowance of £5 a-year for bonfires on the birthday of the Sovereign was stopped in 1854 but the grant of £10 for perambulating the Tower boundaries is still continued, and the ceremonious proceedings detailed in the subjoined description are still carried out every third year on Ascension Day.  The Staff with the silver model of the Tower on the top is sketched in the Yeoman Warder’s trophy on a preceding page. 


The order of the ceremonial extracted from the Tower Records:-  1723 – On Ascension Day, after prayers (at St. Peter’s ad Vincula) are ended, ye Boundary’s of ye Towr Liberties are taken, vizt, a great number of Boys, each having a white wand in his hand, begins the Procession at ye Warder’s lodge, and are follow’d by ye Conbles & Beadles, next two Warders abreast, follow’d by ye Gent Porter, after him 18 Warders mor, two abreast, follow’d by ye Gent Gaoler wth ye axe on his shouldr (ye edge pointing forward) & afterward ye Depy Lieut., Major Chaplain & myself (the Yeoman Porter), were follow’d by ye Surgeon Master Gunner & other Gunner & ye rest of the Inferior Officers of ye Tower & sev Inhabitants of ye Libty. Each p’son from ye Depy L to ye boys, having a knott of small ribbands or fferrything of blue, red & white tyed to the button or buttonhole on their bosoms – from ye Warder’s lodge they went over ye drawbridge to ye wharfe, and round by ye Tower where ye lion are kept along the outside of tower Hill, and up ye steps at ye end of Tower Street, to Barking Alley’s end, keeping within ye gutter or chanell, for thence to ye corner above Gr Harcourt Master’s where a few boys (& some Warders) went thro a passage & over a wall, but met us afterwards. We continu’d on to ye first turning, & came to ye end of ye Minories, a few boys meeting us there thro an alley just by.  We went up into Rosemary Lane, on ye right side ye way, and thro a lane, & came again of ye farther side Tower Hill (and near the water side sent off 4 Warders wth 2 Conbles to Spittleffilelds , ye Little Minories, & Well Close Square, to come pt of ye Towr Libtys there) meanwhile we came from there on ye wharfe & retur’d over ye same drawbridge to ye Warder’s Lodge & nt ye Court Room, ye tables being spread, we regal’d ourselves wth an entertainment of 3 cold hams, bread & buttr, radishes &c, & sevr bottles of wine, where his Majtie, ye Prince & Princess, Prince ffred, & ye rest of ye royl ffamily’s healths were drank, as also ye Towr Libtys ye Con’ble, Lt, and Dep Lt, &c     The Warders had 20 bottles of wine and 40 rowles, ye Gunners 3 bottles and rowles, and each boy a pt of ale and a rowle, Then pounds are allow’d by the Governmt towards this “The Ward” were ordered to be all of them there again ye 28th May, his Maties birthday.

Correct extract 4 September 1885.

GB MILMAN, Lieut-General Major of the Tower.


There is a novel item in the demand of the Earl of Lincoln, dated 17 October 1725.  After making the usual claims for bonfires and perambulations, his lordships asks for £10 “for putting out a child left on the Tower wharf.”


On the occasion of the trial of Earl Ferrers a question arose as to the jurisdiction of the Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard over the Yeoman Warders, which gave rise to the following correspondence.

The first letter, dated 7 April 1760 was from Lord Falmouth, Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard to the Earl of Cornwallis, Constable of the Tower, requesting that “12 Yeomen Warders of the Tower of London in Ordinary, being Yeomen of the said Guard Extraordinary, attend at the Court of Requests in Westminster Hall on 16 April next.

In answer to which the Constable replied:-

                                                                                    “The Tower - 9 April 1760.

As from our books, and enquiries of the oldest Warders, I find no precedent for any of them attending the trials of Lords, but in conducting them to such trials and back again to the Tower: and as we shall have occasion for most of their service’s in the trial of Earl Ferrers in the proper Guard of the Tower, and that of his person,” his lordship desired to be excused from sending the men.

Lord Falmouth replied 10 April 1760, stating that precedents are out of the case – that he has a right to the services of the Yeomen Extraordinary when he thinks necessary on extraordinary occasions, but waives their attendance on the present occasion, as Lord Cornwallis thinks their services will be required for the safe custody of the Earl.

An application by Lord Falmouth for thirty men from the tower to attend the funeral of George II seems to have been compiled with without demur.


In connection with the trial of Earl Ferrers the following bill will be read with interest.  It may be mentioned that the Earl was not executed on Tower Hill but was hanged at Tyburn.

The Tower bill from Michaelmas 1754 to Michaelmas 1760:- To safe keeping Lawrence Earl Ferrers 11 weeks and 3 days - £26 6s 7d

April 16th – To carrying said Lawrence, Earl of Ferrers, to Westminster Hall - £2 0s 0d
April 17th – Ditto …………… ……………………………..                                      £2 0s 0d
April 18th -  Ditto …………… ……………………………..                                      £2 0s 0d
To carrying said Earl Ferrers to Tower Hill                                                              £2 0s 0d
                                                                                                                                        £8 0s 0d

                                                                                                                                        THE TOWER OF TO-DAY

Besides being a fortress, The Tower of London is a Royal Palace, and has always been under the direct control of the Sovereign, who is represented therein by the Constable, who holds his appointment by Royal Letter Patent under the Great Seal.  He is honoured with the privilege of audience of and direct communication with the Sovereign.  The present Constable is General Sir Richard James Dacres GCB.

The installation of the Constable takes place in the Tower soon after his appointment, and the keys are then formally delivered to him by the Lord Chamberlain, or his representative, in the manner described in a previous page.

The next Officer is the Lieutenant, who is also appointed by Royal Letters Patent, to act under the Constable.  When the Constable is absent, or when the office is vacant, he has the full powers and privileges of the Constable.  The present Lieutenant is Lieutenant-General Lord Chelmsford GCB.

The Lieutenant of the Tower is ex officio, placed on the Commission of the Peace for the Tower Liberties, on the application of the Constable to the Lord Chancellor.

The third Officer is the Tower Major, who is appointed by commission.  When the Constable and Lieutenant are absent, the Major is authorised and directed by Royal Warrant to assume the command of the Tower, and he then performs the duties of Governor.  He, like the Lieutenant, is made a Justice of the Peace for the Tower Liberties, and the Yeomen Warders are sworn in by him as Special Constables, their duties being confined to the limits of the Tower.  The Major is also made a Deputy-Lieutenant of the Tower Hamlets.  The present Tower Major is Lieutenant-General GB Milman CB.

The Tower Commitment Book, containing the date of entry of all prisoners as far back as 1666, is in the custody of the Major, at the Queen’s House, where he resides.


In Her Majesty’s Regulations for the Tower the Yeomen Warders are described as “Honorary” Members of the Body Guard of the Yeomen of the Guard.  The men are all appointed by the Constable from a list of eligible warrant officers and non-commissioned officers of the army.  The Warders are on the same footing as serjeant-majors of the army, and their discipline is maintained in the same way as that of non-commissioned officers serving with their regiments.


 The Yeoman Gaoler, who carries the curious old axe (figured in the Tower trophy of arms), is selected from the Warders, and is responsible for the general maintenance of order within the Tower.  He takes charge of State prisoners, makes out the Warder’s warrants, hands over their quarters to new occupants, and takes possession of any vacated quarters.  Whenever a Warder’s house is vacated it is offered to the senior Warder, who has put his name on the list for that purpose. 


The Yeoman Porter is the Chief Warder, and is answerable for the discipline of the Warders, and reports irregularities to the Tower Major.  He has charge of the gates, wickets, drawbridges, and entrance, and (as Wardrobe Keeper) has the care of the Warder’s uniforms, accoutrements, and arms.  He has a general superintendence of the Warder’s houses, and sees that none but warders occupy them.  All applications from the Warders to the authorities go through his hands.  The boundary marks of the Tower Liberties are annually inspected by him, and their condition is reported to the Major.  The ceremony of perambulating the bounds, in which he takes a prominent part, is given in a previous page.  The Yeoman Porter also asserts the rights of the Tower authorities over Postern Row and George Street by closing the iron bars across those thoroughfares for one hour on the first working day in August.  He also acts as clerk in the office of the Constable, and has charge, under the Major, of the books and papers-therein.

It is the business of the Yeoman Water-Pamper (who is also Assistant Yeoman Porter) to look after the water supply, flush the drains, and see to the fire-cocks in the Inner Ward.

The Yeoman Quartermaster is responsible for the general cleanliness of the Tower, and has charge of the gardens and trees.  Each Yeoman in turn fills the post of Warder of the Watch, who is on duty from nine o’clock at night till ten the next morning; and, after the wickets are locked, no one can get in or out of the Tower without his knowledge.  On Sunday’s there is one Warder on duty, wearing his full-dress scarlet uniform, from nine in the morning till nine at night, and he is relieved every hour.


The following is the official order relating to the ceremony of “Saluting the Queen’s Keys,” which is still carried out every night:-

When the Tower gates are locked, at eleven o’clock pm by the Yeoman Porter, or Warder appointed, the following ceremony takes place at the Main Guard:

Five minutes before the hour of locking the gates the Yeoman porter applies to the serjeant of the guard for the escort for the Queen’s Keys.  The serjeant acquaints the officer that the escort is called for, who furnishes a serjeant and six men for this duty, at the same time placing his guard under arms.

When the Keys return, the sentry at the guard-room challenges. ‘Halt! Who comes there?’ The Yeoman Porter answers, ‘The Keys.’ The sentry calls, ‘Whose Keys?’

And the answer being given, Queen Victoria’s Keys.’

The Yeoman Porter places himself, with the escort, in front of and facing the guard, and then the officer of the guard gives the word, ‘Present arms!’ in which the escort joins.  The Yeoman Porter than says, in an audible voice-


And the whole guard answer, ‘Amen.’   The keys are then carried by the Yeoman Porter to the Queen’s House.

A similar escort is called for by the Yeoman Porter when the gates are opened in the morning, but no ceremony takes place at that time, nor does the guard turn out.

It may be remarked that when the guard is furnished by the Brigade of Guards, neither the guard nor its sentries “present” arms to the Major of the Tower, if he is under the rank of a general officer, but only “shoulder” arms.


By comparing the Warrant of Appointment of a Yeoman Warder, here given, with the Certificate of a Yeoman of the Guard in Ordinary the difference in the constitution of the two Corps will be seen.  The Warders are, as before stated, appointed by the Constable of the Tower.  They have no Commissioned Officers attached to the Corps, but are under the immediate command of the Major of the Tower.  Their whole time is occupied in and about the Tower, and most of them sleep within its walls.  Moreover, they are all of them sworn in as special constables, and act as such when on duty.  There is a Tower-police constable’s staff in the ticket-office at the entrance gates, which can be produced whenever the Warders authority is disputed.  Their services as clerks, messengers, or orderlies, are always at the disposal of the authorities of the Tower, and such of the Warders as are not quartered in the Tower must reside in London.

The Warrant is written on parchment, and reads as follows:-


“Field Marshal Sir John Fox Burgoyne, Baronet,

G.C.B., &c., &c Constable of Her Majesty’s

Tower of London &c

To [Name of Warder]

BY VIRTUE of the power and authority given unto me by Her Majesty I do herby ordain, constitute, and appoint you the said [Name of Warder] to be one of the Yeomen Waiters or Warders of the said Tower, you behaving yourself as becometh a loyal and faithful subject to Her Majesty, her heirs and lawful successors, according to the trust reposed in you.  TO WHICH end and purpose I do herby signify and declare that you the said [Name of Warder] have taken the usual and accustomed oath of a Yeoman Warder.  You are to receive the wages and fees incident to the office or place of a Yeoman Warder, and to enjoy all other duties, profits, emoluments, and commodities, together with all ancient privileges to the same belonging or in anywise appertaining.  AMONG divers others you are superseded from arrest, you may not be restrained of your liberty or be detained prisoner without leave being first had and obtained from me.  You are likewise exempted from bearing any parish office, Churchwarden, Collector, Constable, Scavenger, or the like, neither are you chargeable with any kind of taxes or payments, except in Court only as other Her Majesty’s servants are: you are not to be empanelled on Juries, or give your attendance at Assize or Session, neither are you to watch or ward or pay for doing those duties, with divers other privileges not herein particularly mentioned, which as Her Majesty’s servant you may justly pretend to enjoy.  WHICH said place of Yeoman Waiter or Warder of the Tower, together with all profits, commodities, emoluments, and privileges above specified and thereunto belonging, you are to hold. Possess, and enjoy for and during the Royal Will and Pleasure of Our Sovereign Lady the Queen.

"And I do herby require all those persons whom these presents shall or may concern that they take notice hereof and commit no act or thing whatsoever that may in anywise infringe or violate the privileges of you the said [Name of Warder] as they tender Her Majesty service and will answer the contrary at their peril.

GIVEN under my hand and seal of the Tower this [    ] day of [    ] in the [     ] year of the reign of Our Sovereign Lady Victoria, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Queen.  Defender of the Faith, and in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and [     ]"

                                                                                                Signed, J.F.BURGOYNE


[signed]    [                ]


There is a biographical story connected with the Warders which is worth recording here.  When the late Emperor Nicholas of Russia visited England in 1844 Serjeant-Major John Weatherhead, formerly of the 37th Regiment, was at the Emperor’s solicitation, made a Warder of the Tower.  He subsequently became Chief Warder at Newgate Prison, and then by successive promotions became Governor of Holloway Prison.  He received his pension as a Yeoman Warder till his death five year ago, and was always proud of his connection with the Yeoman Warders.


The great interest taken by the public generally in all that appertains to the Yeomen of the Guard and to the Yeoman Warders is amply demonstrated by the following newspaper correspondence and articles, selected from many others, which appeared on or about the 14th August, 1885, when it had been announced (erroneously as will be seen), that the famous old Beefeater uniform had been condemned, and was to be replaced by “an ugly monstrosity”.  As a matter of fact neither the Beefeater hat nor any part of the full-dress uniform had been in any way interfered with.  All that was done by Lord Lathom was to add a cloth hat appropriately trimmed, to be worn by the Yeoman Warders, with their dark blue undress uniform they had worn since 1858.  The cloth hat matches the undress uniform much better than does the old full-dress velvet one, and is moreover more useful, less expensive, and more comfortable to wear.

Any one who has seen the “scarecrow” which was sent round to the newspapers by the enterprising hatter who made the new cloth hat will not be surprised at the wrath of the newspaper editors and correspondents.

Regarding the following extracts it is to be observed that there are some slight errors both in the leading articles and the letters which a perusal of this history will rectify.  The letter of “An Antiquary” is full of little blunders.  For example, the statement that every Beefeater used to wear a silver badge on his arm bearing in relief the arms of the Ordnance must be wrong.  The Yeomen of the Guard never wore such a badge, certainly not one “with the arms of the Ordnance thereon”.  They never wore plum-coloured hose and breeches, unless the “plum-colour” was scarlet.  They never wore “black velvet-caps”, and the undress belt and buckle never have confined and were never intended to “confine the red tunic.” The letter signed “A Partizan” was written by the author of this history.


(From the Daily Telegraph 14 August1885)

SIR,-A firm of naval and military tailors having “invented,” to their own satisfaction, with the aid of the Lord Chamberlain’s Office, the present uniform of the Tower Yeomen of the Guard, have been so kind as to send me a curious photograph, representing, as I at first thought, a convict in some new prison garb, designed to mark turpitude of a peculiarly atrocious type.  With the help on an explanatory letter accompanying this frightful object, I have come to the conclusion that the likeness is that of somebody condemned not to penal servitude, but to a punishment hardly less severe – the doleful obligation of dressing in the most hideous fashion ever devised by the joint efforts of officials and clothiers. “We have the pleasure,” say my obliging correspondents, “to enclose you a photo of the new-pattern hat to be worn by the Beefeater.”  I infer that the rest of the costume, shown down to the belt – such a belt! – is therefore a foregone conclusion: and that the pattern-hat, which is especially attributed to the Lord Chamberlain’s Office, alone is on its trail.  I am sorry for it: and wish there were some shred of doubt, some ghost of a forlorn hope, to the contrary.  Alas! The fact is too plainly accomplished the deed is done; the doom of the Beefeaters is irrevocable.  At the top of the naval and military tailor’s letter appears an engraving of the Royal Arms, with the figure of a Beefeater in the garb of 1509 on one side, and another figure, a fireman’s dummy, with a mild dash of Tom Tug, and a stronger infusion of the Shoeblack Brigade, supposed to represent a tower Yeoman of the Guard, improved down to 1858, on the opposite side, as supporters supplementary to the lion and the unicorn.  The photograph carried the change to a still lower period.  Chiefly novel is the hideous belt, with its correspondingly monstrous buckle, broad enough to hide the lower extremities of the initials, “V.R.” But the red collar, which replaces the starched line ruff, and which comes, “without any mitigation or remorse,” close to the throat, is the direst disfigurement of all.

I beg, Sir that you will protest against these needles, senseless, tasteless changes.  If distinction of garb be deemed unnecessary, do away with it, or substitute a livery of the present day, but the alteration of a quaint historic uniform to something which is neither old or new, neither picturesque not utilitarian, but an incongruous mixture of modes and periods – a blundering anachronism calls for severe reprobation as an offence to sight, a positive and veritable eyesore.  Instead of leaving such questions of official dress to contracting tailors, it would be far wiser to consult some artist of distinction and approved judgment.  Sir John Millais, who painted some few years ago that rich and harmonious piece of colouring which embodied a typical Beefeater, should be asked whether he would, on any terms, consent to paint such a scarecrow as I know see before me, with it penitentiary-tunic and its pattern-hat.  Such a being as this photograph portrays could not be a Beefeater At the nearest he might be an occasional taster of horse-flesh, or of canned kangaroo, Beef, indeed!! Say, rather, bacon of inferior quality, or dubious German sausage.

I am old enough to have seen the Beefeater in his lusty pride of accurate habiliment, such as his earliest predecessor wore when Holbein was king of painters and Henry VIII, was King of England.  The ancient retainer’s degradation, in later time, has been noted by me with extreme sadness.  There may be some shadow of reason, I have thought, for discarding an artistic dress in an inartistic age, but there cannot possibly be an excuse for spoiling that which we have not the courage to cast away.  One of the first acts of ignorant alteration was the dismissal of the plum-coloured stockings and broad, duck-billed shoe, with its appropriate rosette, and the substitution of the incongruous modern trouser.  It has been supposed that this garment was originally designed to conceal a shrunk shank, and possibly the race of Beefeaters had dwindles in respect of calves.  In that case, the “Kindly trouserian veil,” as Leigh Hunt, paraphrasing Dyer of the “The Fleece,” somewhere said, might have been half defended.  But the reformation once begun should not have ended in the middle, or admitting the aesthetic justification of “pants,” they should have been pattern pants, to suit, by anticipation, the pattern hat.

Seriously, I say there ought to be no hesitation condemning, if not too late, this most ridiculous, most contemptible, garb – belt, buckle. Frightful collar, Lord Chamberlain’s hat and all.  It is an affront, an absolute outrage, to public taster – a fit subject of public protest or derision.  To let it pass unchallenged would be a disgrace to London, nay, to all England.  The old Tudor dress, comely and characteristic to behold, may be though it is not very easy to say why – unsuitable to the age.  Pageantry may have followed chivalry into the past.  Grant this for a truth, happy or trivial, if you please.  But if we are to abolish a slightly and harmonious costume, in the name of such elementary art as even the Board Schools essay to teach, do not let us substitute a mongrel attire, which retains most that is obsolete and rejects all that is becoming. I am, Sir,

                                                                                                                 DAMASK HOSE

 (From the Daily Telegraph 13 August 1885)

Profane playwrights have been known to remark that they should not object to the Lord Chamberlain’s authority over the theatre if his lordship would confine himself to regulating the skirts of the ballet.  It would. However, appear that even in sartorial matter the great Court official – whose business it is on high State occasions to walk back-wards before the Sovereign with a long wand in his hand – may come to grief.  From the Lord Chamberlain’s Office the flat has gone forth and the ancient and quaint headdress of the Tower of Yeomen of the Guard, otherwise the Beefeater, shall be altered; and an inspection of the new-pattern hat would force observes to say that the alteration is not an improvement.  Everybody knows all about the Beefeaters of the Tower, and how they are not beefeaters at all, but beaufetiers of buffetiers, Royal servants who waited at the buffet when monarchy condescended to breakfast, dine or sup within the palace-walls.  There dress dates back to the reign of King Henry VII, their coat is the tabard their hat the head-covering of that time.  When Williams Shakespeare, who lodged at Blackfriars, used to go for a row on Edmund Spenser’s “silver-streaming Thames” as far as Baynard’s Castle, and caught sight of the beaufetiers lolling on the Tower wall west of Traitor’s Gate, haply smoking pipes of tobacco recommended to them by the distinguished Tower prisoner Sir Walter Raleigh, the Yeomen of the Guard wore trunk-hose.  And those handsomely-appointed fellows continued to show their shapely legs in one kind of knee-breeches or another until the year 1858, when they took to trousers.  Who put the Beefeaters into trousers is not know, nor why their breeches and stockings were taken from them.  Thereafter the costume of the Yeomen of the Guard became a sartorial anomaly, a Victorian – or rather Hanoverian super structure surmounted by a Tudor cupola.  Something was taken away, yet much was spared, and it is probable that only a very few, and those few very observant sightseers ever remarked on the incongruity, The comely low-crowned, broad-brimmed, black velvet hat, gathered in from the crown to the rim, and set off with plentiful coloured ribbons, the scarlet surcoat slashed with bullion and blazoned with the Royal Arms, took the general eye, and kept it riveted in admiration.  For twenty-seven years the trousers have enveloped the boufetierial legs, but for the most part have escaped observation.  And now at length, after three hundred and fifty times twelve moons, the unsparing hand of a pretended reform has seized upon the Beefeater’s hat, narrowed it brim and raised its crown, torn away its coloured ribbons, and substituted a plain band surmounted by a rosette in front, more or less like a groom’s cockade.  This is not conduct such as the world had a right to expect at the hands of a Conservative Lord Chamberlain conspiring with an East-end tailor.  It impossible to realise at preternaturally Radical City solicitor refusing to do suit and service in the new Law Courts for manors the very names of which have been forgotten, or for declining, on behalf of his Worship the Lord Mayor, to count horse-shoes and ten-penny nails in token that the School Board had not altogether neglected the mayoral education.  But what offence could the Beefeater’s hat have committed.?? What wrong or ridiculous time-worn custom does it represent that the Lord Chamberlain could not suffer it to rest in its ancient shape upon the buffetierial cranium?? It is hard, even upon a hat, after servicing three dynasties, to be cast off like a common worn-out castor.

Think of all that the hat has gone through since first it shone by the royal sideboard, and how it was doffed to the six respective and separate wives of Bluff King Hal. Who wore a hat just like it, as we see in Holbein’s portrait, and how it helped to fill the flagon in which the King pledged His Majesty Francis I, of France at dinner on the day of the Field of the Clothe of Gold! Lord Henry Howard, who introduced the sonnet from Italy before Shakespeare began to write, may have sketched it upon his tables.  Sir Philip Sidney was necessarily quiet familiar with its form, and both Sir Thomas More and Archbishop Cranmer did not disdain to appear at Court and in Church carrying wonderfully similar headgear.  Who shall say that when Burleigh showed his wisdom by shaking his head, some imitative varlet at the end of the Queen’s banqueting-chamber may not have mocked the Minister behind his back, wearing just such a chapeau? When “rare Ben Jonson,” driven from Court through his quarrel with Inigo Jones, sulked on the second floor of the comb-maker’s shop over against Temple Bar-poor, neglected solitary – how often may the bibulous poet not have sighed for the fleshpots of Whitehall guarded by his erst servitors of the buffet! One may almost put it forward as an historical fact that the Protector Cromwell. Who caused “that bauble,” the mace, to be removed from the table of the House of Commons, would not tolerate the scarlet tabard and coloured ribbon of the Yeomen of the Guard, but replaced them with the buff jerkins and steel caps of his fighting, sour-faced Ironsides.  Yet on the memorable 29th of May, when the King “enjoyed his own again.” And the conduits ran wine, and oxen were roasted whole in the Strand, be sure the bouffetiers stood once more on guard by the Boar’s Head and the Sir Loin of Beef.  That very hat which the Lord Chamberlain would mercilessly lay iconoclastic hands excited the surprise and delight of Old Parr when he came up to town at the special invitation of the Merry Monarch, and the only reason why Sir Peter Lely did not paint it is because, judging from the portraits of the period, the Court limner was not wont to depict the tings he saw.  Remember what the hat of the Beefeater has survived in the way of other articles of the kind.  It has outlived every fashion but one – the cocked hat, from the gold-laced three-cornered King William, through all the variety of shapes described and descanted on by Mr Spectator, to that of the Queen’s State coachman.  The last hat of the last Mohock was battered into shapelessness in a long-forgotten brawl.  The hat of the Maccaroni has gone out as surely as the lights at Ranelagh or the masquerades in Soho.  Indeed, very few of the hats of the past survive to the present, people of property wear to-day a modified from of the curly-brimmed abomination of the “First Gentleman in Europe.”  But the hat of hats, that which escaped the dangers of the Cromwelliate and the adventures of the Revolution, even now is passing away at a tailor’s suggestion and an official’s caprice.

It seems wonderful that the Lord Chamberlain is not afraid thus ruthlessly to cut one of the few remaining links binding the present to the past.  The world is not so over-loaded with the picturesque that we can spare the Beefeater’s hat – at least not without a monody.  Does Lord Lathom sleep well “of nights”? Who knows what may not happen to the Chamberlain after he is in bed and asleep, lying on the broad of his back with his face turned up to the ceiling?  All the Court hats since the Conquest on the top of canes and batons, glaives and halberds, lances and quarter-staves, black rods and silver sticks very much in waiting may dance a dreadful saraband upon the chamberlainish counterpane, with nods and becks and frightful frowns, reproaching him on behalf of the Beefeater’s hat.  Then may enter from beneath the door, and troop down the chimney, bands of tiny but obese old gentlemen, well-to-do, but not at home in Court dress, and with their swords getting between their legs and tripping them up as they clamber on the bed, and the tiny, obese old gentleman may point to their silk stockings and say, “Why not these instead?” and so, uttering deep sighs retire awkwardly by the keyhole.  If, in very truth, the Beefeater’s hat has to go by the board, will any sartorial State or sacerdotal official garment appendage or appurtenance, be safe? By the way, Mr Speaker wears a three-cornered cocked hat, and there is a special place in that elaborate architectural structure called “the Chair” made for it to rest in.  Likewise the Serjeant-at-Arms and his Deputy both carry dress hats under their arms, but human eye never beheld the Serjeant-at-Arms with his hat upon head.  In course of time all three must depart, and doubtless all three would share the fate of the disconsolate Beefeater if Lord Lathom had his way.  His lordship seems like the fell spirit in the Laureate’s poem, exclaiming, “I care for nothing; all shall go,” But if we must bury every picturesque costume of the past, let it not be done piecemeal.  A judge upon the bench, in judicial scarlet trimmed with ermine, and wearing the full-bottomed wig of the High Court of Justice, ought to have a hat to match.  A Thames boating-hat, with a bit of blue ribbon round it, would not look well in combination with the rest of the dignified and time-honoured trappings, as old and original as the Beefeater’s hat itself.  A well-regulated fancy would, moreover, refuse to picture a knight of any of the great orders of chivalry accoutred in appropriate mantle and collar, yet wearing a cylinder silk hat, and shall a solid Beefeater be asked to realise in the flesh what the unsubstantial fancy would not design to imagine?  Possibly the Lord Chamberlain, vexed and harassed with the manifold worries of office which include supervision of adapted dramas, and care for the colour and shape of the slippers of fair debutantes, may not have approached the matter in this light.  It may have been represented to him that after three hundred and fifty years of the same pattern of hat the Beefeaters would be glad of a change, and he, like the lost lady in the poem “whispering he would ne’er consent, consented,”. But as he is a Lord Chamberlain and a Conservative let him hold his hand, if the Beefeater’s hat be suffered to fall off into the devouring maw of Time, nothing of the kind will be sacred hereafter.  Doggett’s coat and badge, the beadle’s staff, the verger’s cassock, and the bag-wigs of the Lord Mayor’s running footmen, will all vanish into space, and “leave not a rack behind.”  A grave responsibility rests upon Lord Lathom, It lies with him to restore the ancient and picturesque hat of the Henries to the bereaved and disconsolate head to the Beefeaters, or he may obstinately stand by the novel and incongruous cheapen chosen it is to be hoped, in a moment of unaccustomed weakness.  On the one hand we behold the Genii of Archaeology and Esteticism embracing the time-honoured Beefeater’s hat, and on, the other hand, a wavering Lord Chamberlain balancing the “new departure” on the top of this wand.  If it be not too late, let us hope that even now good sense and good taste may prevail.


 (From the Daily Telegraph - 18 August 1885)

Among the many correspondents who have addressed us on the subject of the tasteless tailoring to which the Tower Yeomen of the Guard have been subjected, “An Antiquary” merits foremost attention as, beneath that signature, is moderately veiled the name of a leading authority in various matters of archaic art. Agreeing with “Damask Hose” that the substitution of a mongrel and unmeaning dress for the picturesque costume of the fifteenth century is a matter which concerns all person who have the least respect for archaeology , he expresses a decided opinion that the Lord Chamberlain, by his want of taste, holds himself up to ridicule, “An Antiquary” proceeds to say:-

I may call your attention to a fact unnoticed by your correspondent – the removal of the silver badge worn upon the left arm of every Beefeater.  When the Right, Hon Robert Lowe was Chancellor of the Exchequer he, from motives of economy, and intent upon abolishing unnecessary expenditure, cast his keen eye and beetling brow upon this cognisance, worn in his pride of office by the Yeoman of the Guard.  The bauble was ruthlessly seized and sold for its intrinsic value; it bore in relief the arms of the Ordnance (three mounted cannons) in a handsome scroll border of oval form, ten inches by eight.  The purchaser – a silversmith having about twenty of these silver medallions, conceived the idea, in preference to melting them down into ingots of  converting them into articles of general use, so by adding silver branches with nozzles for candles, on the lower parts of the badges he transformed them into very handsome sconces to hang upon the walls of dining-rooms or library’s the ancient hall-mark proving incontestably the genuineness and antiquity of these cleverly adapted articles and thus raising the price per ounce from shillings to pounds. This was but a prelude to converting the old Tudor costume pas a pas from the plum-coloured hose and breeches with the broad-toed shoes and rosettes into the modern trouser and highlows.  The present Lord Chamberlain now proposes to change the black velvet cap and ribbons for a hat, a red cloth collar in lieu of the linen ruff and a hideous belt with a monstrous buckle confining the red tunic- a dress which your correspondent likens to the costume of the Shoeblack Brigade.

“A Partisan” writes from Whitehall as follows:-

Referring to the interesting letter and leading article in the Daily Telegraph on the subject of the Yeoman Warders, may I venture to remind you that they are not the Beefeaters of history? They are a corps quite distinct from ‘The Yeomen in Ordinary of Her Majesty’s Guard of her Body.’  This latter is the Corps which has attended and added such picturesquencss to all the regal ceremonials for the last 400 years.  It was one of them – the late Sergeant John Charles Montague – whom Millais painted as a typical Beefeater, and not one of the Yeoman Warders.  As the Corps was formed by Henry VII to take part in his coronation on October 30, 1483, I should not be surprised to see some public celebration of the interesting occasion, especially as every man now in the Corps of the Yeomen of the guard at St. James’s Palace was a non-commissioned officer who had distinguished himself in the service of his country.

From The Standard - 14 August 1885

Lovers of the picturesque, and worshippers of long established traditions, will regret to hear that the Beefeaters of the Tower are to be deprived of their gorgeous costume.  One would have thought that the fact of a Conservative Government being in office would have saved the famous Yeomen of the guard from this indignity, and secure for admiring thousands a spectacle in which they have long delighted.  We cannot believe that the decree is really to be carried into effect.  If a protecting hand cannot be flung over our Beefeaters and their trimmings, people will soon begin to ask what is the good of a Conservative Government at all.  Surely a prescription of four hundred years ought to suffice to ward off the strokes of the iconoclast. The Beefeaters carry back their traditions to the days of Henry the Seventh, and have ever since formed a conspicuous portion of the train of Royalty.  Indeed, it is to the year 1485 that their foundation is ascribed, so that there are some things peculiarly wounding to our feelings in the date chosen for stripping them of their picturesque drapery. This is an age of centenaries, and it is almost enough that it is a hundred, two hundred, or three hundred years since a man lived, to exalt him into a hero. And have a statue raised in his honour.  This is the four hundredth anniversary of the royal decree that called the “Buffetiers” into existence, thus there is a peculiar cruelty in the choice of the year for their extinction, or, at least, for the extinction of what is most precious to them.  In the yard 1848 some slight modification was introduced into their costume, but the alteration was made with diffidence, and bespoke a modest reverence for a dress sanctioned by the smiles of generations of sightseers. In theses day’s however, change must be wholesale and sensational or it produces no effect.  It is in keeping with the epoch that no half measures should be taken with the gorgeous habiliments of the Beefeaters. Drastic treatment alone satisfies the destructive temper of the age of progress and when the spirit of change is, so to speak, in the air, it is impossible to say what persons, what institutions, what costumes, will escape its all-devouring zeal. Change for change sake is in some eyes sufficient justification, yet to speak seriously it does seem a pity that the few external traces that have been left to us of the ways and habits of our ancestors should be gratuitously obliterated in obedience to the prevailing fashion for obliteration.  The origin of the dress of the Beefeaters caries us back to a hundred years before Shakespeare had reached the maturity of his genius, to the days of the Tudor Kings, an long before the Reformation was thought of, There is a sanctity in things old, when they are old enough, that the most presumptuous age ought to feel and reverence.  An old fresco people will go hundreds of miles to see, simply because it is old. Why should not old customs and old costumes equally arouse our curiosity and respect? The living, walking picture is surely as good as the dead and silent one. If the Tower itself is regarded with the eyes of veneration, why should the Beefeaters of the Tower be contemplated with ridicule or indifference? That a picturesque costume is a thing not unworthy of the attention of the loftiest minds may be seen in the fact that the costume of the Pope’s Body Guards, which, in combination of colours, somewhat resembles that of the Beefeaters, was designed by no less a person than Michael Angelo.  History has not preserved the name of the artist who devised the dress of Henry the Seventh’s Yeomen of the Guard. Had it done so, perhaps the Beefeaters of the Tower would have survived the uneasy destructiveness of the present century.  Nor is it easy to see why, if a garb so venerable is to disappear, anything distinctively ancient should be retained, If we had all pledged ourselves once and for all to be simple citizens, to forswear silk and taffets, and wear plain broadcloth, then we could understand that the past should not be allowed to bequeath what the present had a distaste for. But love of splendour is one of the marks of this age, and, if men do not apparel themselves gorgeously, they surround themselves with everything that can minister to a passion for the picturesque. Perhaps the destructive instincts of the age spring from a sort of unconscious jealously.  It wants to destroy all traces of former generations, in order that it may depreciate and vituperate them with more severity. If this be not the motive, what is it? However, there seems to be no resisting the abolishing temper of the times. The pace that proceeds towards an ugly and uninteresting uniformity perpetually mends. We destroy the Beefeaters, and we bequeath to posterity powdered footmen, policemen, and the Blue Ribbon Army. 


 (From The Standard - 17 August 1885)


Sir, - Your plea for the retention of the quaint and time-honoured garb worn by the Beefeaters of the Tower will, I am sure, be re-echoed by every lover of the picturesque. We have not so much colour in our modern life that we can afford to lose this survival.

May I further be permitted to claim for these portly Wardens of our City Fortress that their name is thoroughly English, and that they have never suffered the indignity of answering to a French nomenclature? You say that they were called into existence as Buffetiers. And you can certainly appeal in support of this view to such well-known authorities as Professor Max Muller and Archbishop Trench.  I investigated this derivation some time ago, and came to the conclusion – it is also the conclusion of Professor Skent that there is not a particle of truth in it.  There is no evidence whatever that these Yeomen of the Guard were ever called Buffetiers, nor indeed, does that word seem to be found in French. On the contrary, Baron Bielfield, in 1741, says they were popularly knows as “Roast-beef –Beef-eaters, c’est-a-dire Mangeurs de Beuf”.  Beef-eaters is the name under which they appear in Horace Walpole, Lady Cowper (Diary, Page 90, 1716) the Spectator (No, 625 1714). And in a letter of Prince Rupert, 1645.  Andrew Marvell in 1667, speaks of “Old Fitz Harding of the ‘eaters beef’ and in a confession of one Mather, given in Froude's History, they are referred to as “The Queen’s Beefs,”

That these burly Yeomen were regarded as worthy exponents of the excellence of John Bull’s national dish appears from the passages following, As a matter of fact, a large daily allowance of beef was granted for their table

(Sir S. D Scott, “The British Army,” I 517):-

            Chines of Beef innumerable send me,
            Or from the stomach of the Guard defend me
                                                Cowley, The Wish

             “Beefe that the queasie stomack’d Guard would please”
                                                Sir W. Davenant Works p. 237 1673.

             “Those godly Junients of the Guard would fight –
            (as they eat beef) after six stone a day”
                                               Cartwright, The Ordinary, ii, 1, 1651.

Finally, the serving-men or dependents were formally called “Beefeaters” is shown by the old play, “Histrio-Martiz” 1610 (iii.1). We may hold it as certain, therefore that our Beefeaters, strange as it may seem to too learned readers, are nothing more nor less tan “Easters of Beef”

I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
           A SMYTHE PALMER (CLK).

 (From the Manchester Guardian, 18th August, 1885).

A Conservative Government has come into office and into power, and the picturesque Beefeaters are to be abolished.  The mournful announcement that the Yeomen of the Guard are to be defrocked comes after the rising of Parliament, or we might expect that Sir John Lubbock would intervene to guard the nation from the destruction with which one of this ancient monuments is now threatened. There were few objects in London more picturesque than in Beefeaters of the tower, and it will be difficult indeed to think of what Pope calls the “Towers of Julius” apart from the stalwart men whose predecessors during four centuries have been objects of awe and wonder to the popular mind.  There is something cruel in the time that has been chosen for the abolition, for it is generally reckoned, that the Yeomen of the Guard were formed into a corps in the year 1485, just four centuries ago.  This was in the days of Henry VII, and the costume of the Beefeaters, although it was slightly modified in 1858, is really that of the early Tudor period. They were the Body Guard of the Sovereign, who attended him at banquets and upon other State occasions, the name by which they are popularly known has led to some controversy, it is aid to be derived from the French beaufetier or buffetier, meaning one who attended to the sideboard, as on the occasion of State banquets.  Englishmen, trying to make sense of the unknown term, easily converted it into beefeater. This is not a more remarkable change than that which turned “Chateau Vert” into “Shotover.” But Professor Skeat, who is an excellent authority, points out that Ben Johnson uses the word “eater” in the sense of servant, and is inclined to think the word of purely English derivation, If we might give a hint to antiquaries, we would ask them why the word should not mean exactly what is says. The Yeomen of the Guard – for that is their official designation – consist of a hundred old soldiers, who are officered by a Captain, usually a nobleman, a Lieutenant, and an Ensign, together with a Clerk of the Cheque and Adjutant. Admission into the Corps is highly prized by the old soldiers, and the medals worn by many of the Beefeaters are sufficient to show that they have passed through stubborn battlefields and deserved well of their country. It is difficult to see what possible good can come of the proposed change, which seems to be dictated by a wanton spirit of vandalism, why should we break the tradition preserved by this band of veterans? A tradition coming from pre-Reformation days, and which has survived the storm and stress of Civil War and Revolution, It is enough to make the Cecil of Elizabeth’s days turn in his grave when the Cecil of Victoria’s days abolished the time-honoured and picturesque garb of the Sovereign’s Body Guard. 

I have not given the remarks at Punch and other comic journals on the subject, as they are merely metrical versions of the preceding articles and letters.


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