What is a Yeoman Warder?
The Yeomen Warders of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London, and Members of the Sovereign's Body Guard of the Yeoman of the Guard Extraordinary, popularly known as the Beefeaters, are ceremonial guardians of the Tower of London. In principle they are responsible for looking after any prisoners at the Tower and safeguarding the British crown jewels, but in practice they act as tour guides and are a tourist attraction in their own right, a point the Yeoman Warders acknowledge.
The Yeomen Warders are often incorrectly referred to as Yeomen of the Guard, which is actually a distinct corps of Royal Bodyguards. The name Beefeater is of uncertain origin, with various proposed derivations. The most likely is considered to be the Warders' payment in rations that included beef, as well as mutton and veal, and various historical commentators have noted a preference for beef among the Warders and the Yeomen of the Guard.
The Yeomen Warders were formed in 1485 by the new king Henry VII, the first monarch of the Tudor dynasty, and the Tudor rose, a heraldic badge of the dynasty, is part of the badge of the Yeomen Warders to this day.
Yeomen Warders began guarding the Tower in 1485; today there are 35 Yeomen Warders and one Chief Warder. All warders are retired from the Armed Forces of Commonwealth realms and must be former senior non-commissioned officers with at least 22 years of service. They must also hold the Long Service and Good Conduct medal.
The Yeomen Warders normally wear an 'undress' uniform of dark blue with red trimmings. When the sovereign visits the tower, or the warders are on duty at a state occasion, they wear red and gold uniforms similar to those of the Yeomen of the Guard, these uniforms are referred to by the Yeoman Warders as the Tudor State Dress, due to the uniform having very little modification from when they were first introduced during the Tudor Dynasty, and are often said to be "extremely uncomfortable".
The Yeoman Warder Ravenmaster (also known as the Ravenmaster for short) is one of the Yeomen Warders who has the responsibility to maintain the welfare of the ravens of the Tower of London. The ravens are fed raw meat which is bought at Smithfield Meat Market by the Ravenmaster. It is believed Ravens have been living in the Tower of London since at least the time of King Charles II and legend maintains that should these ravens ever leave the tower, the tower and the monarchy will crumble. When he received complaints that the Ravens interfered with observatory work, Charles ordered the re-siting of the Royal Observatory to Greenwich rather than remove the ravens. In order to prevent the ravens from flying away, their flight feathers are trimmed, so that they cannot fly in a straight line for any appreciable distance. The ravens are free, however, to roam the tower grounds. The warders comment that the "real beefeaters" at the Tower of London are the Ravens, which receive a daily ration of beef.