Yeoman Warders at the Tower of London

Yeoman Warders have been guarding the Tower of London since Tudor times

Yeoman Warders have been guarding the Tower of London since Tudor times

Guarding the Tower

Yeoman Warders have been guarding the Tower of London since Tudor times.

Nicknamed ‘Beefeaters’, the Yeoman Body of 37 men and women are all drawn from the Armed Forces.

Beefeater Gin

Beefeater Gin bottles feature a picture of a Yeoman Warder in full state dress. As a thank you, every Yeoman Warder is sent a bottle of gin on his or her birthday!

Who are the Yeoman Warders?

Yeoman Warders were originally part of the Yeoman of the Guard – the monarch’s personal, crack bodyguard who traveled with him everywhere.

Henry VIII decided that the Tower should be protected by part of the royal bodyguard.

These ‘Yeoman Warders’ were eventually granted the right to wear the splendid red uniform, which today is known as the state dress uniform and is worn on state occasions such as the monarch’s birthday. 

The more durable everyday dark blue ‘undress’ uniform was introduced in the 19th century.

Today’s Yeoman Warders need to have at least 22 years’ military service.

Apart from that, they need to have reached the rank of warrant officer and to have been awarded the long service and good conduct medal.

A close up image of a Yeoman Warden carrying a set of keys for the Ceremony of the Keys.  A guardsman stands in the distance holding a lamp.

Tradition and ceremony

‘Halt! Who comes there?’

These familiar words echo down Water Lane every night as they have done for over 700 years.

They are part of the ancient Ceremony of the Keys in which the outer gates of the fortress are locked for the night and the keys delivered to the monarch’s representative in the Tower, the Resident Governor.

The Constable’s Dues

These are one of several perks that the Constable of the Tower traditionally enjoyed.

Every ship that came upstream to the City had to moor at Tower Wharf to unload a portion of its cargo for the Constable.

Still today, whenever a Royal Naval vessel moors on the Wharf the Captain must present the Constable with a barrel of wine, rum, or brandy (the ‘Dues’).

This is ceremoniously escorted into the Tower by the Yeoman Warders and presented to the Constable on Tower Green.

‘May you never die a Yeoman Warder’

New Yeoman Warders are ‘sworn in' during a centuries-old ceremony. Then they drink a toast of port, served in an 18th-century pewter bowl. Tradition requires the Chief Yeoman Warder to toast all new recruits with the words ‘may you never die a Yeoman Warder’.

The origins of this rather odd toast can be found in the fact that by the early 19th century the post of Yeoman Wards was being sold for 250 guineas. This would be returned to the Yeoman Warder on his retirement, with the balance kept by the Constable who hired him. But if the Yeoman Warder died in post, the Constable inherited the whole amount! However, the Duke of Wellington, who became Constable in 1826, abolished this purchase system.

 

Did you know?

Each new recruit takes an oath of royal allegiance said to date back to 1337.

A Yeoman Warder gives a tour to a group of visitors outside the chapel of St Peter Ad Vincula at the Tower of London
Tours and talks Highlights

Discover captivating stories of pain and passion, treachery and torture on the Yeoman Warder tours at the Tower of London.

Daily

Tower of London

Tours begin every 30 minutes

Included in palace admission (members go free)

A Yeoman Warder stands outside the White Tower during a Twilight Tour or the Tower.
Tours and talks

Dare you visit the Tower at night and take one of our Twilight Tours? Discover secrets of the Tower's history with after-hours access.

Selected Sundays in November 2019 to April 2020

Tower of London

19:00

Separate ticket (advance booking required)

The Tower of London Deputy Ravenmaster attends to a raven with Tower Green and the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula in the background.
Things to see

Meet the famous ravens at the Tower of London and discover why they are known as the guardians of the Tower.

Daily

Tower of London

Included in palace admission (members go free)

Gift selection of products inspired by the Tower of London from Historic Royal Palaces shop

Shop Tower of London gifts

Shop our products inspired by the almost 1000 years of history at the Tower of London.

From £9.99

Union Jack gift collection from Historic Royal Palaces shop

Shop Union Jack gifts

Brilliantly British our luxury Union Jack collection features patriotic stationary, union jack homewares and luxury leather goods.

From £4.99

The Royal Mint - Raven coin

Raven Gifts

Legend has it that if the six ravens ever leave the Tower of London, the Tower and the kingdom will fall. These products have been inspired by the Ravens that live at the Tower of London.

From £7.99