Why the Queen's guards are called Beefeaters

·2-min read
Photo credit: WPA Pool - Getty Images
Photo credit: WPA Pool - Getty Images

On Monday 19th September Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was honoured with a state funeral held at Westminster Abbey. 2,000 people from all around the world, including world leaders and foreign royals, joined the Royal Family to pay their final respects before she is buried at St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle alongside her husband of 73 years, Prince Philip.

Ahead of the funeral, the Queen was lying in state at Westminster Hall where the public could also say their personal goodbyes. Among those standing guard over the late monarch were the Yeomen Warders of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London, otherwise known as Beefeaters.

Why are the Queen’s guards called Beefeaters?

Dating back to 1485, there are a number of theories surrounding the origin of the name. One is that it comes from the old French word ‘buffetier’, which means ‘food taster’. After Henry VII had two of his wives executed, it's thought that he was paranoid he might be poisoned so had his guards taste the food first. Another theory is that the guards were paid in beef rather than money, while a third theory suggests they earned the nickname because they ate far better than many of the other royal servants.

Photo credit: WPA Pool - Getty Images
Photo credit: WPA Pool - Getty Images

Traditionally, Yeoman Warders were guards of the Tower of London, whose responsibilities involved looking after prisoners in the Tower and protecting the crown jewels. However, today, they largely perform traditional ceremonial duties and can be seen giving tours to the tourists who visit the Tower of London.

To become a Beefeater, you must have served in the armed forces for at least 22 years and you must have also been awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct medal, and reached the level of Warrant Officer. There are currently 32 Yeoman Warders and one chief warder.

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