What is a British Beefeater?


While you may not know what a Beefeater is we’re sure you’ve seen one. They are the men in the strange uniforms with the silly hats that look after the Tower of London.

What is a Beefeater?

Well, they are the ceremonial guards of the Tower of London. Their official title is ‘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 Guard Extraordinary’. Quite a mouthful, isn’t it? And quite possibly why they are affectionately called ‘Beefeaters’. It’s a lot easier to say and as a result of their memorable name they have become almost as popular as the Tower itself.

The role of the Beefeaters is to guard any prisoners in the Tower of London, and to protect the most valuable items in the Tower – the Crown Jewels. This job has diminished over time though, as the Tower no longer holds prisoners and the security systems surrounding the Crown Jewels have become somewhat more sophisticated. The change in the Beefeaters’ job started when the Royal Family moved out of the Tower of London during the reign of the Tudors. Nowadays, the Beefeaters are used as tour guides and have proved to be an attraction in their own right.

Where did the name come from?

What is odd though is that no-one is entirely sure how the name ‘Beefeater’ came about. The most likely reason for the name is based on an old agreement where they were granted the right to eat as much meat as they wanted when having a meal with the King. They still have the right today but sadly, invites to eat with the monarch are less frequent than they used to be.

The Beefeaters are not the only guards you will see around the royal residences. You have the Horse Guards who protect the Queen when she goes from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey or Parliament. Then you have the Scottish Guards who protect the gates at Buckingham palace (they wear the grey uniform). The Queen’s Guard are the Monarch’s personal bodyguards, they wear the furry black hats and the red uniform.