Inside the Beefeaters
Narratively has a great interview with Alan Kingshott, the Chief Yeoman Warder, or, the head of the Beefeaters. Officially termed “The Yeomen Warders of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London” the 38-person (they began allowing women a few years back) military force is comprised of long-serving retired NCOs and whose TOE includes a Ravenmaster.
From the piece:
When Kingshott became a Beefeater, life in the corps was different. For 25 years he had served as a tank gunner in the Royal Hussars, seeing active duty in places like Northern Ireland and the Middle East. After a brief, dreary career detour to manage an electrical supply store, Kingshott signed on as a Warder in 1998. A balance of charisma and stalwart respect for tradition helped Kingshott rise through the ranks, from Yeoman Warder, to Yeoman Sergeant to Gaoler and finally, in 2012, Chief Yeoman Warder.
“The guys that were on the job when I first got here had a very different view of life and of the job. It was seen as a sort of gentlemen’s retirement club,” he says.
But Tower life today is anything but laid-back. Kingshott rises early in a bedroom that was once a prison cell – the locks still bolt from outside the door – and treads 48 steps down a spiral stone staircase to work. The scene looks staged for a Hollywood swashbuckler with Kingshott decked out in his medieval uniform.
Ceremony infuses his day. Mornings start with a brisk march to the main gate – ancient iron keys in hand and flanked by four regimental guards – where tradition dictates he open the Tower to the public. In his office, Kingshott is deluged with administrative duties, escaping now and then to confer with colleagues around the complex. But it’s evening and the Ceremony of the Keys that he cherishes most is about to begin…