First female Beefeater starts at the Tower

LONDON Mon Sep 3, 2007 8:43pm BST

1 of 4. Yeoman Warder Moira Cameron (2nd L), the first female Beefeater, starts work at the Tower of London, September 3, 2007. A 42-year-old Scottish woman became the first female 'Beefeater' on Monday, taking up her post as a guardian of Britain's Tower of London.

Credit: Reuters/Luke MacGregor

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First female Beefeater

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LONDON (Reuters) - The woman appointed as the first female guardian of the Tower of London in the Beefeaters' 522-year history started her new job on Monday.

Moira Cameron, 42, from Argyll in Scotland, beat five men to secure the coveted position.

She will wear the traditional ceremonial dress of a distinctive scarlet and gold tunic, white ruff, red stockings and black patent leather shoes.

Her duties will include guarding the Crown Jewels, participating in the Ceremony of the Keys and giving visitors guided tours.

Beefeaters are also responsible for the Tower's ravens -- which legend says must stay in the fortress on the banks of the River Thames to ensure the future of the Kingdom of England.

Cameron joined the Army in June 1985 at the age of 20 and has spent the required 22 years' service in the Forces to become eligible for the prestigious position.

She joined the Women's Royal Army Corps and trained as a data telegraphist with the Royal Signals and saw service in England, Northern Ireland and Cyprus.

To apply to become a Beefeater, candidates must also have earned medals for long service and good conduct.

Beefeaters, believed to have earned their nickname from their daily ration of meat, date from 1485 when King Henry VII formed a bodyguard.

Historically their duty was to guard "the Tower of London and all things within it" -- a role which included the supervision and care of state prisoners.

Today, there are 35 Beefeaters, plus the Chief Yeoman Warder and Yeoman Gaoler.

The Tower of London was begun in 1078 by William the Conqueror.

Its primary functions were as a fortress, royal palace and a prison, but it has served as a place of execution, an armoury, a treasury, a zoo, a mint and -- since 1303 -- the home of the Crown Jewels.

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