Why are Tower of London’s Guards Called Beefeaters?

Tower of London is guarded by the Beefeaters

The Tower of London is one of the most well-known tourist attractions in London and has a long and rich history. William the Conqueror originally built The Tower in 1066 as a castle. It served many purposes over the centuries, including being used as a prison for British royalty. Even today, some prisoners are kept there for crimes against the crown, like treason or espionage. But this article is about the ones who guard those prisoners – the Beefeaters!

So, why are they called that?

The Beefeaters’ initial duties

The Tower of London is a very popular tourist attraction in London. It is known for its infamous history of prisoners and executions. Henry III used it as a royal residence, prison, and museum. The Tower has been associated with famous people such as Edward V and his brother Richard III. It’s also the site of several famous executions, including Anne Boleyn (wife of King Henry VIII), Guy Fawkes (the guy who tried to blow up Parliament), and Lady Jane Grey (who was queen for nine days).

The first reference to the Beefeaters was in 1485. They were known as the “Yeoman Warders” and were originally bodyguards to the king.

These men also had a domestic function in charge of Royal Residences such as Hampton Court Palace and Greenwich Castle. In Tudor times, they had a role in protecting Henry VIII against assassination attempts by his wives!

During Stuart times, they carried out executions on Tower Green (a small patch of grass near Traitor’s Gate). They watched over the Royal Armories during Charles II’s reign.

They were also in charge of Royal Residences

While Beefeaters were employed initially as guards at the Tower of London, they were also in charge of Royal Residences, like Hampton Court Palace. Beefeaters were also in charge of Royal Chambers and other residences.

The Beefeaters’ first duty was to guard the royal chambers at night. During these hours, they were in charge of the Royal Treasury, the Royal Jewel House, Armory, and other treasures and animals (such as lions). The Beefeaters also guarded the Tower grounds during daylight hours.

In Tudor times, they performed the duties of Chief Warder (Guard Commander), Keeper of the Keys of both Traitors’ Gate and Byward Gate, and Governor of Tower Green.

Beefeaters’ wear

In addition to the traditional hat, Beefeaters wear a silver-plated crown on their uniforms instead of a traditional hat. Interestingly enough, this crown is meant to symbolize the crowning of Henry VII at Bosworth Field in 1485. 

At that time, he wore his distinctive Tudor rose badge and was thus known as “King of England and France.” The guards’ role in Henry VII’s rise to power was crucial. They were responsible for protecting him during his battles with Richard III. Their loyalty helped him become king after winning the Battle of Bosworth Field—and it also helped them keep their jobs when Henry became ruler!

The most famous Beefeater of all time 

The most famous Beefeater of all time was Jack Ketch, who is thought to have beheaded Charles I in 1649.

Ketch was the executioner at the Tower of London for 34 years and earned himself the nickname “Jack Ketch the Hangman” thanks to his gruesome methods of execution. He was said to enjoy his work so much that he would often get drunk on whisky before carrying out executions!

So, how did they get their name?

There are many theories about how these guards got their famous nickname, but it’s hard to know which one is correct! Theories range from the guards being fed beef to the guards being paid in beef. 

Were they named by King Henry VII?

Historically, Yeoman Warders were called Beefeaters because Henry VII came into power and decreed that they should remain still while guarding the Tower or guarding him. Hence, they became known as “Beefeaters”.

The first Tudor king was Henry VII, the first to have the Tower of London as his palace. He had a new badge for the Tower of London made, which consisted of a red and white rose with an archer between them. The badge symbolized Henry VII’s dynasty (the Tudors) and England.

Generous guards

The other famous story involves the Tower of London’s gatekeeper handing out pieces of meat to anyone who needed food. He was nicknamed “Beef Eater” by his hungry customers and eventually became a nickname for all of his fellow guards. 

It’s hard to believe this could be true when you consider that towers were built centuries before people knew how to grow or store enough food for cows!

Beefeaters were eating beef?

There was also a theory that the name comes from beef being commonly included in the guards’ diet. This theory has been around for a long time, and it’s one that many people believe—but it’s wrong. Although it may seem common sense to you, all records show that beef was not part of their diet. In addition, if you look at how Henry VIII paid them, there’s no mention of beef being involved.


So, why are Tower of London Beefeaters called Beefeaters? It turns out there’s no one answer. However, the origin of the name certainly lies with a medieval French word for a type of food that people consumed at all levels of society. Since then, the title has been bestowed upon guards who serve as part of the Yeoman Warders at The Tower and elsewhere in Britain. It sounds impressive because these men have earned their place among history’s greatest heroes!