Correcting my limitless lack of knowledge, one post at a time.
Monday, March 8, 2010
Okay, I think we all have a visual, at least from the gin bottle, if nothing else. But who are these guys?
Strictly speaking, this is not an original idea kind of post, as a friend was the one who brought it up because there is a new novel coming out which features these guys somehow. She can remain anonymous or not, as she wishes. I'm still not entirely clear on the function of the Beefeaters, but now I know that they live in the Tower of London. For real! And there's this one guy who's the raven keeper, and they are apparently called something like the Order of Yemen and...
But maybe it's time to do a little fact-checking....
Oh,great. Yeoman warders, not Yemen warders. Please tell me that there is a raven keeper and not just a ravin' keeper.
Just kidding. I already knew there was a raven keeper. And you who didn't know can check it out here. If you get that far, be sure to scroll down a bit because the Ravenmaster, as he's really called, has some nice stories about the individual ravens.
Why ravens? Because legend has it that if the ravens ever leave the Tower of London, the White Tower will crumble and a terrible disaster will befall Britain. It doesn't seem quite, well, cricket that the reason the ravens don't leave is that their wings are slightly clipped. But I suppose when the future of a nation is at stake...anyway, they're well cared for.
But I digress. Why are the Yeoman Warders called Beefeaters? Turns out no one really knows. In fact, not even the Yeoman Warders know. There are lots of theories, of course--most having to do with these men and their families being given extra rations of beef in an era when few had much or any of it. According to this very charmingly rendered account ( scroll down to the part about the legend of the ravens towards the end), it may have been a term of derision, which would make sense on several levels.
There is some controversy about whether the fellow on the Beefeater's gin bottle actually is a Beefeater and not a Yeoman of the Guard, one of the monarch's personal bodyguard. The Beefeaters' everyday uniform is,after all, blue and red. But their state uniform is red and gold and similar to the Yeoman of the Guard's uniform. As, for some reason, these haven't been modified since the days of the Tudors, they are rumored to be very uncomfortable.
The toast of the Yeoman Warders is "May You Never Die a Yeoman Warder", which may sound odd, but it began at a time when the vacant post reverted to the Constable of the Tower on your death, leaving your family with nothing. Not too well thought out, I'd say.
Unfortunately, I must finish this post with the news that a couple of Beefeaters were sacked at the end of 2009. The reason? Harassment of the Tower's first female Beefeater, Moira Cameron. Some things never change, I guess.
I'm thinking that getting booted for harassment wasn't exactly the way those two foresaw that toast being fulfilled somehow...