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Voices from the Road: Yeoman Warders Sharing a Living History

Yeoman Warder Watts

Two young princes were murdered, and their bodies were hidden beneath the staircase in a London tower. It is believed their uncle, King Richard III, had them killed, following the death of his brother, King Edward IV. King Richard wanted to be the only successor to the crown. But the boys’ 1483 murder remains a mystery.

Their story is one of the many tales of murder, beheadings and infamous prisoners told to me while on a tour of the Tower of London. A tour with a Yeoman Warder at the Tower should be on your top ten list of things to do in London. The Tower of London is one of the most visited destinations in the United Kingdom and a tour with a Yeoman Warder brings its history to life.

Yeoman Warder Lawrence Watts led my tour. He was funny, full of knowledge and a skilled storyteller. He told us about the transition of the Tower from a royal palace to a prison, a fortress, and then its present day use as home to the British crown jewels and a popular tourist attraction. There were stories about torture chambers, hauntings, and much more. One of the more iconic tales was of Anne Boleyn, who was accused of witchcraft and beheaded on Tower Green.

Yeoman Warder Watts wears a splendid dark blue uniform, trimmed throughout with royal red. The emblem of the crown and the insignia E II R on his chest. The E II represents Queen Elizabeth II and the letter R symbolizes Regina, Latin for Queen. Sitting high on his head, a matching wide-brimmed hat. Worn above his heart are medals and officer bars that represent his over 20 years of military service and good conduct distinction that is required of a Yeoman Warder. According to Guinness Book of Records, Yeoman Warder Lawrence Watts is the first Black Yeoman Warder. Sworn into the role in March 2016.

Yeoman Warders were part of England’s royal protection service and the personal bodyguard to the King and Queen. They have been guarding the Tower of London since Tudor times. They are also called Beefeaters because they were allowed to eat beef from the royal’s table until they were full. It has been a tradition to gift Warders a bottle of Beefeater Gin as a thank you on their birthday. Today there are 32 men and women who are Yeoman Warders. Most of them live with their families within the walls of the Tower on a cobblestone street, in a row of tiny cottages with brightly colored doors and just as colorful flower pots.

“May you never die a Yeoman Warder,” is a toast made when they are sworn in. It means that they will have this job for as long as they are physically able. Yeoman Warders are committed to the telling of a thousand years of history and their stories are not to be missed when you visit the Tower of London.

Yeoman Warder Tours

Yeoman Warder tours are included as part of your admission ticket to the Tower of London. There is no need to book in advance. Tours meet at the main entrance every 30 minutes starting at 10:00.

Tower of London

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