Yikes, today will have to be a twofer to conclude the last two letters of our April A to Z Blogging Challenge – I didn’t get to posting one yesterday because, if you didn’t notice, there was kinda something big and important going on in London. William and Kate’s royal wedding! My husband and I were honestly debating to the last minute whether we wanted to jump in with the crowds or stay on the outskirts of it, but our early start and observation that the local tube station was still a ghost town made us think we had fightin’ chance in the city center. Which we did! We scored a great sidewalk vantage of Westminster Abbey‘s front door and saw all the guests on arrival, then we ducked into a nearby building to watch the vows, wandered to the Royal Horse Guards to catch their procession, and then onward to Buckingham Palace to see The Kiss…which we were totally close enough to see if not for being situated just behind the gol’ darn media structure built on the Victoria Memorial right in front of the balcony. Ah well. It was exciting to be in the middle of the crowd’s buzz and flag-waving and watch those planes soar overhead.
In any case, one of the cuter things I saw while waiting at Westminster Abbey yesterday morning was a bus of Beefeaters driving in. So, today (which should have been yesterday):
“Y” is for YEOMAN WARDERS!
Your best bet at seeing one of these royal guards up close is at the Tower of London. There, they not only stand guard, but actually live in the Tower with their families! No kidding! The price to pay for living in an awesome medieval fortress, however, is a 10pm curfew. Not fun for their teenage children, I’m sure.
“Yeoman Warder” is the official name of the type of royal guard that people have nicknamed “Beefeaters.” I remember once, soon after moving to London from the US, I was sitting a bench outside the Tower, reading and enjoying the view of the Thames and Tower Bridge, and overheard the most adorable soundbite:
The voice of a young British child: “Dah-dy, why do they call them Beefeatahs?”
The father’s response: “Because that’s what they ate!”
I remember giggling to myself over this, thinking the dad had just made a clever escape from giving the real reason that he probably didn’t know, when lo and behold, he was serious! Apparently, when not on duty, they ate beef from the King’s table. ‘Nuff said. The yeoman warders probably don’t appreciate being called this nickname, though, so ixnay on the eefeaterbay…
These guards are deserving of more respect than that, having earned their positions after a mandatory twenty-two years of honorable service in the royal armed forces. What also seems to be mandatory criteria is a great sense of humor and acting skills—man, can these guys ham it up when they guide tours of the Tower! (Perhaps I shouldn’t say “guys,” as the first female yeoman warder was appointed to the Tower in 2007.) Yeoman warder Tower tours are free, and I highly recommend taking one for its education and entertainment value. You’ll see the guards wearing their “everyday” garb of navy blue because the iconic red uniform is worth thousands of GBP, thus reserved for special royal occasions.
Such as yesterday. Boy, did they look fancy all dolled up in their red and gold on their touring bus! I joke, but once they’d exited the vehicle, they looked impressive indeed walking into the Dean’s Yard adjacent to the Abbey. It’s all part of the pomp and circumstance I spoke of Wednesday that shows you England knows how to do tradition – yet another aspect of living in London that you can partake in when you make your London move.