Off with their heads! Charles & Camilla’s day at the Tower to celebrate 535 years of Beefeaters

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall visited the Tower of London today, to mark the 535 years of Yeoman Wardens, commonly known as Beefeaters.

Prince Charles and Camilla were greeted by The Prince of Wales’s standard flying from the iconic White Tower as they arrived at the Tower complex.

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The Tower of London has served as royal palace, prison (its most recent notable guests being the Kray twins), a royal menagerie and jewel house. Now it is home to the Beefeaters, ravens and Crown jewels and is host to 2.8 million visitors annually.

The elaborately uniformed Yeomen’s original purpose was to be the personal bodyguard of the Monarch, but they were initially introduced by Henry VII in 1485 to help guard the Tower of London as he thought it needed its own protection. At the time,  the fortress was a cobbled complex where prisoners and princes mingled with other residents.

It is thought the nickname ‘beefeater’ may stem from the guards getting offcuts from the royal kitchens, beef being a more prestigious food.

Modern Yeoman Wardens are all former warrant officers from Her Majesty’s Forces with an honourable service of at least 22 years.  Today there are 37 Yeoman Warders who combine their traditional ceremonial role with that of tour guide to the palace.

After meeting staff of the Tower, the royal couple posed for a photo with the Beefeaters, and the White Tower.

Prince Charles and Camilla pose with beefeaters at the Tower (Clarence House)

They then headed to The Queen’s House and learnt about the history of the location, which was where Sir Thomas More – Chancellor to Henry VIII – was imprisoned.

The Queen’s House is one of the few timber-framed domestic buildings that has survived the Great Fire of 1666, and in time it has become associated with infamous prisoners kept at the Tower (HRP)

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Next, it was to the Council Chamber, where Guy Fawkes – of Gunpowder Plot fame – gave his confession.

The Royals got to see Prince Charles’ regalia used at his investiture in 1969. The Coronet was presented to The Queen by the Goldsmiths’ Company for the ceremony at Caernarfon Castle, and the rod dates from 1911 and used for the investiture of Edward, who would later be Edward VIII.

These items will go on display alongside the Crown Jewels shortly.

Regalia used at The Princes of Wales’ investiture in 1969 were on view for Prince Charles and Camilla (Clarence House)

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Camilla had commissioned a cake to mark the anniversary which she was invited to cut. The cake was shaped as the lantern used to guide the chief warder as he locks up the tower each night during the Ceremony of the Keys. The cake was made by Julia Brownlee and gifted by Camilla.

The Duchess of Cornwall was given a dagger, a replica of one belonging to Henry VIII, to slice into the white chocolate and raspberry flavoured sponge. Camilla quipped: “It’s going to be off with their heads “

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“We’ll get you a job as an executioner” joked the beefeaters as she cut into it.

The cake included two small sugar Beefeaters standing alongside the gold lantern and their iconic set of silver keys.

The Prince and Duchess later took time to chat to some schoolchildren and well-wishers who were on a school trip to the tower.

Whilst at the fortress and palace, the royal couple attended a reception to celebrate 50 years of visitBritain and Visit England, the official tourist body for Great Britain, in the White Tower.

From 5.8 million overseas visits to the UK in 1969 to 38.5 million in 2019, inbound tourism is now the UK’s third largest service export, forecast to generate £26.6 billion in overseas visitor spending this year. When including domestic tourism, the industry is worth £127 billion annually to the economy, employing 3.1 million across the UK.


Before leaving the Tower, the couple signed the visitor’s book.

Prince Charles and Camilla sign the visitors’ book at The Tower of London (Clarence House)

Later on in the day, Prince Charles and Camilla went on to the Cabinet Office where they met senior civil servants and praised their efforts.

The pair joked about being in the heart of government on the day of a Cabinet reshuffle saying they were keen not to get in the way: “We did wonder whether it was quite the most sensible day to come …but we were told its alright.”

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The future King went on to say he had “great respect and value for the civil service” and told them “I do realise just what an immensely important role you all play”

As a dog-lover, Camilla was introduced to the office’s adopted West Highland terrier, Monty. The Duchess, who has two Jack Russell rescue dogs of her own, asked “Does he come here every day?”

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The response was he in the office every day but that he “keeps us all calm- he’s a good therapy dog.”

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