The Beefeaters at the Tower of London, 1826–1914: Icons of Englishness or Britishness?
In the nineteenth century, a new icon was added to the British national gallery. The distinctive costume of the Yeomen Warders, known as Beefeaters, and their highly visible role at the Tower of London made them colourful symbols of the nation. This chapter examines nineteenth century as an epoch of crisis to which the monarchy responded by creating a narrative of historical continuity based on loyalty to the Crown and constitution. The Beefeaters at the Tower played an important part in this response. In the United Kingdom, made up of at least four nations, the Beefeaters needed to prove themselves to be national symbols able to cope with the complexities of being British.
KeywordsBeefeaters Tower of London National identity Englishness Britishness
Many people have contributed to the writing of this chapter and I want to express my gratitude particularly to students on the Digital Victorians module at the University of Huddersfield, who have looked up search terms relating to Beefeaters in a variety of digitised primary sources. I want to thank audiences at the universities of Northumbria, Teesside and Lingnan, as well as at the conference on which this book is based. The book’s editors and peer reviewers made many valuable comments on drafts. An earlier version of this chapter was published in O. Boucher-Rivalain, Y. Chupin and F. Ropert (eds.) (2015) Tension, Évolution, Révolution en Europe aux XIX e et XX e Siècles: De La Crise à La Critique (Paris), pp. 19–43. I am grateful to the editors and publisher for permission to reproduce parts of that article here.