In 1598 Sir John Peyton, the Lieutenant of the Tower of London, declared that some of the Yeoman Warders tasked with guarding prisoners and looking after the crown jewels were “given to drunckeness [sic], disorders and quarrels”. If he were still alive, Sir John could be forgiven for thinking that little has changed in the last 400 years.
Today, two Yeoman Warders at the Tower were dismissed following an investigation into allegations of harassment of the first female Beefeater, 44-year-old Moira Cameron.
Last month, Tower authorities launched an internal inquiry after receiving complaints that Miss Cameron – who in 2007 was named as the first woman to fill the post since it was created about 500 years ago – had been subjected to a bullying campaign by some of her male colleagues.
During the investigation it emerged that one of the Warders, a 56-year-old, had defaced Miss Cameron’s entry on the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia, for which he received a police caution. The two sacked men have the right to appeal but the case against a third was not proven and he will return to work in due course.
The Tower of London said in a statement: “Following an internal investigation into allegations of harassment, two Yeoman Warders at the Tower of London have been dismissed. The case against a third Yeoman Warder was not proven.
“When the allegations arose, the Tower of London immediately initiated a thorough investigation, in line with harassment policy procedures. In light of the evidence that emerged, the investigation concluded that the allegations had foundation and that disciplinary action was appropriate.
“We believe everyone is entitled to work in an environment free from any form of harassment. We expect all our staff to value and demonstrate our commitment to diversity and maintaining a welcoming and supportive working environment. This has been a difficult time for the community at the Tower of London, and the Yeoman Body especially.”
Miss Cameron, from Argyll in Scotland, is still working at the Tower but did not want to comment on her employer’s decision today. She joined the Army at the age of 20, and served in Northern Ireland and Cyprus.
One she had completed the required minimum 22 years in the armed forces, she qualified to be a Yeoman Warder in July 2007. But when she started working at the Tower alongside her 34 male colleagues, she quickly noticed that her appointment had been a controversial one.
“I’ve had some comments. I had one chap at the gate one day who said he was completely and utterly against me doing the job. I said to him ‘I would like to thank you for dismissing my 22 years’ service in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces’,” she said at the time.
A detachment of the Yeomen of the Guard, Yeoman Warders have formed the Royal Bodyguard since at least 1509, but their origins stretch back as far as the reign of Edward IV.
A number of theories have been proposed as to the origin of their “Beefeater” nickname, but a popular one suggests that their lofty position as Royal Bodyguards meant that they were allowed to eat as much beef as they wanted from the table of the King – a privilege bestowed on few others.