After Five Centuries in Service, London Beefeaters Face COVID Job Cuts

Not even the iconic Yeoman Warders are safe from the pandemic

Beefeaters, or Yeoman Warders, and Guardsmen reopen the Tower of London on July 10, 2020
Beefeaters and Guardsmen reopen the Tower of London on July 10.
Leon Neal/Getty Images
By Alex Lauer / July 22, 2020 6:30 am

The disruption in global life caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is often compared to World War II: events are being canceled for the first time since WWII, landmarks have been closed for the longest periods since the war, and global leaders are even putting the events on a par with each other. But one group is experiencing an even more unprecedented upheaval. 

After over 500 years in service, the Beefeaters who guard the Tower of London are facing job cuts, the first in their history, according to the Washington Post. Formally known as the Yeoman Warders, the guards have become an iconic symbol of Britain as they serve at one of England’s most popular tourist attractions — and therein lies the reason for their current trouble.

“Historic Royal Palaces is a self-funded charity. We depend on visitors for 80 percent of our income,” John Barnes, the chief executive of HRP, the charity that manages the Tower of London, told the Post. But due to the pandemic, the Tower was closed between March 20 and July 10, and tourism isn’t expected to return to normal levels anytime soon.

According to Barnes, the Historic Royal Palaces was dealt a financial shortfall to the tune of $123 million because of the closure.

One of the 37 Beefeaters, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the members have been asked to take voluntary redundancies and that future redundancies were likely, “meaning that anxious staff would probably have to find new schools and family homes,” according to the Post.

The Yeoman Warders, which were founded in 1485 by Henry VII, currently live on the tower site with their families, but must still pay living expenses such as rent. 

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