Yeomen of the Guard

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The Queen's Body Guard of the Yeomen of the Guard
Badge of the Yeomen of the Guard.svg
Badge of the Yeomen of the Guard
CountryUnited Kingdom
TypeDismounted bodyguard
RoleRoyal Body Guard
SizeOne company sized formation
Part ofSovereign's Bodyguard
MarchMen of Harlech
EngagementsBoulogne, Boyne, Dettingen
Colonel in ChiefHM The Queen
CaptainThe Earl of Courtown[1]
Collar BadgeRose, Thistle and Shamrock

The Queen's Body Guard of the Yeomen of the Guard are a bodyguard of the British Monarch. The oldest British military corps still in existence, it was created by King Henry VII in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth Field. As a token of this venerability, the Yeomen still wear red and gold uniforms of Tudor period. There are 60 Yeomen of the Guard (plus six officers), drawn from retired members of the British Army, Royal Marines and Royal Air Force, but traditionally not the Royal Navy.[2] This ban on Royal Navy Personnel was lifted in 2011 and two sailors joined the ranks of the Yeomen of the Guard. However, the role of the Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard is a political appointment — the captain is always the government Deputy Chief Whip in the House of Lords.


Yeoman of the Guard of the reign of Queen Elizabeth the First

Today, the Yeomen of the Guard have a purely ceremonial role. Armed with a sword and an ornamental partizan,[3] they accompany the sovereign and are in attendance at various occasions such as at the annual royal maundy service, investitures, garden parties at Buckingham Palace, and so on. One of their most famous duties is to 'ceremonially' search the cellars of the Palace of Westminster prior to the opening of parliament, a tradition that dates back to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, when Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up Parliament. In modern times officers from the Metropolitan Police carry out a more sophisticated additional search.[4][5]

In the eighteenth century some 40 Yeomen were on duty daily, and 20 at night. This stopped in 1813, and thereafter only one division was required daily until about 1837. Today they are only mustered when required, and receive some three weeks duty notice in advance. They are active on some 30 occasions yearly, so each division appears for some 6–8 days a year.

The Yeomen of the Guard, the original "Beefeaters", are often confused with the Yeomen Warders of Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London, who are also known as "Beefeaters", a similar but distinct body. Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta, The Yeomen of the Guard (1888), is set in the 16th century, an earlier era before the two corps were split apart; it concerns what are today the Yeomen Warders.[6] The Yeoman Warders wear their daily "undress" and only on ceremonial occasions wear the Yeomen of the Guard's distinctive uniform that consists of a royal red tunic with purple facings and stripes and gold lace ornaments, red knee-breeches and red stockings, flat hat, and black shoes with red, white and blue rosettes. The gold-embroidered emblems on the back and front of the coats consist of the crowned Tudor Rose, the shamrock and the thistle, the motto Dieu et mon droit, and the royal cypher of the reigning sovereign (currently ER for "Elizabeth Regina"). The item of uniform that distinguished The Yeomen of the Guard from the Tower Warders is the red cross-belt that every man and woman of the Body Guard wears with great pride.


Yeomen of the Guard in the procession to the annual service of the Order of the Garter at Windsor Castle

The current Guard is the size of a small company in the British Army, and is divided into three "Divisions", approximately equivalent in size to a platoon. The Guard has six officers and 67 other ranks.[7] The senior officer is the Captain, which is a political appointment. Ranking below the Captain is the Lieutenant, the Clerk of the Cheque and Adjutant, the Ensign and two Exons, all of whom are required to have achieved a rank of at least Major (or equivalent).[8]

There are three senior non-commissioned officers ranked as Messenger Sergeant-Major; the Senior Messenger Sergeant Major and Wardrobe Keeper is responsible for HQ administration, and correspondence, and has a MSM as a deputy. Each division has its own Divisional Sergeant-Major, a Yeoman Bed Hanger and Yeoman Bed Goer, which derive from when the Guard also acted as personal servants to the King. The lowest rank in the Guard is Yeoman, which form the bulk of the strength.


On appointment, they must have at least reached the rank of sergeant or equivalent. They must also have had at least 22 years' service and have been awarded the Army, Royal Navy or RAF Long Service and Good Conduct Medal (LS&GCM). On reaching the age of 70 years they become supernumerary and are no longer called for service. There are an average of four vacancies a year, which are filled by the Lord Chamberlain, who recommends the names to the Sovereign. The average age of active members is perhaps 60 years. Yeomen of the Queen's Body Guard receive expenses for meals and overnight accommodation where necessary.


Traditionally, the corps carried a standard, in the manner of army regiments. The corps' first standard was supposedly destroyed in a fire at St James's Palace in 1809. King George VI presented a replacement standard to the corps in 1938. This was replaced by a new standard presented by Queen Elizabeth II in 1985.

The standard is a crimson-coloured damask – in the centre is the corps' badge of a combined rose, thistle and shamrock, with the royal cypher of the reigning monarch either side, and the royal motto Dieu et mon Droit below. Either side of this device are ribbons containing two of the corps' battle honours, Tournai and Boulogne. In each corner are symbols representing the various royal houses that the corps has served:

Battle honours[edit]

Honours in bold are displayed on the corps' standard.


  1. ^ Government Whips Office Retrieved 26 July 2017. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ "The Queen and the Armed Forces". The Royal Household. Retrieved 10 April 2015.
  3. ^ "Yeoman Warders". 19 August 2014. Retrieved 7 December 2016.
  4. ^ "Queen's Speech 2012: the pomp and ceremony". Daily Telegraph. 9 May 2012. Retrieved 9 May 2012.
  5. ^ "SO17 Palace of Westminster". Metropolitan Police Service. Retrieved 9 May 2012.
  6. ^ Minney, Rubeigh James (1970) The Tower of London, Cassell, London. ISBN 0304934283
  7. ^ "Yeomen of the Guard". Retrieved 9 April 2019.
  8. ^ "The Officers". Yeomen of the Guard. 13 July 2011. Retrieved 23 November 2015.

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