Yeomen of the Guard
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|The Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard|
Badge of the Yeomen of the Guard
|Size||One company sized formation|
|Part of||Sovereign's Bodyguard|
|March||Men of Harlech|
|Engagements||Boulogne, Boyne, Dettingen|
|Colonel in Chief||HM The Queen|
|Captain||The Lord Gardiner of Kimble|
|Collar Badge||Rose, 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 Henry VII in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth. As a token of this venerability, the Yeomen still wear red and gold uniforms of Tudor style. There are 60 Yeomen of the Guard (plus 6 Officers), drawn from retired members of the British Army, Royal Marines and Royal Air Force, but traditionally not the Royal Navy. This ban on Royal Navy Personnel was lifted in 2011 and 2 Sailors joined the ranks of the Yeomen of the Guard. However, the role of the Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard is a political appointment — the Captain is always the government Deputy Chief Whip in the House of Lords.
Today the Yeomen of the Guard have a purely ceremonial role. Armed with a Wilkinson sword and an ornamental partizan, they accompany the Sovereign at the annual Royal Maundy Service, investitures and summer Garden Parties at Buckingham Palace, and so on. However, their most famous duty is to 'ceremonially' search the cellars of the Palace of Westminster prior to the State 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.
In the eighteenth century some 40 Yeomen were on duty daily, and 20 at night. This only ceased 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 are often confused with the Yeomen Warders of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London, popularly 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. Both bodies wear identical dress uniforms, consisting 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 "regal" initial of the reigning sovereign (currently ER for "Elizabeth Regina"). However, the Guard wear a red cross-belt, which distinguishes them from the Yeomen Warders.
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 a total of six officers. 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).
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 pair of MSMs as deputies. Each division has its own Divisional Sergeant-Major, plus pair of junior NCOs, the 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.
All Yeomen are over 42 years of age on appointment, and under 55 years. 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 no longer are 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 are (or were) exempt from jury service, received return railway warrants, and an allowance 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' 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 initials 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:
- Top left: a crowned hawthorn bush and the letters HR, representing King Henry VII and the legend that the crown was discovered by the guard in a hawthorn bush following the Battle of Bosworth.
- Top right: a crowned thistle, representing King James I and the personal union of England and Scotland.
- Bottom left: a white horse on a green mound surmounted by the crown, representing the House of Hanover.
- Bottom right: the Round Tower of Windsor Castle crowned, representing the House of Windsor.
- Field of Stoke, 1487
- Boulogne, 1492
- Blackheath, 1497
- Tournai 1514
- Boulogne, 1544
- Boyne, 1690
- Dettingen, 1743
- Honours in bold are displayed on the corps' standard.
- "The Queen and the Armed Forces". The Royal Household. Retrieved 10 Apr 2015.
- "Queen's Speech 2012: the pomp and ceremony". Daily Telegraph. 9 May 2012. Retrieved 9 May 2012.
- "SO17 Palace of Westminster". Metropolitan Police Service. Retrieved 9 May 2012.
- Minney, Rubeigh James (1970) The Tower of London, Cassell, London. ISBN 0304934283
- "The Officers". Yeomen of the Guard. 13 July 2011. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
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