Woman Joins the Tower of London's Beefeaters

The Tower of London, a bastion of British history and male guardianship since the Norman conquest in 1066, bows to the 21st century and allows its first woman to join the Yeoman Warders of the Tower — commonly known as Beefeaters.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

The Tower of London has been a bastion, literally, of British history for nearly 1,000 years. And it has always been a very male bastion. Its guards -traditionally known as Beefeaters - have always been men. Today, though, the tower welcomed the first female Beefeater to the ranks.

NPR's Rob Gifford reports from London.

ROB GIFFORD: Perhaps no building in London is so symbolic of the city as the Tower of London. Built by William the Conqueror shortly after the Norman Invasion of England in 1066, it served as both palace and prison through the years. And perhaps there are no more symbolic Londoners than the Yeomen Warders of the Tower, commonly known as Beefeaters, because over the centuries they were always so well-fed when the common people had no meat to eat.

Today, a 42-year-old Scotswoman, Moira Cameron, met the press in her distinctive red and blue uniform as she began her new job bringing girl power to the tower for the first time.

Ms. MOIRA CAMERON (Yeomen Warder, Tower of London): You're steeped in history every single day and you feel it when it's quiet and there's nobody else around. You actually feel as if you've been transported back in time where trespassing it is quite a strange feeling, but it's not uncomfortable. Not uncomfortable at all. Fabulous - fabulously.

GIFFORD: All Beefeaters must have served for 22 years in the military. Cameron, who joined the army age 20, is no exception. She said the most daunting part of the job was just learning the history. While the warders' role was originally to provide security for the tower and to guard its famous captives from Henry VIII's wife Anne Boleyn to German spies in World War II, they now spend most of their days acting as tour guides to visitors.

Today, Moira Cameron was the main attraction herself with tourists waiting to be photographed with her - the first Yeowoman of the guard.

Rob Gifford, NPR News, London.

BLOCK: And Moira Cameron says that so far only one visitor has expressed unhappiness with her appointment. In response, she said I'd like to thank you for dismissing my 22 years of loyal service to Her Majesty's services.

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