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Yeomen of the Guard

Yeomen of the Guard

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For the Gilbert and Sullivan
Gilbert and Sullivan
Gilbert and Sullivan refers to the Victorian-era theatrical partnership of the librettist W. S. Gilbert and the composer Arthur Sullivan . The two men collaborated on fourteen comic operas between 1871 and 1896, of which H.M.S...

 opera, see The Yeomen of the Guard
The Yeomen of the Guard
The Yeomen of the Guard; or, The Merryman and His Maid, is a Savoy Opera, with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert. It premiered at the Savoy Theatre on 3 October 1888, and ran for 423 performances...



The Queen's Body Guard of the Yeomen of the Guard are a bodyguard
Sovereign's Bodyguard
Sovereign's Bodyguard is the name given to three ceremonial units in the United Kingdom who are tasked with guarding the Sovereign. These units are:*Her Majesty's Bodyguard of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen at Arms - formed 1509...

 of the British Monarch. The oldest British military corps still in existence, it was created by Henry VII
Henry VII of England
Henry VII was King of England and Lord of Ireland from his seizing the crown on 22 August 1485 until his death on 21 April 1509, as the first monarch of the House of Tudor....

 in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth Field
Battle of Bosworth Field
The Battle of Bosworth Field was the penultimate battle of the Wars of the Roses, the civil war between the House of Lancaster and the House of York that raged across England in the latter half of the 15th century. Fought on 22 August 1485, the battle was won by the Lancastrians...

. As a token of this venerability, the Yeomen still wear red and gold uniforms of Tudor
Tudor period
The Tudor period usually refers to the period between 1485 and 1603, specifically in relation to the history of England. This coincides with the rule of the Tudor dynasty in England whose first monarch was Henry VII...

 style. There are 60 Yeomen of the Guard (plus 6 Officers), drawn from retired members of the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

, Royal Marines
Royal Marines
The Corps of Her Majesty's Royal Marines, commonly just referred to as the Royal Marines , are the marine corps and amphibious infantry of the United Kingdom and, along with the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary, form the Naval Service...

 and Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

, but not the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

, because while members of the other services take oaths to the Crown, members of the Navy take an oath to the Admiralty
Admiralty
The Admiralty was formerly the authority in the Kingdom of England, and later in the United Kingdom, responsible for the command of the Royal Navy...

. However, the role of the Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard
Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard
The Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard is a UK government post usually held by the Government Deputy Chief Whip in the House of Lords...

 is a political appointment — the Captain is always the government Deputy Chief Whip in the House of Lords
House of Lords
The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster....

.

The Yeomen of the Guard have a purely ceremonial role. They accompany the Sovereign at the annual Royal Maundy Service
Maundy money
Royal Maundy is a religious service in the Church of England held on Maundy Thursday, the day before Good Friday. At the service, the British Monarch or a royal official ceremonially distributes small silver coins known as "Maundy money" as symbolic alms to elderly recipients...

, investitures and summer Garden Parties at Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace, in London, is the principal residence and office of the British monarch. Located in the City of Westminster, the palace is a setting for state occasions and royal hospitality...

, and so on. However, their most famous duty is to 'ceremonially' search the cellars of the Palace of Westminster
Palace of Westminster
The Palace of Westminster, also known as the Houses of Parliament or Westminster Palace, is the meeting place of the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom—the House of Lords and the House of Commons...

 prior to the State Opening of Parliament
State Opening of Parliament
In the United Kingdom, the State Opening of Parliament is an annual event that marks the commencement of a session of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It is held in the House of Lords Chamber, usually in November or December or, in a general election year, when the new Parliament first assembles...

, a tradition that dates back to the Gunpowder Plot
Gunpowder Plot
The Gunpowder Plot of 1605, in earlier centuries often called the Gunpowder Treason Plot or the Jesuit Treason, was a failed assassination attempt against King James I of England and VI of Scotland by a group of provincial English Catholics led by Robert Catesby.The plan was to blow up the House of...

 of 1605, when Guy Fawkes
Guy Fawkes
Guy Fawkes , also known as Guido Fawkes, the name he adopted while fighting for the Spanish in the Low Countries, belonged to a group of provincial English Catholics who planned the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605.Fawkes was born and educated in York...

 attempted to blow up Parliament. (Today, officers from the Metropolitan Police
Metropolitan Police Service
The Metropolitan Police Service is the territorial police force responsible for Greater London, excluding the "square mile" of the City of London which is the responsibility of the City of London Police...

 carry out the actual 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 Yeoman appears for some 6–8 days a year.

All Yeomen are over 42 years of age on appointment, and under 55 years. They must be sergeants or above, but not commissioned. They must also have had at least 22 years' service and have been awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal (LS&GCM). On reaching the age of 70 years they become supernumerary
Supernumerary
A Supernumerary is an additional member of an organization. A supernumerary is also a non-regular member of a staff, a member of the staff or an employee who works in a public office who is not part of the manpower complement...

 and no longer are called for service. There are an average of four vacancies a year, which are filled by the Lord Chamberlain
Lord Chamberlain
The Lord Chamberlain or Lord Chamberlain of the Household is one of the chief officers of the Royal Household in the United Kingdom and is to be distinguished from the Lord Great Chamberlain, one of the Great Officers of State....

, who recommends the names to the Sovereign
Monarch
A monarch is the person who heads a monarchy. This is a form of government in which a state or polity is ruled or controlled by an individual who typically inherits the throne by birth and occasionally rules for life or until abdication...

. 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.

The dress worn by the Yeomen of the Guard is in its most striking characteristics the same as it was in the Tudor period
Tudor period
The Tudor period usually refers to the period between 1485 and 1603, specifically in relation to the history of England. This coincides with the rule of the Tudor dynasty in England whose first monarch was Henry VII...

. It consists of a royal red tunic with purple facings and stripes and gold lace ornaments, together with a red cross-belt, red knee-breeches and red stockings, flat hat, and black shoes with red, white and blue rosettes are worn. The gold-embroidered emblems on the back and front of the coats consist of the crowned Tudor Rose
Tudor rose
The Tudor Rose is the traditional floral heraldic emblem of England and takes its name and origins from the Tudor dynasty.-Origins:...

, the shamrock
Shamrock
The shamrock is a three-leafed old white clover. It is known as a symbol of Ireland. The name shamrock is derived from Irish , which is the diminutive version of the Irish word for clover ....

 and the thistle
Thistle
Thistle is the common name of a group of flowering plants characterised by leaves with sharp prickles on the margins, mostly in the family Asteraceae. Prickles often occur all over the plant – on surfaces such as those of the stem and flat parts of leaves. These are an adaptation that protects the...

, the motto "Dieu et mon droit
Dieu et mon droit
Dieu et mon droit is the motto of the British Monarch in England. It appears on a scroll beneath the shield of the coat of arms of the United Kingdom...

", and the "regal" initial of the reigning sovereign (currently ER for "Elizabeth Regina"). It is the red cross-belt that distinguishes the Yeomen of the Guard from the Yeomen Warders
Yeomen Warders
The Yeomen Warders of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London, and Members of the Sovereign's Body Guard of the Yeoman of the Guard Extraordinary, popularly known as the Beefeaters, are ceremonial guardians of the Tower of London...

.

The Senior Messenger Sergeant Major and Wardrobe Keeper lives in a house in St James's Palace, where he is responsible for HQ administration, and correspondence. The Messenger Sergeant Major is his deputy. There are four divisions, First, Second, Third, and Fourth. Each has a Divisional Sergeant Major, Yeoman
Yeoman
Yeoman refers chiefly to a free man owning his own farm, especially from the Elizabethan era to the 17th century. Work requiring a great deal of effort or labor, such as would be done by a yeoman farmer, came to be described as "yeoman's work"...

 Bed Goer, Yeoman
Yeoman
Yeoman refers chiefly to a free man owning his own farm, especially from the Elizabethan era to the 17th century. Work requiring a great deal of effort or labor, such as would be done by a yeoman farmer, came to be described as "yeoman's work"...

 Bed Hanger, and 13 Yeomen.

The Yeomen of the Guard are often confused with the Yeomen Warders
Yeomen Warders
The Yeomen Warders of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London, and Members of the Sovereign's Body Guard of the Yeoman of the Guard Extraordinary, popularly known as the Beefeaters, are ceremonial guardians of the Tower of London...

 of the Tower of London
Tower of London
Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress, more commonly known as the Tower of London, is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London, England. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the City of London by the open space...

, popularly known as "Beefeaters", a similar but distinct body. Gilbert and Sullivan appeared to share this confusion when they wrote their operetta.

Standard


Traditionally, the corps carried a standard
Colours, standards and guidons
In military organizations, the practice of carrying colours, standards or Guidons, both to act as a rallying point for troops and to mark the location of the commander, is thought to have originated in Ancient Egypt some 5,000 years ago...

, 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
George VI of the United Kingdom
George VI was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth from 11 December 1936 until his death...

 presented a replacement standard to the corps in 1938. This was replaced by a new standard presented by Queen Elizabeth II
Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom
Elizabeth II is the constitutional monarch of 16 sovereign states known as the Commonwealth realms: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize,...

 in 1985.

The standard is a crimson coloured damask
Damask
Damask is a reversible figured fabric of silk, wool, linen, cotton, or synthetic fibers, with a pattern formed by weaving. Damasks are woven with one warp yarn and one weft yarn, usually with the pattern in warp-faced satin weave and the ground in weft-faced or sateen weave...

 - 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
Dieu et mon droit
Dieu et mon droit is the motto of the British Monarch in England. It appears on a scroll beneath the shield of the coat of arms of the United Kingdom...

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
    Henry VII of England
    Henry VII was King of England and Lord of Ireland from his seizing the crown on 22 August 1485 until his death on 21 April 1509, as the first monarch of the House of Tudor....

     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
    Thistle
    Thistle is the common name of a group of flowering plants characterised by leaves with sharp prickles on the margins, mostly in the family Asteraceae. Prickles often occur all over the plant – on surfaces such as those of the stem and flat parts of leaves. These are an adaptation that protects the...

    , representing King James I and the personal union of England
    England
    England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

     and Scotland
    Scotland
    Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

    .
  • Bottom left: a white horse
    Horse
    The horse is one of two extant subspecies of Equus ferus, or the wild horse. It is a single-hooved mammal belonging to the taxonomic family Equidae. The horse has evolved over the past 45 to 55 million years from a small multi-toed creature into the large, single-toed animal of today...

     on a green mound surmounted by the crown, representing the House of Hanover.
  • Bottom right: the Round Tower of Windsor Castle
    Windsor Castle
    Windsor Castle is a medieval castle and royal residence in Windsor in the English county of Berkshire, notable for its long association with the British royal family and its architecture. The original castle was built after the Norman invasion by William the Conqueror. Since the time of Henry I it...

     crowned, representing the House of Windsor.

Battle honours

  • Field of Stoke, 1487
  • Boulogne, 1492
  • Blackheath, 1497
  • Tournai, 1514
  • Boulogne
    Siege of Boulogne
    There were two sieges of Boulogne, in the Pas-de-Calais, during the Italian War of 1542–1546. Boulogne was fortified and defended as an English possession on the French mainland between 14 September 1544 and March 1550.- First siege :...

    , 1544
  • Boyne
    Battle of the Boyne
    The Battle of the Boyne was fought in 1690 between two rival claimants of the English, Scottish and Irish thronesthe Catholic King James and the Protestant King William across the River Boyne near Drogheda on the east coast of Ireland...

    , 1690
  • Dettingen
    Battle of Dettingen
    The Battle of Dettingen took place on 27 June 1743 at Dettingen in Bavaria during the War of the Austrian Succession. It was the last time that a British monarch personally led his troops into battle...

    , 1743
Honours in bold are displayed on the corps' standard.

Ranks


An exon is one of the officers rank in the Yeomen of the Guard.

The first mention of Exon is in the ceremony of All Nights, which is fully described in the chapter relating to Charles II. They were added to the staff of officers in 1668 just about the time when Marsham’s account of All Night was written.
The derivation and meaning of the word Exon has been and is a puzzle to many, but it is undoubtedly the French pronunciation of the word exempt. An exempt was an officer in the old French Garde Du Corps. “Exempts des Guedes du Corps” are described in a military dictionary as “Exons belonging to the Body Guards,” There was in France an officer of police called “Un Exempt (exon) de Police.”
When Charles II formed his Horse Guards he created a commissioned officer who was styled indiscriminately the exempt or the Exon, and in each of the two troops this officer ranked with the Captain. There is further confusion connected with the title of Exon, for in his commission he is styled corporal. But it appears that in Elizabeth’s reign “corporal” was a commissioned officer, and the term was synonymous with Captain.
Down to the time of the Coronation of George III, which took place on 22 September 1761, corporal was only another word for Exon, as may be seen on referring to the official programme of the Coronation, wherein mention is made of “the Corporals or Exons of the Yeomen of the Guard.” The exempt in the French Garde du corps always had charge of the Night Watch, and the Exon is the English Body Guard was especially appointed for that service.
Curiously enough the word Exempt is also used in the orders of the Yeomen of the Guard with its English meaning.

External links