Moira Cameron is a Yeoman Warder of the Tower of London, popularly known as a Beefeater, and she became the first woman to hold the position in July 2007. Yeoman Warders are the Guardians of the Tower and their duties include looking after the visitors and performing guided tours, as well as guarding the Crown Jewels, performing the Ceremony of the Keys and looking after the Ravens. Moira was not the first woman to apply for the job but she was the first to offered a position.
“…Be yourself – don’t change who you are to try and fit in. After all, it is ‘you’ who will get ‘you’ there and look at yourself in the mirror. Every morning smile and tell yourself you are good enough…”
Moira, please can you tell us about your career to date and what made you want to become a Beefeater?
I joined the Army in 1985 and completed my 22 years’ service in June 2007. I reached the rank of Warrant Officer Class 2 and had already received my Long Service and Good Conduct Medal these are the minimum requirements to apply for the position of a Yeoman Warder at the Tower.
I was interviewed in December 2006 and was formally offered the position in January 2007 and I started the job in July. During my time in the Army I had never been posted in London and I really wanted to do the job because it sounded so fascinating, working in such an iconic place surrounded by nearly 1000 years of history is such an honour.
What does your role involve on a day to day basis?
Before we open for the day we ensure that all the public areas are fit for our visitors. During our opening hours we love to interact with the people from all over the world that choose to visit our Palace, but on a more serious note we are the Guardians so we are also responsible for security on the ground too.
We have on average about 2.75 million visitors to the Tower over the year and nearly 4 million across all the other sites that Historic Royal Palaces looks after, the independent charity that cares for these historic buildings.
What are the best parts of the job?
For me it’s the people who visit the Tower, finding some time to chat and learn a little about them. Also the extraordinary stories that the buildings and their history allow us to share these are the real joys of my job.
As part of the Tower’s World Heritage status we must also maintain the living fortress, which means that we live here, and I love to tell our visitors that I must be a princess as I live in a Royal Palace – that normally elicits a laugh.
What did it mean to you to become the first female Beefeater?
To tell you the truth I didn’t really comprehend the enormity of it and was caught completely off guard, but it is such an honour to hold the position and I try to do it justice as it has a responsibility that shouldn’t be taken too lightly.
How have you had to overcome gender stereotyping to succeed in your role?
The majority of the comments you get from the public are from people who already know that I am at the Tower, but you still find people who are quite surprised and you get: “Oh, you’re a woman! I thought they were all men.” But I remind them of the entry criteria and tell them that women have been in our Armed Forces for many years. I don’t make a fuss, just allow them to see it from a different angle.
What can we all do (men and women) to challenge gender stereotyping?
What is your advice for women and girls who are looking to follow their dreams and break down gender stereotypes at school and in the workplace?
Achievable dreams should always be followed. Find an ally at work and surround yourself with people who will support and encourage you, and steer well clear of people who don’t.
Be yourself – don’t change who you are to try and fit in. After all, it is ‘you’ who will get ‘you’ there and look at yourself in the mirror. Every morning smile and tell yourself you are good enough.
What is coming up next for you and your work at the Tower of London?
This week will see the Installation of our 160th Constable, General Sir Nicholas Houghton, who is the Monarch’s representative in Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress. This is a rare ceremony as it normally only happens every five years, so we are all looking forward to it.
Earlier this year I was part of a small production team that hosted, Live at the Tower – a two-night musical extravaganza with a host of West End and TV stars and Palaces staff contributing to a fundraising event for the Chapel of St John the Evangelist in the magnificent White Tower.
It was so successful that we want to do a similar event as we are also about to embark on a four year project to conserve 4/5 Tower Green. These are two early 17th century buildings situated at the heart of the Fortress and will focus on telling the story of the Tower community, in particular the Yeoman Warders, that has been at the Tower for nearly 1000 years.
It is with pride that I can say I play a small part in the conservation of the Palace. I still consider myself incredibly lucky.