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November 3, 2009

Scandal at Tower of London Over Treatment of Female Beefeater


For centuries, the jailers at the Tower of London known as Beefeaters had a grim reputation. Guarding three Tudor queens who were beheaded and dispatching numerous others who had fallen afoul of royal favor to the gallows or the scaffold, they helped make the tower's bloodstained history.

After about 500 years of service, the last century as a ceremonial yeomanry, that bill of attainder must now be expanded to include the more modern offense of misogyny, according to a report published in the Sun newspaper on Monday and confirmed, in part at least, by Scotland Yard.

The newspaper reported that three of the tower's current guard of male Beefeaters are under investigation for possibly bullying Moira Cameron, the first woman named to their ranks.

The Sun said her uniform had been defaced, ''nasty'' notes left in her locker and her entry in the online encyclopedia Wikipedia tampered with in a derogatory fashion. Tower officials confirmed that two Beefeaters had been suspended and a third investigated by Scotland Yard, where a spokesman said ''a 56-year-old man'' had received a formal caution for ''inappropriate use of the Internet.''

Ms. Cameron, a 44-year-old retired army warrant officer from Scotland, was named to the guard in 2007 as part of an effort by Britain's military to integrate women into previously all-male units. She had qualified like all candidates by serving a stipulated 22 years in the British forces, and won her position in competition with five male candidates

The £20,000-a-year appointment -- $40,000 at the time -- made front-page news accompanied by photos of a beaming Ms. Cameron gripping the cloche hat that is part of the Beefeaters' day-to-day, Tudor-era uniform of dark blue with red trimmings.

In interviews, the new Beefeater, one woman alongside 34 men, described the job as ''magical.''

The Beefeaters' privileges include subsidized apartments in the tower, a forbidding 11th-century fortress beside the Thames. Their duties include guarding the crown jewels, performing a daily ritual known as the Ceremony of the Keys, and giving tours.

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