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Reinventing the Tower Beefeater in the nineteenth century

Martin, Janette (2013) Reinventing the Tower Beefeater in the nineteenth century. History, 98 (333). pp. 730-749. ISSN 0018-2648

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This article investigates the representation of the nation through a group of real people, exploring how the romantic figure of the Beefeater became entwined with ideas of national identity. It begins with the reforms introduced by the Duke of Wellington whose appointment as Constable of the Tower of London in 1826 led to sweeping reforms of the Body of Yeoman Warders (popularly known as Beefeaters) who had fallen into disarray after years of neglect and mismanagement. It looks beyond the late 1820s to consider how the Beefeater’s appeal was consolidated during the later nineteenth century, in particular, how increased tourism and the growing depiction of Yeoman Warders in fiction, art, and music impacted upon popular perceptions of the Beefeater. So much so that by the closing decades of the nineteenth century, the reinvention of the Beefeater as a patriotic icon was complete. The article is concerned not only with representation of the warder but also how the Beefeater himself helped to construct his own identity. As a living embodiment of the past the Beefeater, via his verbal commentary and participation in the Tower’s rich ceremonial life, actively shaped his own image. This research contributes to the debates surrounding the ‘invention of tradition’ and ‘democratic royalism’ and popular narratives of the past.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Schools: School of Music, Humanities and Media
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Depositing User: Janette Martin
Date Deposited: 02 Apr 2013 14:10
Last Modified: 28 Aug 2021 11:27


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