THE Tower of London’s iconic Beefeaters face the axe for the first time in 500 years — because of coronavirus.
The 37 Yeoman Warders have been told redundancies are looming after visitor numbers collapsed, leaving a huge hole in finances.
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John Barnes, head of the Historic Royal Palaces charity that runs the Tower and other attractions, said: “We are heartbroken that it has come to this.
“We simply have no choice but to reduce our payroll costs.”
The 37 Yeoman Warders, who guard the Crown Jewels, are military veterans with at least 22 years’ service.
They live inside the Tower’s grounds with their families.
It is believed to be the first time the Yeoman Warders, nicknamed Beefeaters, have faced job cuts since they were formed by Henry VII in 1485.
The charity has warned them of compulsory redundancies.
A Tower insider said: “It is an unprecedented situation.
“The Yeoman Warders are valued staff and we have been forced into this position out of circumstance rather than choice.
“Should any Yeoman Warders be made redundant, we will put measures in place to ensure they have a smooth transition out of the Tower and have the necessary notice periods.”
The Tower re-opened on July 10 after almost four months closed during lockdown.
At least two Beefeaters have taken voluntary redundancy but it is feared more will follow.
A source said: “It’s outrageous. They have donated their lives to this country and they are being tossed on the scrap heap,
“All the Beefeaters are really cheesed off about the way they are being treated. They help make millions for this country. Presidents, film stars, tourists — they all come to have their selfies with them.
“Now they are surrounded by these university types who only seem to be there to cut costs.”
In 2019 the Tower, once infamous as the place where the monarch’s enemies were executed, attracted three million visitors.
That made it the UK’s most popular paid-for attraction, with two thirds of visitors coming from overseas.
The Beefeaters, paid £24,000 a year, include raven master Chris Skaife.
He is responsible for the Tower’s six ravens. According to legend, the kingdom faces disaster if the ravens ever leave.
Historic Royal Palaces employs 1,100 people across six sites, including Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace and Banqueting House. All of those areas are at risk of redundancies.
Chief executive Mr Barnes got almost £190,000 in pay and pension contributions last year.
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