Women faced their share of trouble at the Tower of London, including three queens who were beheaded there.
But treachery has long been considered a thing of the past at the notorious 11th century fortress. At least until now.
If charges made Monday are true, the Tower - a popular tourist attraction and home to Britain's Crown Jewels - will add bullying to the list of foul deeds committed there. The victim: the first woman selected to join the all-male ranks of the Tower's yeoman warders, popularly known as "Beefeaters."
Moira Cameron - a veteran of long military service - was named a
warder at the Tower two years ago. Hers was supposed to be a happy
story about how a bastion of male supremacy could become a place
where women, too, could serve queen and country.
On Monday, embarrassed Tower officials conceded that Cameron had
apparently been subjected to a campaign of bullying and harassment
conducted by some of her resentful male colleagues. They said two
male warders have been suspended and a third is under investigation
for suspected harassment of Cameron.
A statement released by the Tower of London said harassment
among its staff was "totally unacceptable" and that an internal
investigation started last week as soon as the allegations were
The bullying allegations are an unpleasant wrinkle in what had
been a generally popular move to bring women into traditionally
male military roles.
The 35 warders, all ex-military personnel, guide visitors around
the tourist attraction, which houses numerous items of incalculable
In the Tower's earliest days, warders were used to monitor and
occasionally torture high profile prisoners kept in the Tower,
which was founded by King William I in 1066. Its history includes
the executions of queens Catherine Howard and Anne Boleyn, both
wives of Henry VIII, and Lady Jane Grey, known as "the nine days
They are called Beefeaters, mostly because of the extra rations
of meat they were given during medieval times.
Their brightly colored Tudor-style uniforms are part of the
picture-postcard London that often enchants visitors from around
the world. Cameron's introduction to the exclusive service went
relatively smoothly, as far as the public could discern, but some
tensions were present right from the start.
Cameron, with military experience both in Cyprus and Northern
Ireland, said when her appointment was announced that some of her
colleagues resented her presence.
"I've had some comments," she said at the time. "I had one
chap at the gate one day who said he was completely and utterly
against me doing the job."
Her reply was quick and piercing: "I said to him, 'I would like
to thank you for dismissing my 22 years' service in her majesty's
But she seemed thrilled with her job, telling The Associated
Press of the joys of giving historical tours and describing the
Tower as a wonderful place to work.
Simmering tensions were kept behind the fortress walls until
Monday, when the Sun newspaper reported that Cameron's uniform had
been defaced and that "nasty" notes had been left in her locker.
In addition, the newspaper said that Cameron's entry in the
online encyclopedia known as Wikipedia had been defaced as part of
the campaign against her.
Tower spokeswoman Ruth Howlett said she could not confirm the
details cited in the newspaper report or elaborate on the reported
harassment. She said the inquiry began after a staff member
complained and that Cameron was still on active duty.
Cameron was nowhere to be seen in the Tower grounds Monday. Her
fellow Beefeaters went about business as usually entertaining
tourists with tales of treason and beheadings, while others posed
genially for photographs with families.
One Beefeater reacted warily when asked about the bullying
reports, replying curtly that they were not allowed to speak about
A lone soldier stood guard as usual outside the row of small
houses home to the warders and their families - described as a
"close-knit community" by a Tower statement.
Scotland Yard confirmed Monday that a 56-year-old man had been
reprimanded about improper use of the Internet. Details were not
disclosed, but it was believed this man is the third warder being
investigated for alleged harassment.
The revelations did not appear to bother visitors to the Tower.
"There's always teasing in the army," said Miles Gurrin, a
frequent visitor. "The army is known for this sort of thing. It's
not as if she is an outsider. She served in the army for 22 years,
so she is one of them."
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