British Queen celebrates

The Tower of London, standing for nine centuries as a beacon of history and intrigue, beckons over 3 million visitors yearly. Amidst the ancient corridors, the Crown Jewels' splendor, and the

watchful ravens, there lies a hidden gem - London's most exclusive pub, The Keys.

At first glance, The Keys appears as any beloved British pub, adorned with leather seats, wooden tables, and an intricately designed carpet. Yet, its regal ambiance is unmistakable, housing relics like a 16th-century ceremonial ax and cabinets showcasing the distinctive attire of the Yeoman Warder guards.

Managed by the Tower's 35 serving Yeomen Warders, nicknamed "Beefeaters," the pub is an enclave solely accessible to them and their guests. Nestled within the Tower's quarters, alongside residences, a doctor's office, and a chapel, The Keys embodies a village-like essence—a sanctuary where the community celebrates, relaxes, and supports noble causes.

Robin Fuller, the chief of the Yeoman body, highlights the pub's role as a community hub and a fundraising platform, supporting lesser-known organizations. The tradition of exclusive drinks, like Beefeater Bitter and Yeoman 1485, upholds a historic agreement with Marston’s brewery.

The legacy of The Keys intertwines with Tower lore, echoing the Yeoman toast, "May you never die a Yeoman Warder." Once, retiring guards could sell their positions, but now, honor and service distinguish Yeomen Warders.

Evolved from guarding the Tower and its treasures, today's Yeomen engage with enthusiastic tourists, leading guided tours and sharing the fortress's history. Clive Towell, a Yeoman Gaoler, cherishes the Tower's interactions with diverse visitors, emphasizing mutual learning.

Though traditions persist, modernization marks their evolution. Ceremonial uniforms, notably the "reds," retain historical significance during state occasions, while the familiar "Blue Undress" represents a modern adaptation.

Amidst these customs, rituals like the Ceremony of the Keys, a 740-year-old tradition symbolizing the Tower's secure closure, endure. The vigilant upkeep includes the royal decree to keep six ravens within the Tower’s grounds, safeguarding against an ancient prophecy.

Chris Skaife, the Yeoman Ravenmaster, tends to these guardians, preserving centuries-old superstitions that tie the Tower's fate to the presence of these enigmatic birds.

Within the Tower's walls, where history meets contemporary duty, The Keys stands as an emblem of exclusivity and continuity, weaving together the legacy of the past with the vitality of the present. Photo by Matt Brown from London, England, Wikimedia commons.