Debra Whittingham is Deputy Governor at HM Tower of London. As well as her duties as Head of Operations and Security, Debra plays a key role in some of the Tower’s oldest ceremonies.
After 31 years in the Royal Navy and five years working with the Confederation of Service Charities, I now find myself in a ‘surreal’ but privileged position as Deputy Governor at HM Tower of London, and one of my first official duties on Monday will be officiating at the Ceremony of the Dues.
This ceremony dates back to 1381 when King Richard II issued a grant that set out in detail what he believed to be a fair list of tolls, one of which required that every ‘galley’ passing the Tower should present ‘two roundlets of wyne’ to the Constable. It also established the right of the Lieutenant of the Tower to extract these tolls in the absence of the Constable, which is what will occur on Monday.
So why does it feel surreal? In 1989-1992, I was a young female Lieutenant based at HMS PRESIDENT as Assistant Naval Liaison Officer in London, arranging visits of all Royal Naval and Foreign Navy warships to the Pool of London. One of my principal duties was to assist in organising this very Ceremony. Who would have though almost 30 years later I will be wearing the Tower Officers full ceremonial uniform… complete with Royal Naval Sword for the first time in Tower history! This will be personally an immensely poignant moment and yet another ‘service first’ for Historic Royal Palaces and the Tower Team!
Debra Whittingham, Deputy Governor at HM Tower of London.
On Monday 15 May, we’ll be welcoming HMS Richmond to the Tower of London for the ceremony of the Constable’s Dues, broadcast on Facebook Live from 12.20pm – be sure to join us!