Beefeaters guarding the Tower of London face “heartbreaking” redundancies to lower costs following a fall in visitors.
The pandemic required the closure of six sites run by Historic Royal Palaces (HRP), and “dealt an overwhelming blow” to its finances, bosses said.
The Tower brought nearly three million visitors in 2018, making it the UK’s most popular paid-for attraction.
HRP confirmed a voluntary redundancy scheme was in place and necessary redundancies were expected to follow.
The company believes it is the first time the guards have faced redundancy since Henry VII formed the unit in 1485.
John Barnes, HRP’s chief executive, said: “Historic Royal Palaces is a self-funded charity. We depend on visitors for 80% of our income.
“We are heartbroken it has come to this.
“We have taken every practicable measure to secure our financial position, but we need to do more to continue in the long term.
“We simply have no option but to reduce our payroll costs.”
The temporary closure to visitors has generated a £98m shortfall this year, HRP said.
Last year it cost £32m to run its six sites, which include Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace.
At least two of the 37 Yeoman Warders, nicknamed Beefeaters, who guard the Crown Jewels, have reportedly taken voluntary redundancy already.
The site reopened on 10 July but only welcomed fewer than 1,000 people each day due to new safety measures – a massive drop from the 12,000 who would visit on a typical day.
There would still be “sufficient staff” to run the site, HRP said.