It’s said that if the ravens ever leave the Tower of London then the building, and the kingdom it protects, will fall. So there’s no surprise that there are celebrations all round at the famous royal landmark as four chicks have been born within its ancient walls – the first to arrive there in thirty years.
To make the arrival even more patriotic the chicks actually hatched on St. George’s Day, April 23rd, and now the Ravenmaster of the Tower of London, Chris Skaife, says he plans to use that as inspiration for a name for one of the baby birds. It will be called either George or Georgina and it will be the only one of the chicks to grow up at the Tower. The new arrivals came about after Chris Skaife and his team decided it would be a good idea to try and breed ravens in the Tower.
Legend has it that the Tower must always have a retinue of ravens within its walls to prevent it ‘crumbling into dust’. There are several stories attached to the belief and the Tower of London itself focuses on one linked to King Charles II whose jolly appearance belied the fact he had had to fight for the right to be king following the deposition and execution of his father and the instigation of the Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell. Charles is said to have gone against the wishes of his astronomer, John Flamsteed, who demanded the birds be removed because they were getting in his way, insisting that they stay in case harm come to his newly restored kingdom.
Six ravens are meant to be in residence at the Tower to keep it safe and right now the London landmark has seven in situ, to be sure of protection. The current birds are called Jubilee, Harris, Merlina, Rocky, Erin, Gripp and Poppy. They are looked after by Chris Skaife and his team and roam freely around the Tower although the Ravenmaster requests that visitors don’t feed the birds to ensure their diet is well maintained and also to stop the animals feeling any anxiety by strangers getting too close to them.
The Tower of London has been at the centre of royal history for almost 1,000 years. It was built by William the Conqueror who ordered work to start on what is now known as the White Tower soon after his victory at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. It was a vital resource for the Norman and Plantagenet kings who went on to expand it – much of the layout we see today was their work. A favoured royal residence, it became usual for medieval monarchs to stay in the Tower ahead of their coronations but it was also used as a place of punishment. Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard, queens of Henry VIII, were both executed there following their falls from grace as was Lady Jane Grey. It has also been the home of the Royal Mint and its stone walls have long offered protection to the Crown Jewels.
So the new arrivals have quite a job on their hands keeping all that safe. The chicks will no doubt become stars of the summer at the Tower and in the meantime, videos of them enjoying the first few weeks of their life at this very special royal residence are being shared on social media. A modern take on an old legend that still fascinates today.