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The Legend of the ravens of the Tower of London

Tower of London
N.H. Fischer / CC BY-SA via Wiki Commons

The Tower of London is famous for its ravens, also known as ‘The Guardians of the Tower’. This British myth is taken very seriously. Although, it is not known exactly where it originated from or how and when the ravens first took up residence at the Tower, legend has it that if the ravens ever leave the Tower of London, the kingdom will fall. Therefore, at least six ravens must be in residence at all times.

Legend has it that King Charles II was keen to banish all ravens from the Tower following a complaint from his astronomer friend, John Flamsteed, who had set up his observatory in the White Tower but found the ravens to be a nuisance as they kept obscuring his view by flying past his telescope. However, Charles II was strongly advised against this and told that if the birds where ever to be killed or banished the monarchy and country would fall. Charles took this advice and insisted that the ravens be protected, which is still in place to this day.

The ravens reside on the south lawn. During the day, they are free to roam the precincts of the Tower and preside over four territories within the walls of the T. They live on a diet of mice, rats, chicks, assorted raw meat, whole rabbit and biscuits soaked in blood as a special treat.

According to the Beefeaters, the Raven Master and staff at the Tower, the ravens have become restless due to the lack of tourism and are missing the interaction they usually have with the public. Due to the lockdown, on many days throughout this past year, the ravens have only had the company of a handful of staff each day.

Christopher Skaife, a raven master, told the Sun: “If the ravens were to leave, the Tower would crumble to dust. The Tower is only the Tower when the people are here. The ravens have always been so important … because they’ve been surrounded by myths and legends. We really need people to come back to help the ravens.”

Skaife said: “It’s been tough because the ravens only saw me or one warden walking by during the lockdown. They depend on tourists. Never in a raven’s history have we seen fewer people in the Tower of London. Even in World War Two, there were still hundreds in and around.”

One of the ravens, Merlina, also referred to as ‘The Queen’ has been missing from tower since Christmas. It is now feared that she has died. However, there are still seven ravens a the Tower.

Merlina isn’t the only raven to have flown away over the years or been dismissed for misbehaving. A raven named Munnin went missing for seven days and was returned by a member of the public after being found in Greenwich. In 1986, George who had been in residence since 1975 was dismissed for his bad behaviour after taking a liking to TV aerials and was re-homed in the Welsh mountain zoo.

About author

Susan is an Actress, Vocalist, Voice-over artist and Writer. She graduated from the University of Salford with a BA (HONS) Music Degree and spent some time travelling around Europe with various choirs, during which time she also performed in the opening ceremony of the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games before pursuing her acting and writing career.