SUPPORT OUR JOURNALISM: Please consider donating to keep our website running and free for all - thank you!

British RoyalsFeaturesHistoryPalaces & Buildings

Between myth and legend: the day will come and the kingdom shall fall

In 1938, Prince Christopher of Greece and Denmark, cousin to King George V, wrote in his memoirs: “Monarchy can never die out in England, whatever its fate in other countries. It is too deeply ingrained in the hearts of the people.”

Perhaps this is a truth that only time will reveal, but the monarchy’s future does not lie with the people of England at all; instead, its survival is surrounded by myth and legend. 

When Prince Christopher wrote these words, he knew little of the legend of the ravens of the Tower of London watching over the British monarchy since the reign of King Charles II.

Founded in 1066 by William the Conqueror, the Tower of London is one of the world’s greatest fortresses. What is now a popular tourist attraction was once a royal palace and fortress of power. Royal scandals have unfolded within its grounds, and over time it became a prison and place of execution for the fiercest enemies of the crown and house of the Crown Jewels.

For almost a thousand years, the fascinating history of the Tower of London has sparked interest and opened up the imagination to myths and legends – the darkest of all is the legend of the ravens of the Tower of London.

It is unknown when the ravens first arrived in the Tower, but the future of both country and kingdom relies upon their continued residence. Therefore, it is said that if the six resident ravens ever leave the fortress, the monarchy and the Tower of London shall fall.

Legend has it that royal astronomer John Flamsteed complained to King Charles II that the birds impeded the business of his observatory in the White Tower. As a result, the King ordered their removal only to be told that the crown and the Tower itself would fall if they left. Worried he would lose the crown, Charles II decreed that at least six ravens should be kept at the Tower at all times to prevent disaster.

Since then, for centuries the ravens have been free to roam the precincts, and today, the Tower of London houses seven ravens (Jubilee, Harris, Gripp, Rocky, Erin, Poppy and Georgie) – the required six plus one spare – with the hope of keeping the monarchy safe and never having to face the truth that lies with the legend. 

The ravens enjoy quite a spoiled life at the Tower and are looked after by the Ravenmaster of the Yeomen Warders, who provides them with the highest quality of care. They enjoy a diet of mixed raw meats twice a day and biscuits soaked in blood as a special treat.

To prevent them from flying too far from the Tower, one of their wings is clipped by the Ravenmaster, which does them no harm.

Despite the wing clipping, there have been occasional escapes. For example, in 1981, after 21 years of loyal service to the crown, Raven Grog deserted his duties to join an east end pub and never come back to the Tower. On other occasions, ravens have been dismissed for bad behaviour, like Raven George, who was shipped to a zoo in Wales for destroying TV aerials in 1975.

To the fanfare of trumpets, in 2021, the Tower of London welcomed two more ravens – Edgar and Branwen – and England rejoiced at the good news: the kingdom is safe and secure.

"; n.innerHTML = "window._taboola = window._taboola || [];_taboola.push({mode:'thumbnails-a', container:'taboola-below-article-thumbnails', placement:'Below Article Thumbnails', target_type: 'mix'});"; insertAfter(t, e); insertAfter(n, t) }injectWidgetByMarker('tbmarker');