Standing on the north bank of the River Thames, the Tower of London is not just an iconic historic castle with tales of treachery and power. It is also home to a historic legend – if the Tower’s resident ravens ever left its grounds, the fortress and the entire kingdom would fall.
The origin of this legend goes back to the time of King Charles II. As the story goes, Charles was advised to remove ravens from the Tower due to their incessant cawing, which interfered with the workings of the royal observatory located within. However, a warning followed from his courtiers: “If the Tower of London ravens are lost or fly away, the Crown will fall and Britain with it.”
Taking the prophecy to heart, Charles II decreed that at least six ravens should always remain at the Tower. From that day forth, the ravens have been dutifully protected, even during the Blitz of World War II when most of London was reduced to rubble, the ravens stayed, and the Tower stood strong.
The Tower of London, England. Source: rpbmedia / Adobe Stock.
The Tower’s Yeoman Warders, also known as Beefeaters, are tasked with the care of these celebrated birds. Clad in their distinctive red and gold uniforms, these guardians ensure the ravens are well-fed with a diet of raw meat and biscuits soaked in blood. To further honor the legend and its significance, the names of the resident ravens are recorded. The names of our current Tower ravens are Rex, Jubilee, Harris, Poppy, Georgie, Edgar and Branwen. The birds even have a Ravenmaster, a dedicated role ensuring their welfare.
The ravens are no mere prisoners of the Tower. They have spacious lodgings, regular health check-ups, and even enjoy occasional escapades outside their home. On one memorable occasion, a raven named Grog was said to have left the Tower to take up residence in a local pub!
While the fate of the kingdom doesn’t truly lie in the wings of these birds, what’s undeniable is the rich tapestry of history, superstition, and tradition they represent. So, the next time you find yourself wandering the historic corridors of the Tower of London, spare a moment for its feathered guardians, the symbols of a legend that has withstood the test of time.
Top image: A raven at the Tower of London. Source: Sid10 / Adobe Stock.