The Ravens of The Tower of London
- 1 week ago
For many centuries, the historic Tower of London, on the north bank of the River Thames, has been guarded by ravens. These winged creatures receive the most royal treatment. They are attended to by servants, fed with meat regularly purchased from the nearby Smithfield Market, and their health is carefully monitored. But they are never allowed to leave the grounds of the Tower, because the belief goes that should the ravens leave, the Crown and the Tower will fall.
Wild ravens have lived within the Tower for centuries. According to folklore, the ravens were first attracted there by the smell of the corpses of the many enemies of the Crown executed there. When Lady Jane Grey was executed in 1554, the ravens of the tower were said to have pecked the eyes out of her severed head.
The practice of keeping the birds captive to protect the crown goes back, allegedly, to the time of King Charles II, who reigned from 1660 to 85. Legend has it that the royal astronomer, John Flamsteed, complained to the King that the birds were interfering with his observations prompting the King to order the birds to be killed, only to be told that if the ravens left the Tower, the White Tower would fall and a great disaster befall the Kingdom. The King then changed his mind and decreed that at least six ravens should be kept at the Tower at all times to prevent disaster.
However, according to historian Geoff Parnell, captive ravens at the Tower dates no more than the 1800s, possibly introduced to the Tower as pets of the staff.
Whatever be the source, at the Tower, they take the legend very seriously. Seven ravens are kept at the tower at all times—the required six, plus an extra one for backup.
Except their clipped wings, which makes the ravens unable to fly away, the birds have a blessed existence. They live in a royal palace, are waited on by servants, and are sought after and viewed by the public, just like members of the royal family. They are fed fresh fruit, cheese, boiled egg and fresh meat, as well as vitamins and other supplements.
While most of the birds show good behavior, sometimes a raven might behave inappropriately or show "conduct unbecoming Tower residents”, and be removed from service, as it happened with Raven George who attacked and destroyed TV aerials at the Tower, and thus lost his appointment to the Crown. Another raven named Grog, managed to escape the Tower and took up residence in a local pub after 21 years of service to the Crown.