Black ravens are probably not only one of the main legends, but also an important symbol of the modern Tower.
Back in the XVII century, King Charles II issued a decree according to which six black crows must always be in the castle. This was to be followed by a special guardian of ravens, whose duties included the full maintenance of birds. This tradition is still alive today. And there are reasons for that.
In 1666, a disaster came to London – the Great London Fire. For three days, the fire covered the central part of the city. The fire destroyed almost all residential buildings within the old Roman city wall.
The fire almost reached the palace of King Charles II in Westminster. But even though the king’s life was in great danger, he did not leave the palace, inspiring the Londoners to fight the fire. And the miracle happened: the fire was stopped and Whitehall Castle remained untouched.
Thousands of pigs, cats, and wild ravens were flocking to the ruins of the city – London was in chaos. The king, therefore, called for the destruction of all the wildlife in the city to save the city from diseases that could potentially spread at a rate no less than the fire that had just ended.
However, the royal astrologer made an important warning that the kingdom may fall when the last crow is killed. The pragmatic monarch listened to this prediction and ordered six ravens to survive, who were placed in the Tower on his orders.
This may only be a legend, but to this day ravens are still living in the Tower of London, which is considered part of the royal family. The birds have a strict diet – they eat 170 grams of raw meat a day and also eat dry poultry food soaked in blood.
By the way, today, besides six “obligatory” ravens, there is one “reserve” in the Tower. Ravens live literally in royal conditions because many people still believe that without these birds the empire will fall. These birds live in a palace and have servants attached to them. The ravens are kept at public expense, and all they are required to do is to appear before the public from time to time.
Only one of the ravens survived the bombing of London during the Second World War, so Prime Minister Winston Churchill gave a special order to restore the number of birds. Since then, the ravens have been officially enrolled in the Royal Army, although it should be noted that they may be “demoted” for unacceptable behavior.
These unusual crown aides are probably the most spoiled birds in the country. They are cared for by a special Raven Caretaker, who is selected from among the 38 members of the ceremonial Yeoman Tower Guard, also known as the Beefitters. No one but them is allowed near the birds.
In 1987, a special program was launched in the UK to keep the number of ravens. Since 2013, 8 of these birds have been living in the Tower: 6 ‘main’ ravens, 1 ‘reserve’, and another ‘apprentice’. The birds’ names are Merlin, Hoogin, Munin, Jubilee, Portia, Erin, Rocky, and Grip (named after Hand Crow Charles Dickens).
Today, the ravens are one of the main attractions of the Tower. They are trimmed with fly feathers, but they move freely around the fortress. Ravens can speak and imitate sounds.