The Tower Ravens
In most parts of the world the raven is considered a prophet and a
bad omen, a symbol of the supernatural, so the legend of them being guardians
of London Tower is fascinating. A Medieval chronicler called Geoffrey of
Monmouth raised the story of an early British King called King Bran Hen
of Bryneich (born c.485). The Welsh word for Raven is Bran. This ancient King
of the Dark Ages was killed in a battle and requested that his head was buried,
as a talisman against invasion, on Gwynfryn (the 'White Mount') where The Tower of London now stands. To this day ravens are accepted as highly important and necessary occupants of the Tower of London.
It was King Charles II who first insisted that the ravens of the Tower should be protected. In 1675 he established the Royal Observatory within the formidable White Tower. However, the Royal Astronomer, John Flamstead went to King Charles and explained that the mischievous ravens were interfering with his observations. The King quickly ordered the birds be destroyed.
Luckily for the King however, a foreteller arrived and delivered this prophecy:
“If the Tower of London ravens are lost or fly away, the crown will fall and Britain with it…”
Not wanting to tempt fate by flouting ancient legend King Charles
changed his mind and decreed that at least six ravens should be kept at
the Tower at all times to prevent disaster. The Royal Observatory was
re-located to Greenwich. Six ravens, plus a number of reserves,
are still kept at the Tower today.
A Yeoman Warder, or Beefeater, has the specific role of Ravenmaster at
the Tower and takes care of their feeding and well being. These birds
respond only to him and should not be approached too closely by anyone else.
The ravens eat 170g of raw meat a day, plus bird biscuits soaked in blood. They enjoy an egg once a week, the occasional rabbit, complete with fur, and fried bread.
The Tower Ravens have got coloured leg bands to identify them.
During World War II the Tower almost lost all of its ravens, only a single raven, Grip, remained.
It is also interesting to know the London Tower Ravens are enlisted in the same way as soldiers into the military, this also means that they can be dismissed.