Ravens at the Tower of London


Modern day London: busy, contemporary and full of people (especially on the tube!) For those that live there, history is all around them. London has been on the world scene for over two thousand years and its contributions to the global world are indisputable, good and bad.

London has come a long way from its humble beginnings inside Roman walls - as modern as any other major city on the planet, the people that live there have all the trappings of an urban modern life, including a reliance on technology to guide them. Technology is used to forecast almost everything including the weather, the economy, climate change etc.

Perhaps it would be surprising then to learn, that in such a modern city there exists a superstition surrounding the very fate of Britain at The Tower of London involving Ravens. The legend goes that at all times there must be at least six ravens at the Tower of London to protect the Crown and Britain.

The earliest known reference to ravens and the Tower of London comes the O.G., Bran the Blessed, the King of the Britons. He ordered his head be cut off and buried underneath the hill where the Tower now stands, facing France as a talisman to ward off invasion.

And Bran’s not the only headless myth surrounding the Ravens at the Tower of London. A site of executions for many years, it has been said that the Ravens were brought in to dramatise the events. Recorded at Anne Boleyn’s execution in 1536, it was said by George Younghusband in his book The Tower from Within that, "Even the ravens of the Tower sat silent and immovable on the battlements and gazed eerily at the strange scene. A Queen about to die!”

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Their presence at the Tower of London has been a long unbroken dynasty. There have been Ravens at the Tower to witness every major event there. And considering the oversized influence that England has on the world, those Ravens would have borne witness to much which later made the pages of history.

After World War II, after serving without rank for centuries, the birds were officially enlisted as soldiers of the British Empire and given attestation cards, an oath to serve the Crown. And like soldiers or police, they can be dismissed for unsatisfactory conduct. And boy has there been some throughout the years.

The Ravens bad behaviour includes attacking TV aerials, deserting their post and going to the pub and exhibiting unbecoming behaviour. One named Mabel was even kidnapped after World War II and the case remains unsolved.

Like all corvids, Ravens are exceptionally smart. They mourn their dead and even play practical jokes on the Ravenmasters who are responsible for them. So pour one out for all the Ravens that have faithfully served the Crown all these years.

In conclusion, yes, God Save the Queen, but also God Save the Ravens, for without them, the Crown would fall…



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