Merlina, the queen raven who has lived at the Tower of London for 14 years, is missing, presumed dead. Her demise is a bad omen for the United Kingdom, according to legend.
Lore has it that “if the Tower of London ravens are lost or fly away, the Crown will fall and Britain with it.”
After being told of the prophecy, Charles II, who reigned the kingdom between 1660 and 1685, issued a royal decree that six ravens be kept at the citadel at all times, located in the heart of London.
The Tower, built by William I in the 1070s as a demonstration of his power is now a top tourist attraction and the guards charged with looking after the birds make sure there at least seven on the premises to avoid the prophetic catastrophe.
Before Merlina’s disappearance there had been eight ravens onsite. The news of her failure to return brings the quota down to seven, although plans have been hatched to breed a replacement.
Ravenmaster Christopher Skaife, the only person to whom the birds respond, told BBC Radio 4’s Today program Merlina was a “free-spirited raven” who had left the tower precincts many times but on this occasion had not come back.
“Just before Christmas, before we went into the lockdown, we were putting the ravens to bed, and she didn’t come back,” he said.
Cover image: Getty