The Foreboding Reason Six Ravens Must Live At The Tower Of London

"Should the ravens leave the Tower of London it will crumble into dust and a great harm will befall the kingdom," quotes Chris Skaife, Ravenmaster at the Tower of London, per the Historic Royal Palaces YouTube channel. And before we unpack any of that: If "Ravenmaster" isn't the next archetype (character sub-class) in official or homebrew "Dungeons & Dragons" circles, it will rank among the greatest shames in the history of nerd-dom.  

Chris Skaife, seen in another YouTube video in full Beefeater's garb, has one job and one job only: to keep watch over the ravens at the Tower of London. As he says, he's the first one at the tower up in the morning, and the last to go to bed. So yes, the Tower of London — once Tudor-era prison and site of the foiled Guy Fawkes' "remember, remember the fifth of November" Gunpowder Plot — has its own ravens. It also has a Ravenmaster, in case you missed that. As the legend goes and Historic Royal Palaces explains, the tower has kept ravens — six, in fact — ever since 17th-century King Charles II received some cryptic warning from a (likely bird-loving) source. Royal Central is quick to say that no one really knows where the legend started, but it's something "taken very seriously" nonetheless, a point likely to be disputed by Londoners who know nothing about it. Nevertheless, to this day, the tower's resident ravens live a lauded life of comfort and typical corvid mischief.  

The omen of a fallen kingdom

Royal Central goes into detail about the tale of the ravens of the Tower of London. The ravens are considered the "Guardians of the Tower," which is less of a tower and more of a sprawling stone complex of spires, turrets, domes, and imposing walls (seen above). As the story goes, the ravens chose the tower as their home rather than being captured and forced into the job. A few hundred years ago, astronomer and friend-to-the-king John Flamsteed complained about all the ravens flitting in front of his telescope while he was trying to work. King Charles II took note and intended to "banish" the ravens from the tower, which we take to mean "shoot." Someone, however — presumably a swamp crone spouting dire, magical warnings — waggled an ominous omen in front of the king: keep those ravens here, or the kingdom falls. That's all it took, and the king was convinced. Ever since then, ravens have been given a special, protected position within the Tower's grounds.

And we say grounds because the ravens aren't held captive. They're free to come and go but are given the occasional "feather management," as Historical Royal Palaces says — a trim — to encourage them to stay close. They also get a cozy enclosure, a coercive diet of "meat, blood, and biscuits," and in the meantime "preside over four different territories within the Tower's walls." If you have a visit you might even glimpse their feathered silhouettes. 

A place of honor and myth

Sites like Historic Royal Palaces, Royal Central, and Historic UK all make it clear that the ravens of the Tower of London are shown a great deal of care, love, and respect. Ravenmaster Chris Skaife on the Historic Royal Palaces YouTube channel describes the ravens as his companions, just like a dog or cat. He monitors the grounds and ensures that the tower's adult ravens, who are territorial by nature, don't fight each other. In another YouTube video from 2019, Skaife proudly and happily talks about the first ravens — four chicks — born within the Tower of London's grounds in 30 years. Meanwhile, as ravens are also social creatures, Royal Central describes how the tower's ravens were agitated and bored during the COVID-19 pandemic because of a lack of tourists.

At this point, one might realize that ravens generationally cycle through the Tower of London, and not all together. As Historic Royal Palaces says, the current unkindness (the actual name for a group of ravens) consists of the ravens Jubilee, Harris, Poppy, Georgie, Edgar, and Branwen, which are just about the most adorably British names possible. Edgar and Branwen are the newcomers who joined the crew in 2021. Then there's the aforementioned cluster of four chicks, whose mother must reside nearby somewhere. Previous tower raven George was "dismissed" for messing with television antennae too much. Raven Grog, for his part, "was last seen outside an East End pub."