|Fig. 1 - Tower of London|
Founded in 1066 by William the Conqueror, the Tower of London was built to protect London and remains today as one of the world’s most imposing fortresses. Symbol of the Norman power, it has witnessed wars, betrayals, weddings and …. beheadings. Throughout the centuries, it has been enlarged and adapted by successive sovereigns, containing layers of history, stories and tales. A true symbol of British Royalty and is a listed Unesco World Heritage Site.
Legend has it that if the ravens leave the tower great misfortune and disaster shall befall England.
|Fig. 2 - Ravens|
The presence of ravens in the Tower of London is surrounded by myth and legend. Although ravens are usually considered birds of evil prophecy, it seems that the future of the Kingdom relies upon their continued residence, for legend demands that at least six ravens remain for fear that both Tower and Monarchy will fall.
When the first Royal Observatory was housed in the north eastern turret of the White Tower, John Flamsteed (1646 - 1719), the 'astronomical observer' complained to King Charles II that the birds were intrusive and were hindering his observations. So the King promptly ordered the destruction of the ravens, however, he was immediately told that if the ravens left the Tower, the White Tower would fall and a great disaster would strike the Kingdom…
Sensibly… the King decreed that at least six ravens should be kept and sheltered at the Tower at all times to prevent any calamity from destroying the King’s kingdom.
As it seems there are seven ravens at the Tower today. Their names are Hardey, Thor, Odin, Gwyllum, Cedric, Hugine and Munin. Their lodgings are to be found next to the Wakefield Tower.
The ravens eat raw meat and bird formula biscuits soaked in blood each day. Occasionally, on “feast day”, they are fed a rabbit which is given to them whole because the fur is good for them!
So as to prevent the birds from flying away, one of their wings is clipped by the Raven Master. This procedure does not hurt the bird nor is it harmful in any way. The clipping of the feathers in one of the wings makes their flight unbalanced and it ensures that they don't stray too far from the Tower.
Nonetheless, despite the wing clipping, there have been occasional escapes. In 1981, Grog decided to go out for a night out and was last seen outside an East End pub called the 'Rose and Punchbowl'…
Ravens can live long years. Jim Crow was the oldest raven to live at the Tower having died at the age of 44. Currently, 24 year old Hardey is the oldest raven living at the Tower.
During World War II the Tower Ravens reached their lowest point just after World War II when only Raven Grip stayed at the Tower. The birds were troubled by the continuous bombing of London and flew away in search of safer havens.
Nowadays, The Tower of London is visited by thousands of tourists every day…most visit the fortress to admire the Crown Jewels, but all visit the site in search of the ravens….
Historical Royal Palaces. (s/d). Tower of London. Disponível em http://www.hrp.org.uk/tower-of-london/
Unesco. (s/d). Tower of London. Disponível em http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/488
English heritage. (s/d). Tower of London. Disponível em http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/