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One of the crows of the Tower of London disappears: bad omen for the UK?

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One of the ravens in the Tower of London is missing. According to legend, if their number is less than six it would mean the kingdom’s doom.

Raven Master Christopher Skaife confirmed that one of the birds, Merlina, known as the queen of the Tower of London’s ravens, is presumed dead after being missing for weeks.

“Merlina is a free-spirited raven and has been known to leave the tower precincts on many occasion. I’m her buddy and she normally comes back to us, but this time she didn’t. So, I do fear that she is not with us any more,” he stated in an interview with the BBC.  

Just before Christmas, before we went into the lockdown, we were putting the ravens to bed, and she didn’t come back,” he said.

If confirmed, Merlina’s death would decrease the number of crows in the tower to just seven. According to legend, if two more died, the tower and the kingdom would fall.

However, Skaife revealed that the tower had a reserve raven to ensure the bird’s count in the tower.

“We do have seven ravens here at the Tower of London, six by royal decree. And of course I still have a spare one, so we’re OK at the moment,” he commented.

Six of the remaining seven ravens are named Jubilee, Harris, Gripp, Rocky, Erin, and Poppy, according to the Tower’s website. 

Legend associates the raising of ravens in the tower with Charles II and his astronomer royal, John Flamsteed. In the 1670s, Charles II appointed the young Flamsteed as his royal observer and granted him the use of a White Tower turret as an observatory. Flamsteed soon discovered that the ravens he shared his turret with obstructed views through his telescopes and interfered with his work, so he asked the king to evict them. 

At first, Carlos II ordered it, until someone pointed out that getting rid of the crows would surely be a bad omen: these birds had always been in the Tower, and they were an important symbol of national stability.

Given the streak of bad luck that the country had experienced in recent decades, such as the civil war, the plague and the Great Fire of London, Carlos was apparently unwilling to take any chances.

So instead of displacing the birds, Carlos issued a royal decree, declaring that six ravens must be kept in the Tower forever. If the ravens leave, the Tower will crumble and the kingdom will suffer great damage, according to legend.  

Soon after, John Flamsteed moved to his new Royal Observatory in Greenwich, and the ravens have been the symbolic guardians of the Tower of London ever since.

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