Corvids – not Covid - continue to rule the roost at the Tower….
They are the famous guardians of the Tower, London’s infamous palace, prison and fortress. Legend has it that if they leave, the kingdom will fall. But the ravens of the Tower of London aren’t going anywhere. Quite the contrary. Whilst the country has been in lockdown, and the Tower closed to visitors, 3 new ravens have been born, and the Tower’s raven bloodline is secure.
The new chicks, born in secrecy in the first week of April, are the offspring of Huginn and Muninn, named after the ravens of the Norse God, Odin. Huginn and Muninn are already the proud parents of two of the Tower’s resident ravens – Poppy, named for the Tower’s famous 2014 display, and George, who was born on St George’s day at the Tower in 2019. Their new chicks have spent the first two weeks of their life under the watchful eye of their protective Mum and Dad, but have now taken up temporary residence with the Tower’s Ravenmaster, Yeoman Warder Chris Skaife.
Raven chicks develop rapidly – the new chicks will likely quadruple in size over the coming weeks thanks to a delicious diet of rats, mice and assorted meats fed to them by the Ravenmaster. Their famous black plumage will soon start to appear, though it will be almost a year before their mouths turn from their current pink, to the jet black that will mark their adulthood.
King Charles II is thought to have been the first to insist that the ravens of the Tower be protected, after he was warned that the crown and the Tower itself would fall if they left. Six ravens are traditionally kept as a national insurance policy at the famous fortress, where they usually entertain themselves by stealing food from tourists and cawing menacingly. At present, the Ravenmaster cares for eight ravens within the Tower walls and the Tower’s raven accommodation is full. As a result, the new chicks will be moving out, to live with respected raven breeders and to ensure that the line of Tower ravens continues for years to come.
Yeoman Warder Chris Skaife, Ravenmaster of the Tower of London, said,
‘Displaying their usual intelligence and good timing, the ravens have given us some much-needed good news to announce. We are thrilled by the arrival of our new chicks, and though we don’t have room to keep them, we’re pleased that the raven bloodline of the Tower of London seems secure for the foreseeable future, which can only be good news for the Kingdom!
Once they have moved on to pastures new, I’ll still be busy with eight other resident ravens to care for. They currently have the run of the place, but myself and my fellow Yeoman Warders miss our visitors. We’re looking forward to welcoming them back when the time comes.’
The Tower of London is currently closed due to the Covid-19 outbreak. The famous home of Crown Jewels, Beefeaters and Ravens is managed by Historic Royal Palaces, the independent, self-funding charity that produced the 2014 ‘Poppies’ display. When the time comes to open again, Historic Royal Palaces will need public support more than ever, to continue to give six nationally significant buildings – including the Tower - the care they deserve. In the meantime, future visitors can support the charity by becoming members.
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Historic Royal Palaces is the independent charity that looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace and Hillsborough Castle and Gardens. We help everyone explore the story of how monarchs and people have shaped society, in some of the greatest palaces ever built. We raise all our own funds and depend on the support of our visitors, members, donors, sponsors and volunteers. With the exception of Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, these palaces are owned by The Queen on behalf of the nation, and we manage them for the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Historic Royal Palaces cares for Hillsborough Castle and Gardens under a separate contract with the Northern Ireland Office. Registered charity number 1068852. For more information visit www.hrp.org.uk