You might have noticed that I was at the Tower of London recently. Well, while I was there I got chatting to a couple of lovely people who work at Historic Royal Palaces about the famous feathered residents of the Tower, the Ravens.
An attempted murder?
Now, we all know the legend that if the six resident ravens abandoned their Thameside fortress, both the Tower and the Kingdom would fall. (Fun fact: although there are six official Ravens, there are always a few kept waiting in the er.. wings, so to speak. Just in case).
No one is entirely sure how or when this legend began, but the historians at HRP are fairly certain that it was Charles II who insisted upon the ravens being cared for. Looking after the ravens is actually a proper job at the Tower, and you can find out what the Raven Keeper gets up to in this blog.
What fascinated me was discovering that some ravens had been expelled from the Tower for “Conduct Unbecoming”. Naturally I had to find out more. How did these birds transgress? What happened to them? I like to think that there’s a colony of angry and embittered corvids tucked away in a shadowy lair, plotting their return to the Tower.
Hang on, I think there’s a children’s book in that…
In 1986, there was George, who – according to the Tower “developed an unhealthy taste for TV aerials.” He received his marching orders, which read as follows:
“On Saturday, 13th September 1986, Raven George, enlisted 1975, was posted to the Welsh Mountain Zoo. Conduct unsatisfactory, services therefore no longer required.”
More mysteriously, the 1990s saw a double-dismissal:
“On Thursday, 4th May, having spent the past few months in close arrest…for conduct unbecoming Tower residents, Ravens Hugine and Jackie were removed from the Tower establishment. Services no longer required”.
The redaction in the dismissal is most suspicious, non?
Most of the Ravens take their duties as protectors of the realm very seriously, but every now and then the pressure of maintaining the status quo can take their toll. It’s no surprise that when Grog escaped in 1981 he was spotted at a pub in the East End (cor blimey Guv’nur, a right proper cockney boozer) called The Rose and Punchbowl.
I’m sure there are more stories about the Ravens out there, but the ones I’ve found have been utterly entrancing.