Ancient legends suggest death of 'Queen' raven bad omen for United Kingdom

The end may be nigh - if you believe the legends.
The end may be nigh - if you believe the legends. Photo credit: Getty.

The end may be nigh for Britain, with the death of the Tower of London's 'Queen' raven meaning the battlement is now close to having fewer than six of the birds, a sign of potential doom for the kingdom according to ancient legend.

Merlina, considered the "Queen of the Tower Ravens" and the "undisputed ruler of the roost" is presumed dead, having not been seen for weeks. With Merlina gone, the tower now has seven ravens. 

"Though it isn’t unusual for our ravens to roam outside the walls, free-spirited Merlina has previously always returned to the Tower and to the Ravenmaster and his team, with whom she shared a wonderfully close bond," the tower's Twitter account said on Thursday.

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

While the death itself is sad, it also carries much significance according to legend.

The Historic Royal Places website says: "It is said that the kingdom and the Tower of London will fall if the six resident ravens ever leave the fortress."

"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.

"The King's order was given against the wishes of his astronomer, John Flamsteed, who complained the ravens impeded the business of his observatory in the White Tower."

Other legends suggest doom will come for Britain if the tower has fewer than six ravens.

Skaife told the BBC that his "concern is looking after the kingdom".

"Should the ravens leave the Tower of London will crumble to dust, and great harm will befall the kingdom. Of course that is myth and legend." 

Having seven ravens, Skaife said "we're okay at the moment".

There are no immediate plans to replace Merlina but the Tower of London says it hopes "that a new chick from our breeding programme will be up to the formidable challenge of continuing her legacy".

The six remaining ravens are named Jubilee, Harris, Gripp, Rocky, Erin, and Poppy.