gillybirds

What came first- the chickens or the blog?

Ravens of the Tower

on November 3, 2012

interview with Raven Keeper
This week I got to spend a few days with my beautiful brand new niece who lives across the sea in the big city of London. As well as lots of cuddles me and two of my own flock visited the Tower of London, to be wowed by the Crown Jewels (now those are real diamonds!) , to satisfy a ten year old boy’s passion for armour and weapons, and to check out the legendary ravens of the Tower of London.

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The ravens are thought to be the most important residents of the Tower, for legend has it, if they ever leave, the Tower will fall and England with it. King Charles 2nd insisted that they be protected. Ravens were probably attracted to the Tower from its initial construction back in the days of William the Conqueror, when they would have scavenged on the Tower’s refuse.
Allegedly, at the execution of Anne Boleyn in 1535, “Even the ravens of the Tower sat silent and immovable on the battlements and gazed eerily at the strange scene. A Queen about to die!” The ravens of the Tower supposedly behaved much worse during the execution of Lady Jane Grey in 1554, allegedly “pecking the eyes from the severed head” of the queen.
Today they are cared for by the Ravenmaster. They eat 170g raw meat daily, plus bird biscuits soaked in blood. They enjoy an egg once a week, the occasional rabbit and scraps of fried bread. One wing is has the wing feathers clipped to prevent them flying off.
Each raven is named, and they are identified with coloured leg rings, just like the Gillybirds. There are seven ravens at the Tower today ( the required six plus one spare!) Their names are Hardey, Thor, Odin, Gwyllum, Cedric, Hugine and Munin. Their lodgings are to be found next to the Wakefield Tower.
During World War II, only one raven was able to survive the hardships of the bombing during the London Blitz, so Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, ordered more ravens to be brought in to bring the flock up to the correct size. The Tower ravens are enlisted as soldiers of the Kingdom, and were issued attestation cards in the same way as soldiers and police. As is the case with soldiers, the ravens can be dismissed for unsatisfactory conduct, sometimes an individual bird will fall out of favour because of inappropriate behaviour. For example, “Raven George” lost his appointment to the Crown, and was retired to Wales for attacking and destroying TV aerials. A special decree was issued about the incident:
“ On Saturday 13th September 1986, Raven George, enlisted 1975, was posted to the Welsh Mountain Zoo. Conduct unsatisfactory, service therefore no longer required.
During the fears in 2006 concerning avian flu, the ravens were kept indoors in a special aviary.
I took plenty of pictures, but obeyed the command not to feed the ravens as they may bite if they feel threatened.
I did however bring home a little souvenir! Not wanting to be the cause of the fall of England, it is only a tiny replica raven. The Crown Jewels too are still safe behind their bullet proof well protected glass.

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“Check that Woman’s Pockets for Diamonds!”

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