The legend dates back to the 17th century.

By Cailey Rizzo
January 15, 2021
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The Tower of London has announced that one of its beloved ravens may have passed away, possibly sparking superstition among those who know the legend behind them.

Taking to Twitter, the attraction wrote, "Our much-loved raven Merlina has not been seen at the Tower for several weeks, and her continued absence indicates to us that she may have sadly passed away."

The social media account also noted that while 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."

Raven at Tower of London
Credit: TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images

As legend has it, according to the Tower of London website, the Tower of London would fall if there were under six ravens strolling the grounds. The birds were said to symbolize British national identity after the country had experienced a civil war, plague, and The Great Fire of London.

The decree — set by Prince Charles in the 17th century — officially states that, "Six ravens should be kept at the Tower forevermore! If the ravens do ever leave, the Tower will crumble into dust and a great harm will befall the kingdom," the attraction explained in their Twitter thread.

Thankfully, Merlina was the Tower's seventh raven and six — Jubilee, Harris, Gripp, Rocky, Erin, and Poppy — are still keeping watch at the tower. They have free reign of the land and live on a diet of mice, chicks, rats, raw meats, and blood-soaked biscuits, fed to them twice a day by the Ravenmaster. 

Another legend says that when his Astronomer Royal, John Flamsteed, complained that the birds were blocking his view of the stars, Charles refused to remove the birds and instead issued the royal decree to keep them. 

Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, or at caileyrizzo.com.