LONDON – They wave and gush and squeak and clean. They hold the future of the kingdom, some say, in their fearsome beaks. And now one of them – their queen, Merlina – has been reclassified as AWOL, announcing the dreaded redemption of a supposed prophecy dating back to the time of King Charles II in the 17th century: When the crows leave the Tower of London, the building will collapse and the kingdom .
At least that’s the story so far, a combination of myth, invention and hard commercialism that raised the ravenous colony in London’s famous prison and palace on the north bank of the River Thames to a rare status: circumcised guardians of national destiny, tourist dollar magnets.
But given the other stories the earth is facing – Covid-19 in its deadliest situation since the pandemic began to develop from faraway China a year ago; the traumas and hardships of Brexit; the subsequent severance of the ties that unite the United Kingdom – could it not be said that the broadcast is already under way?
The alarming fluctuations date back to December, when Christopher Skyfe, the tower’s tower master, noticed that Merlina was absent from the rest of the group – Jubilee, Harris, Grip, Rocky, Erin and Poppy. At first, he said, he didn’t worry too much because she was a “free-spirited raven known to leave the tower quarters many times.”
“But I’m her friend and that’s why she usually comes back to us, but this time she didn’t, so I’m afraid she’s not with us anymore,” he told the BBC.
In a statement Wednesday, the trustees of the Tower of London confirmed his suspicions. “Merlin’s continued absence shows us that she has unfortunately died,” tower officials said.
There was a turnaround for observers of the prophecies. To fulfill the omen, the number of crows must fall below six – the minimum dictated by royal decree. Usefully, Ravenmaster Skaife had retained an additional bird, a familiar concept in a broader recipe for royal succession that commands couples to create an “heir and reserve” when they expand the royal family by creating offspring.
“We have seven crows here in the tower, one more than the required six, so we have no immediate plans to fill Merlin’s vacancy,” tower officials said. Nevertheless, the deluded queen “will be greatly missed by her fellow crows, the raven master, and all of us in the tower community.”
The intertwining of crows’ destinies with the nation’s nation may have been foreseen in August last year, when worries over the coronavirus pandemic took away the Tower of London from some of the legions of visitors.
Ravens – sometimes collectively referred to as “disfavor” – become bored and restless without the detritus of human contact that keeps them in snacks in addition to a regular diet that includes mice, chickens, meat and biscuits soaked in animal blood. They were also said to be struggling to stimulate a human audience for their party tricks, which involved mimicry.
One of the crows, Thor, who preceded Merlin’s arrival in 2007, is said to have congratulated visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin on Russia and wished him good morning. Mr Putin was “quite stunned”, reports The Guardian.
Mr Putin would not be the first person to be stunned – or perhaps to see parallels close to Russia’s own history – in the tower known for its 12th-century closure history, often as a prelude to beheadings and other forms. of execution. His many doomed alumni include two wives of Henry VIII; the so-called princes in the tower, who disappeared there in the 15th century and are said to have been killed by their uncle, King Richard III; and the fugitive Nazi Rudolf Hess in 1941.
In addition, many of the approximately three million visitors (before the pandemic) flocked there not only to immerse themselves in the bloody history, but also to marvel at the crown’s heavily guarded jewelry.
The Tower of London closed to visitors on December 16 as the latest wave of coronavirus cases gathered strength. But even before that, and before Merlin’s disappearance, the impact of the dwindling number of visitors worried guards like the Ravenmaster Skaife.
“The tower is just the tower when people are there,” he told the Sun last year. “Ravens have always been so important to the tower because they were surrounded by myths and legends. We really need people to come back to help the crows. “