Merlina, the ‘Queen’ of the Tower of London ravens, is missing and feared dead.
Employees at the Tower took to social media to share the sad news, explaining that the ‘much-loved’ Merlina has not been seen at the Tower for several weeks.
Addressing followers on Twitter, the account for the popular tourist location added, ‘Her continued absence indicates to us that she may have sadly passed away.’
Ravens have long resided at the Tower, though earlier this year it was revealed the birds had started straying because they were ‘bored’. It seems they found entertainment in the Tower’s visitors, and when lockdown led to a sharp drop in numbers, the ravens decided to venture elsewhere.
The Tower noted that while it ‘isn’t unusual’ for the ravens to roam outside its walls, the ‘free-spirited’ Merlina had previously ‘always returned to the Tower and to the Ravenmaster and his team, with whom she shared a wonderfully close bond’.
The ‘undisputed ruler of the roost’, Merlina joined the Tower ravens in 2007 and has lived there ever since. Ravens typically live up to about 15 years old in the wild, but those kept by humans often live to be more than 20, and some ravens residing at the Tower of London have even been known to reach 40 years of age.
The original building was built by William the Conqueror in the 1070s, and legend has it that during the reign of Charles II a witch revealed the importance of the Tower’s ravens, claiming that if the birds were lost or flew away, both the monarchy and Britain would fall.
Thankfully, for now there are still enough birds living at the attraction to keep Britain going, with the Twitter account assuring that even with Merlina’s departure, there are still seven birds hanging around.
We now have 7 ravens here at the Tower — one more than the required 6, so we don’t have any immediate plans to fill Merlina’s vacancy. However in time we hope that a new chick from our breeding programme will be up to the formidable challenge of continuing her legacy.
The Tower’s Ravenmaster, Chris Skaife, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Merlina failed to come back from an outing just before Christmas.
He further assured that Britain is safe for the time being, saying:
Obviously as the Ravenmaster, my concern is looking after the kingdom – should the Ravens leave the Tower of London it will crumble to dust and great harm will befall the kingdom – of course that is myth and legend, but we do have seven ravens here at the Tower of London, six by royal decree and we still have a spare one, so we’re ok at the moment.
On Twitter, the Tower noted that Merlina will be ‘greatly missed by her fellow ravens’, as well as Skaife and everyone else in the Tower community.