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How Ravens Came to the Tower of London

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According to popular belief, Charles II of England (reigned 1660-1685) once heard a prophecy that if ravens left the Tower of London it would "fall," so he ordered that the wings of seven ravens in the Tower be trimmed. Until recently, this claim was not challenged even in scholarly literature. There are, however, no allusions to the Tower Ravens before the end of the nineteenth century. The ravens, today meticulously cared for by Yeoman Warders, are largely an invented tradition, designed to give an impression of continuity with the past. This article examines the few known references, both graphic and textual, to the Tower Ravens through 1906. It concludes that the ravens were originally brought in to dramatize the alleged site of executions at the Tower. Although not accorded great significance at first, legends that would eventually make the ravens mascots of Britain began outside of the Tower.

Affiliations: 1: Independent Scholar, 25 Franklin Avenue, Apt. # 2, White Plains, NY 10601-3849


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