When Charles II was king, he decreed that there should always be at least six ravens at the Tower of London; any less and the Tower itself would crumble and Britain would fall. If you believe that tale, says Alex Briand in High Life magazine, then the current “Ravenmaster”, Chris Skaife, has “quite a sizeable” responsibility.
Skaife keeps nine birds – just to be on the safe side. There’s Erin, Rocky, Jubilee, Gripp, Harris, Poppy, Branwen, Edgar and George. They’re well looked after. Inside his office is an “industrial-sized freezer”, chock-a-block with frozen “mice, rats, rabbits, and other red and white meats”, all for the carnivorous ravens. “I give them up to 15 different types of food, which is a hell of a varied diet, and gives them a healthier sheen,” he says. Asked if they get treats, Skaife beams. “Absolutely they do. I give them biscuits soaked in blood.”
The ravens fly freely, but Skaife’s gourmet bird food is normally enough to keep them coming back. Still, you do get the occasional escapee. A wandering bird called Munin once took a five-day holiday to Greenwich Park; another, called Grog, flew off for good after 21 years at the Tower. He was last seen outside an East End pub in 1981.