The Tower of London has announced its “queen” raven has been missing for several weeks and is presumed dead.
The bird, called Merlina, was part of the unkindness (or raven flock) along with seven other ravens that live inside the Tower.
She has been there since 2007.
Legend has it that at least six ravens must be in the Tower to provide protection and if they leave, “the kingdom [of Britain] will fall”.
Ravenmaster Christopher Skaife told the BBC on Thursday the raven disappeared just before Christmas – a week before England entered its third coronavirus lockdown in less than a year.
In a statement to the DPA news agency, Historic Royal Palaces, which runs the Tower, said while the ravens often “roam” outside the palace, Merlina had always returned.
“We now have seven ravens here at the Tower – one more than the required six – 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 program will be up to the formidable challenge of continuing her legacy,” Historic Royal Palaces said.
They added she was an “undisputed ruler of the roost”, dubbing her the “Queen of the Tower Ravens”.
“She will be greatly missed by her fellow ravens, the ravenmaster, and all of us in the Tower community,” they said.
King Charles II is believed to be the first royal to have insisted that the ravens of the Tower be protected after he was warned that the crown and the Tower itself would fall if they left.