THE Tower of London's "Queen" raven, Merlina, is missing and feared dead, its keeper has revealed.
Seven remain, however, warding off the prophecy that when the birds leave the Tower of London, the country will fall.
The raven's keeper said Merlina, was loved by visitors as it had a big personality and enjoyed being fed Pringles potato crisps.
We have some really unhappy news to share. Our much-loved raven Merlina has not been seen at the Tower for several weeks, and her continued absence indicates to us that she may have sadly passed away. (1/4) pic.twitter.com/ccwCIBfdlT— The Tower of London (@TowerOfLondon) January 13, 2021
Christopher Skaife, the yeoman warder ravenmaster, was very taken with Merlina, often posting pictures of the bird on social media and sharing a bench with the inquisitive creature on his lunch break.
Now, however, the Tower of London has officially declared that the raven is most likely dead.
Merlina, who joined the flock in 2007, has not been seen for several weeks.
The Tower usually has six ravens at any time and, according to legend, if they ever leave then both the fortress and the kingdom will fall.
A spokesman said Merlina's "continued absence indicates to us that she may have sadly passed away". He added: "Merlina was our undisputed ruler of the roost, queen of the Tower ravens.
"She will be greatly missed by her fellow ravens, the ravenmaster, and all of us in the Tower community."
Tower staff say they have no plans yet to replace the bird.
Mr Skaife said that he would be taking some time to reflect on the raven's life.
"I know so many of you lovely folk will be saddened by this news," he said in a statement on social media.
"None more than me. Please excuse my absence for a few days."
Charles II is believed to have been the first monarch to officially decree that the birds must be kept at the Tower at all times.
When numbers fell to just a single raven guard, Winston Churchill ordered that the flock - known as an "unkindness" - be increased to at least six.
There is currently a breeding programme taking place in Suffolk to replenish the group.
In 2018 the Tower launched a raven breeding programme after Historic Royal Palaces warned it was becoming "increasingly difficult" to source the birds and there were "very few legal captive raven breeders in the UK".
During the first lockdown, the London tourist attraction, which dates to the 11th century and usually welcomes more than two million people each year, was shut and Tower staff became worried the birds were venturing outside the castle walls to forage.
The Telegraph, London