The Ravenmaster: My Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London by Christopher Skaife is a perfect read for those interesting in history and animals (in particular ravens). It is an excellent book that brings readers behind-the-scenes to learn more about the people who care for and about the ravens who live in the Tower of London. The history, folklore, and tales surrounding the ravens and why they are important to England are presented by Christopher Skaife, the current Yeoman Warder.
The Ravenmaster introduces us to the life of Christopher Skaife and how he became the Yeoman Warder at the Tower of London. We get a brief glimpse into this private life learning about why he joined the military and some of his experiences as a Drum Major. Skaife also shares his theories and ideas regarding the history and care of the ravens.
History of the Ravens
During the reign of Charles II, John Flamsteed, a young astronomer, said that the nesting ravens were obstructing his view. Flamsteed wanted to get rid of them. The story continues that someone pointed out to King Charles II that ravens had always been living in the Tower of London. It would be a bad omen if the ravens were removed from the Tower. The legend then developed that ravens must be kept at the Tower or the kingdom would fall.
Skaife hasn't found any mention of this legend prior to the late 19th century. There is hardly any mention of ravens in the tower's history at all. It is a lovely story that is part of the history of the United Kingdom.
What do ravens eat? Ravens are omnivores – they eat both plants and meat. They are scavengers and will eat carrion and garbage and at the Tower, they will steal sandwiches from tourists and catch mice. And at the Tower of London, a special treat is dog biscuits soaked in blood.
The Ravenmaster is a very well-written book – easy to read with each chapter flowing into the next. Even though Skaife provided lots of information regarding his job as a Yeoman Warder and scientific facts about ravens, I did not find the book difficult to follow or understand. I would recommend The Ravenmaster: My Life with Ravens at the Tower of London to those who enjoy history and learning about animals – ravens in particular. If you enjoy memoirs and biographies, this book might also be of interest to you.
If you want to see photos of the ravens at the Tower of London, check out the Instagram page of Christopher Skaife. Or if you want to read more about the Tower of London, check out my Blogging Through the Alphabet post.