A raven from the Tower of London is suspected to have died after not being seen for several weeks.
A superstition, dating back to Charles II, says that the kingdom and the Tower of London will fall if the six resident ravens ever leave the fortress, with the birds having a wing clipped to ensure they don’t wander too far.
The Tower of London shared the news on its Twitter account, saying while it isn’t unusual for the ravens to travel outside of the walls of the Tower, the "free-spirited" Merlina had previously always returned.
After joining the Tower of London in 2007, Merlina was described as the "undisputed ruler of the roost" and "Queen of the Tower Ravens".
With Merlina’s absence, there are now seven ravens at the Tower - one more than the required six - so there are no "immediate plans to fill Merlina’s vacancy".
"She will be greatly missed by her fellow ravens, the Ravenmaster, and all of us in the Tower community," the Tower of London said.
"In time we hope that a new chick from our breeding programme will be up to the formidable challenge of continuing her legacy."
The Ravenmaster, one of the 37 Yeoman Warders – also known as Beefeaters – who work at the tower, looks after the birds, with the other warders helping.
The Yeoman Warders were formed by Henry VII in 1485 and are drawn from the Armed Forces, with a requirement of at least 22 years of service.
Alongside guarding the castle, the Warder role also involves giving guided tours to the Tower’s three million visitors a year.
Cover image: Merlina the Raven (Picture: Historic Royal Palaces).