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The Beefeater and the Birds: Meet the Tower of London’s Ravenmaster

Evening Program with Book Signing

Wednesday, October 24, 2018 - 6:45 p.m.
Code: 1M2989
Chris Skaife, the Ravenmaster (Courtesy of the Tower of London)

As Halloween draws near, spend an evening with Christopher Skaife, the ravenmaster at one of the world's eeriest monuments. Skaife is a Yeoman Wader—or as they are popularly known, Beefeater—at the Tower of London. Beefeaters are former soldiers with at least 22 years of unblemished military service who are the Tower's ceremonial guards. In days past, they were charged with looking after prisoners and safeguarding the Crown Jewels, and today they act as the custodians of the Tower's rich past and traditions.

After decades of serving the Queen, Skaife took on the additional responsibility of caring for the Tower's ravens—creatures long tied to the site’s lore. (Legend has it that if a raven should ever leave the Tower of London, the kingdom would fall.) In a presentation highlighted by images and film clips, Skaife lets us in on his life of feeding his avian charges raw meat and biscuits soaked in blood, buying their food at Smithfield Market, and ensuring that these unusual, misunderstood, and brilliant corvids are healthy, happy, and ready to captivate the four million tourists who flock to the Tower every year.

As he discusses the intimate partnership that has developed between the ravens and their keeper, Skaife weaves together insights into bird behavior and stories from British history and folklore, offering a personal and fascinating look at one of the world's most unusual jobs.

Skaife’s book, The Ravenmaster (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux), is available for sale and signing. 

Part of the warm-up programming to Death Becomes Us: A True Crime Festival on November 3-4, 2018 in Washington, DC.

S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)