Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

The Queen Owns The Swans - and she may eat them too

The Queen Owns The Swans - and she may eat them too

Old Aug 29th, 2002, 05:26 AM
Posts: n/a
The Queen Owns The Swans - and she may eat them too

Swan Upping is the annual census of the swan population on stretches of the River Thames in the counties of Middlesex, Surrey, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire. It takes place during the third week of July each year.

This historic ceremony dates from the 12th century, when the Crown claimed ownership of all mute swans. At that time swans were regarded as a delicious dish at banquets and feasts.

Today, the Crown retains the right to ownership of all unmarked mute swans in open water, but The Queen only exercises her ownership on certain stretches of the River Thames and its surrounding tributaries. This ownership is shared with the Vintners' and Dyers' Companies, who were granted rights of ownership by the Crown in the 15th century. Nowadays, of course, the swans are no longer eaten!

In the Swan Upping ceremony, The Queen's Swan Marker and the Swan Uppers of the Vinters' and Dyers' livery companies use six traditional Thames rowing skiffs in their five-day journey up-river. The officials wear traditional scarlet uniforms and each boat flies appropriate flags and pennants. When a brood of cygnets is sighted, a cry of "All up!" is given to signal that the boats should get into position. On passing Windsor Castle, the rowers stand to attention in their boat with oars raised and salute "Her Majesty The Queen, Seigneur of the Swans".

The cygnets are weighed and measured to obtain estimates of growth rates and the birds are examined for any sign of injury (commonly caused by fishing hooks and line). The swans are also given a health check and ringed with individual identification numbers by The Queen's Swan Warden, the Professor of Ornithology at the University of Oxford's Department of Zoology. The swans are then set free again. The Queen's Swan Marker produces a report at the completion of Swan Upping each year, which provides data on the number of swans accounted for, including broods and cygnets.

Swan Upping provides important data which enables suitable conservation methods to be used to protect the swans. A serious decline in the swan population in the mid-1980s was halted by the replacement of lead fishing weights with a non-toxic equivalent, but growing demands for recreational use of the river by anglers and boat users has resulted in an increasingly hazardous habitat. Vandalism and the theft of cygnets also create threats to the swan population.

Apart from Swan Upping, The Queen's Swan Marker has other duties: he advises local organisations throughout the country on swan welfare and incidents involving swans, he monitors the health of local swan populations, and he briefs fishing and boating organisations on how to work with existing wildlife and maintain existing natural habitat. He works closely with swan rescue organisations and carries out the rescue of sick and injured swans when relevant, and he co-ordinates the temporary removal of swans from stretches of the River Thames used for summer rowing regattas.

Old Aug 29th, 2002, 05:33 AM
Posts: n/a
Only a bloody lowlife would steal one of Her Majesty's swans. How disgusting that is.
Old Aug 29th, 2002, 06:34 PM
Posts: n/a
Is it true that no one can own a "BLACK" swan? I thought I heard somewhere that she had ownership over all black swans regardless where they were?
Old Aug 29th, 2002, 10:51 PM
Posts: n/a
The situation with Mute Swans, which are Royal Birds, is set in the mists of time; Black Swans do not belong here- they are indigenous to Australia. A pair was given to the Queen in the 1950s and I think it is said that all UK Black Swans are descended from them, thus putting them in the same position as the Mutes
Old Aug 30th, 2002, 01:42 AM
david west
Posts: n/a
The queen can break a swans wing with one sweep of her arm.

I think that's right anyway.
Old Aug 30th, 2002, 06:46 AM
Posts: n/a
Lest the Old Bag (known as QE2) make a mistake and destroy one of her royal swans, best she be careful. Remember, her eldest son is an odd duck himself.
Old Aug 30th, 2002, 06:58 AM
Tony Hughes
Posts: n/a
Talking of which, David, have you ever met/heard of someone who'd had theor arm broken by a swan?
Old Aug 30th, 2002, 07:05 AM
Posts: n/a
Tony, I used to have ducks and one gave me a black eye with its flapping wings when I tried to catch it. Does that count?
By the way, thanks for all the swan explination. I was confused about the references on another thread. There's just too much of this pomp and tradition for us new worlders to grasp!
Old Aug 30th, 2002, 07:16 AM
david west
Posts: n/a

Isn't this one of those things that "everyone knows" that is in fact a load of cobblers.

I'd back me against a swan in a fair fight any day. Mute or black. All comers.
Old Aug 30th, 2002, 07:22 AM
Posts: n/a
Way down upon the swan e river...

the B B King classic, the thrill is swan...

"and the swan came up like thunder..."

a game of swan tennis?

mow the swan?

Swan Connery?

a doo swan-swan-swan, a doo ron swan? (as performed by Swannie Spector)

I bought a cheap guitar once in a seedy swan shop.

the great lover, don swan?

when my uncle got out of prison folks called him an "ex-swan".

in the Godfather, remember swan carlione?

the famous actor, swan cheney?

won-swan soup (or is that swan-ton?)
Old Aug 30th, 2002, 07:34 AM
Posts: n/a
There was an warning in my local newspaper about staying away from a vicious male swan,once he flipped over a canoe boat just because the boaters got too close to his nest. They were almost drown in Lake Ontario.
Old Aug 30th, 2002, 07:38 AM
david west
Posts: n/a
Swans are just big feathery footballs.

How are they going to break my arm?

Surely a birds wing is quite delicate?

Bring 'em on! (although they'd probably be too tough for the average American
Old Aug 30th, 2002, 09:05 AM
Posts: n/a
Birds wings are actually quite strong, unless you bend them in a direction they are not supposed to go! My parrot took out a contact lens when she flapped too close to my face once.
Old Aug 30th, 2002, 09:33 AM
Posts: n/a
I once had a tv dinner made by a swan's son.
Old Aug 30th, 2002, 09:55 AM
Posts: n/a
My parrot talks!
Old Aug 31st, 2002, 08:27 AM
Posts: n/a
Good Grief!!! You're right they really did eat the swans - You learn something every day...

Interesting Link!


One picture I warn you is not pleasant!
Old Sep 3rd, 2002, 09:38 AM
Posts: n/a
I have been told that swan tastes just like chicken, just as does rattle snake meat, frog legs, and so on. Hmmm, I wonder. I guess I will have to see if HRM can invite me over for a nice fried swan dinner with grits, cole slaw, and fried okry some time.
Old Sep 3rd, 2002, 09:41 AM
Posts: n/a
I saw no disturbing pictures there at all...what are you talking about anyway?
Old Sep 3rd, 2002, 09:45 AM
david west
Posts: n/a
Swan Upping, another thing that sounds better than it is.
Related Topics
Original Poster
Last Post
Nov 27th, 2017 01:24 AM
Jul 7th, 2014 12:32 PM
Feb 14th, 2007 03:58 AM
May 3rd, 2006 01:00 PM
Aug 8th, 2002 06:59 PM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell My Personal Information