Swan Upping

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Speaking of swans: By royal prerogative, all mute swans in open water in Britain are the property of the British Crown. Historically the Crown shares ownership with two livery companies, the Worshipful Company of Vintners and the Worshipful Company of Dyers, and so, accordingly, each year in the third week of July three skiffs make their way up the Thames from Sunbury to Abingdon, catching, tagging, and releasing the swans they encounter. Nominally they’re apportioning the birds among themselves; in practice they’re counting them and checking their health.

Magnificently, the Crown’s swans are recorded by the Marker of the Swans, a recognized official in the Royal Household since this tradition began in the 12th century. Queen Elizabeth II attended the Swan Upping ceremony in 2009, as “Seigneur of the Swans,” the first time a reigning monarch had done so. The entire operation was shut down for the first time in 2020, due to COVID-19, but it commenced again the following year.

While we’re at it: All whales and sturgeons caught in Britain become the personal property of the monarch — they are “royal fish.” Plan accordingly.

(Thanks, Nick.)