‘Counting One’s Swans’ Annual Swan Upping begins along River Thames

The 800-year-old tradition of counting the Monarch’s swans along the River Thames began on Monday. Swan Upping, as the process is known, dates back to the 12th century when the Crown first claimed ownership of all mute swans – then considered a delicacy that would be served at Royal Banquets.

In the present day, swans are no longer served at Royal Banquets and are protected by law.

Swan Upping sees three teams – one representing The Queen and two representing the old trade associations of the Vintners and Dyers – patrol the River Thames over five days to capture, tag and release any families of swans with young.

“Swan Marker,” David Barker said of the process, “The law states that The Queen can own any swan swimming in open waters if she so wishes, but she mainly exercises that right on the River Thames. Today Swan Upping is about conservation and education.”

Her Majesty The Queen attended the Swan Upping ceremony for the first time in her reign in July 2009, the first time a Monarch had attended an Upping ceremony in centuries.

The only other bodies to still exercise the same rights as the Monarch over the swans are two livery companies of the City of London. The Vintners’ Company dates back to the 12th century and is one of the most ancient Livery Companies of the City of London. The Dyers Company existed as the Dyers Guild back in the 12th Century and received a Royal Charter back in 1471 and is now mainly a charitable institution. Both Companies take part in the annual Swan Upping Ceremony.

Last year’s count on the River Thames showed that there were 132 new cygnets on the River, reversing a declining trend on previous Uppings.

Photo Credit: Engraved by William J. Palmer via Wikimedia Commons

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