Recently, the royal ‘Swan Upping’ took place in the River Thames – a spectacle carried out with extraordinary grace amidst a fluttering of wings.
An annual ceremony that began in the 12th century, when swans were claimed as property of The Crown, it’s primary purpose is to establish the swan census.
Once upon a time, this ceremony was carried out due to The Royal’s appetite for the apparently delicious creatures. Now, however, the swans are preferred alive and feathered – and they’re protected under stringent laws as part of the Queen’s ownership. The official Royal website notes Swan Upping has changed from ‘a mostly ceremonial event to an important element of wildlife conservation’.
Swan Upping involves a group of six skiffs who, donning crimson shirts, row along the Thames looking to spot the swans, with the Swan Marker at the head.
Once caught, (no easy feat considering they can weigh up to 15 kg) the cygnets are checked for injuries commonly caused by dogs or fishing hooks. In recent years, increased pollution has also resulted in debris such as oil harming the swans.
The Queen’s Swan Warden marks cygnets belonging to the two recognised livery companies of London – those left unmarked are considered property of The Queen.
Yet whilst the London swans may have been causing a stir in the news, there are plenty of opportunities to visit their Scottish cousins.
Some swans currently count Hercules Gardens at Blair Castle as home, which is currently open for visitors.