Heritage

Queen Elizabeth Technically Owns All the Unmarked Swans in the U.K.

This week, the birds on the Thames were checked and counted.
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Being the British monarch comes with more than a few perks. In addition to a vault of jewels, and getting to celebrate your birthday twice a year, Queen Elizabeth is the technical owner of all "unmarked mute swans swimming in open waters" in the U.K.

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Photo by WPA POOL / GETTY IMAGES.

According to the royal family's website, the British crown has "held the right to claim ownership" of these animals for since the 12th century, and traditionally, "valuable rights of ownership were subsequently granted by the monarch to many people and organisations as swans were a prized food, served at banquets and feasts."

Given that swans are no longer a delicacy in Britain, things have changed a bit over the past 800 years, but the birds (well, at least the ones on a specific portion of the River Thames) are still counted every year by a group headed by the Queen’s official Swan Marker in an event known as "Swan Upping." But now the process centers around conservation and education.

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QUEEN ELIZABETH MEETS WITH HER TEAM OF SWAN UPPERS IN 2009.
Photo by WPA POOL / GETTY IMAGES.

"We will lift the whole family out of the water, we will take them ashore, we weigh them, measure them and check them for any injuries," David Barber, the Queen’s Swan Marker, told Reuters.

"You have a population of swans that hasn’t changed much since the mid-1800s."

But unfortunately, the birds are currently facing threats, both from dogs and non-native species.

"We've had a pretty rough time with...dog attacks, all sorts of things—like mink," Barber told the BBC.

"They're not indigenous to this country and they're breeding like mad on the river here, and they do take a lot of young cygnets," he said.

This year, the annual census started on Monday, July 15, and will finish up on Friday, July 19. For a full schedule of when and where you can see the ceremony, click here.

*This article originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com

*Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors

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Caroline Hallemann
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