Swan Upping 2017: Day 2
Yesterday began the annual census of the Mute Swan population on the River Thames. It’s day two and we will talk a little about the history of the Swan Upping event. Official royal ownership of Mute Swans in England began in the 12th
century when any unmarked swan became property of the crown. In the 14th
century the office “Keeper of the King’s Swans” came into existence. There were also several private swan owners who employed swan herds to maintain their flocks. Before the young swans, cygnets, were able to fly they were rounded up along with their parents, the cob and pen, and to claim ownership they were given marks on their bills to match those of the parents. To own swans
and to serve them up as a ceremonial dish at banquets was a display of status.
Along with the Royal Swan Uppers, there are two other groups that are granted rights to the
mute swans on the River Thames, the Worshipful Company of Vintners and the
Worshipful Company of Dyers. The original purpose of Swan Upping was to ensure
ownership of the swans and a ready supply of meat for the royal and livery company
banquets. Today the process is more about conservation and ensuring the health
of the Mute Swan population.
The images above are from De Arte Venandi cum Avibus. Ms. Pal. Lat. 1071, Biblioteca
Apostolica Vaticana. Facsimile reproduction by Akademische Druck- u.
Verlagsanstalt, Graz. Printed in Austria 1969.