Who Owns All the Swans in England?


Quick Answer

If you were strolling along the Thames in London and spotted a family of swans swimming by, you might reasonably assume that they were free birds—but they are not. The Queen owns all of the unmarked mute swans in England and has the power to bestow ownership on others as she deems appropriate.

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Who Owns All the Swans in England?
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Full Answer

In the 12th century, swans were considered a delicacy and were therefore served at royal banquets. To ensure that the king or queen always had enough available for feasts, the swans came under ownership of the crown.

Over hundreds of years, different kings and queens have granted swan ownership to other entities. As of 2015, both the Dyers’ and Vintners’ livery companies and the Ilchester family also own swans in England.

Although swans are no longer on the dinner menu, the royal family still keeps track of the mute swans for conservation purposes. Each year during the third week of July, the monarchy’s official Swan Warden, Swan Marker and Swan Uppers travel up the River Thames in order to conduct a census of the swans in an event called the Swan Upping. (The Dyers and Vintners liveries also have crews who make this journey.) The swans are counted, weighed, measured and given a general health check before being released back into the river.

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