Swan on the Isis
Image by Lawrence OP
Swan Upping dates from medieval times, when The Crown claimed ownership of all mute swans which were considered an important food source for banquets and feasts. Today The Crown retains the right of ownership of all unmarked mute swans in open water, but The Queen mainly exercises this right on certain stretches of the River Thames and its surrounding tributaries. This ownership is shared with the Vintners’ and Dyers’ Livery Companies who were granted rights of ownership by The Crown in the fifteenth century. The swans are counted but are no longer eaten.
The Queen’s Swan Marker and the accompanying Swan Uppers of the Vintners’ and Dyers’ Livery Companies use six traditional Thames rowing skiffs in their five-day journey upstream to Abingdon. By tradition scarlet uniforms are worn by The Queen’s Swan Marker and Swan Uppers, and each boat flies the appropriate flag and pennant.
It has always been the duty of the Sovereign’s Swan Marker to count the number of young cygnets each year and ensure that the swan population is maintained. With the assistance of The Queen’s Swan Warden, Professor Christopher Perrins of the University of Oxford, the swans and young cygnets are also assessed for any signs of injury or disease. When a brood of cygnets is sighted, a cry of "All up!" is given to signal that the boats should get into position. On passing Windsor Castle, the rowers stand to attention in their boat with oars raised and salute "Her Majesty The Queen, Seigneur of the Swans".
This year’s Swan Upping will start on Monday 19th July 2011, departing from Sunbury Lock and ending at Abingdon, Oxfordshire on Friday 23rd July.
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