Sunday, September 11, 2011

A royal swan

Originally a gift to England’s King from Queen Beatrice of Cyprus, the swans that you see puddling around on the Thames river are known as ‘royal birds’, although now ownership is shared between Her Majesty the Queen and two London guilds, the Worshipful Company of Dyers and the Worshipful Company of Vintners.

 Each year a traditional ceremony called swan-upping takes place on the Thames when representatives of the three owners set off in a fleet of skiffs to comb the river for unmarked birds. Each skiff has a special banner fluttering at the helm and the ‘swan herds’ are dressed in colorful uniforms. The Queen’s men lead the procession in scarlet and white, the Vintners in dark green and silver and the Dyers in blue and gold. All wear caps sporting a jaunty swan’s feather.

When the birds are caught they are dragged into the respective boats and marked; one nick on the beak for the Dyer’s birds, two nicks for the Vintner’s birds and the Queen’s, nick free, are dropped back in the water to paddle away, regal dignity intact.
This is just another of England's quaint traditions.
Photo copyright Anne Gordon
Posted on Sunday, 11th September, 2011


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