Swan Upping (the Royal Barge)

£50.00£1,250.00

*The picture is unframed*

During the third week in July, the ancient ceremony of ‘Swan-Upping’takes place along the Thames in eastern Berkshire, between Windsor and Pangbourne. According to British law and tradition, the Sovereign can claim ownership of any unmarked mute swan in open water in Britain. This right is exercised every year on the River Thames, with ownership of swans along the river shared between the Queen and  two medieval-era organisations — the Dyers and the Vintners.It’s an ancient, 800-year-old tradition, steeped in history and quintessentially British. Representatives of the Crown, the Vintners, and the Dyers set sail up the Thames in a flotilla of skiffs, catching swans in a surreal week-long census.

The third week of July is the best time for Swan Upping because the cygnets are still young and the adult swans are moulting, so they’re not in flight. They are also a little more docile than normal – a comforting thought to those who have to check their condition.The word “upping” is from the Sixteenth century and refers to the practice of upturning the birds into boats for the purposes of marking them.The Uppers carefully position their skiffs around the birds, edging closer, before catching and tying them. The birds can’t fly away as they are mid-moult.

Swans are native to the United Kingdom, with archaeologists having found remains back to the late glacial period, 10,000 years ago. There are 134 swans on the River Thames today (2020) and about 7000 pairs of mute swans in the UK.

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Swan Upping (the Royal Barge)
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