An article in the morning paper about Swan Upping caught my eye. Yesterday the swans were upped. There was a photo of two upped swans and their handlers.
First stop is always Wikipedia. It gives me enough information to know where to go next.
Seems the British Monarch owns the mute swans on the Themes. That makes him or her responsible for the health and welfare of the population. It also means you can’t hunt swans on the river. Nor could they become food for the starving population. Remember Robin Hood got in trouble for hunting the king’s deer? The swan situation was formalized in 1482.
Queen Elizabeth II, is "Seigneur of the Swans." She attended her first Swan Upping ceremony on July 20, 2009. Swans are caught by uppers in boats, they are then counted and given health checks. Included in the article is a reference: Norman Frederic Ticehurst, The Mute Swan in England: Its History, and the Ancient Custom. I wonder if I can find a copy anywhere.
Where to go next? Well I am reading a book called Creatures of Empire by Virginia DeJohn Anderson. Maybe there will be something about it. Nope, no swans in the index. But she does have a nice bibliography.
Whenever I can, I ask somebody. So on Monday I will ask the archeologist I work with, Keith Doms, if he knows anything. If he doesn’t he can usually send me somewhere to find out more.
My daughter has a degree in animal science so I asked her what she knew. She said she wouldn’t want to up swans because they are mean. I think she would love to up a swan or two. She will probably check around today and come back with a few tidbits of info.
It seems unlikely that I will ever use this in any of my writing since my work is all set in North America between the early 1600s and the 1890s. Did they ever up swans here? I don’t know, but you can bet I will find out.