A brief note from the government’s press service a few days ago noted: “Her Majesty The Queen will see the Swan Upping ceremony between Bovney Lock and Oakley Court on the River Thames, on the 20th July 2009. This is the first occasion that The Queen has witnessed the annual event.”

This historic ceremony dates from the twelfth century, when the Crown claimed ownership of all mute swans, and considering how closely linked to the Monarch the tradition is, I was surprised to read that our current Queen has never been to see it before.

At the time Swan was considered to be quite a delicacy, although I gather that the meat is actually not that tasty, and the bird is no longer eaten.

swan upping banner

Today, the Crown retains the right to ownership of all unmarked mute swans in open water, but The Queen only exercises her ownership on certain stretches of the Thames and its surrounding tributaries. This ownership is shared with the Worshipful Company of Vintners and the Worshipful Company of Dyers, who were granted rights of ownership by the Crown in the fifteenth century.

The Queen’s Swan Uppers wear traditional scarlet uniforms and each boat flies appropriate flags and pennants.

The calendar is:

Monday, 20 July 2009
Eton Bridge to Cookham

The Loyal Toast is drunk between 4.00 p.m. and 6.00 p.m. on the Monday at Romney Lock, Windsor.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009
Cookham to Marlow Lock

Wednesday, 22 July 2009
Marlow Bridge to Sonning Bridge

Thursday, 23 July 2009
Sonning-on-Thames to Moulsford

Friday, 24 July 2009
Moulsford to Abingdon Bridge

I would be keen to go and watch, and while my work patterns are flexible, they are not quite that flexible.

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