Swan Upping


You are cordially invited to Queen Elizabeth II's Super Sweet Swan Upping!

As the royal family awaits the arrival of a mini-Prince William or mini-Kate Middleton (to immediately be fitted for a mini-crown, because that's adorable), Her Highness has another pressing matter at hand: She must perform her annual counting of all the swans that she owns (#whitegirlproblems).

More accurately, she has her minions do the counting for her. And that's just one of the facts that you should know about this tradition:

1. Dating back to the 12 century, the Queen of England owns all mute swans. She generally just keeps tabs on the ones living on the River Thames and surrounding areas though. Mute swans have white feathers and are known for being less vocal (translation: Queen Elizabeth doesn't want any of those ratchet birds who won't stop squawking).

2. Until recently, the "Seigneur of the Swans" (the Queen) was the only person who could kill and eat swans. Now, nobody can do either. But as recently as a decade or so ago, killing a swan was an act of treason that could technically be punishable by death or imprisonment.

3. Swan Upping is a swan census, basically. During the celebration, all of the Queen's swans along the River Thames are rounded up, caught, tagged and measured and then released back into the wild.

4. The focus of Swan Upping these days is on the babies (or cygnets, if you want to get official). Not just because they're super cute either, but in order to track breeding trends of the mute swans.

Swan Upping


5. Swan Upping kicked off today, July 15, and will continue until Friday, July 19. It takes place annually during the third week of July in areas like Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, among others.

6. The Queen's Swan Marker (a real job held by a real person) leads the Swan Upping. The current Swan Marker is named Swan Marker David Barber, a Professor of Ornithology at the University of Oxford's Department of Zoology.

7. The other swan counters (called "Swan Uppers") wear traditional scarlet uniforms. And six traditional Thames rowing skiffs are used for the Upping, each adorned with flags and pennants.

8. Swan Uppers cry "All up!" when they spot a group of swans. The Uppers target cygnets and when they spot them, this call indicates that they need to get into position to grab and tag.

Swan Upping


9. As they pass Windsor Castle, the Uppers toast to the Queen. Queen Elizabeth is rarely ever present at the event (she's attended once), so the rowers must stand at attention and hail Her Majesty The Queen, Seigneur of the Swans as they pass Windsor, one of the queen's pads.

10. There was no Swan Upping last year. In 2012, the Upping was supposed to be a part of The Queen's Diamond Jubilee tour, but due to flooding, the ceremony was cancelled for the first time in 900 years.

11. One of the biggest threats to swans these days is the increasing numbers of dog attacks. "When we have dog attacks it's through carelessness," BBC quotes Barber. "We are trying to stamp it out." (Also: minks.)

Queen Elizabeth's corgis are not behind the swan attacks, as far as we know. They're too busy attacking other royal puppies and hogging all of the spotlight for themselves.

And now you know everything you need to know to help count Queen Elizabeth's swans. Happy Swan Upping, bitches!

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