Swan Upping is a good old English tradition, there's not enough of them
July 10, 2018 7:08 AM   Subscribe

The Crown owns all unmarked mute swans on the Thames, and has since the 12th century. Once a year in July an annual swan census called Swan Upping takes place. Led by the Queen's Swan Warden, people in traditional wooden skiffs check for ownership marks and general swan and cygnet health over a five day period. Despite her position, the Queen has only attended one Swan Upping ceremony, in 2009. Impressive current photos and historical photos. [via1, via2]
posted by jessamyn (32 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
If *I* were Ta Qween, I would go every year even if i had to wear a drab rain hat!
posted by BlueHorse at 7:25 AM on July 10 [5 favorites]


The Queen is wise. Swans are beautiful but very, very mean. These census takers are brave to do this. Being attacked by an angry, full-grown swan suuuccckkkks.
posted by anastasiav at 7:29 AM on July 10 [4 favorites]


How do they not get bit to death? The geese here in Canada, even the relatively tame ones along the Ottawa river, hiss like snakes and can really hurt you. Maybe they think they have to be on their best behavior in case She shows up?
posted by Malingering Hector at 7:29 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]




the Queen’s Swan Warden

I don’t have particularly strong feelings either way on the monarchy, so I don’t really know if it is genius or shameful that there is someone whose job boils down to “count swans once a year.”
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:35 AM on July 10 [7 favorites]


Swan, swan, summing birds
posted by cortex at 7:49 AM on July 10 [14 favorites]


ಠ_ಠ

How did you show up and do this so quickly?
posted by jessamyn at 7:50 AM on July 10 [4 favorites]


A cygneture event

oh grauniad and your puns
posted by lalochezia at 7:56 AM on July 10 [6 favorites]


The Queen is wise. Swans are beautiful but very, very mean. These census takers are brave to do this. Being attacked by an angry, full-grown swan suuuccckkkks.

Oh, my, yes. The best thing I can say about geese is: at least they're not swans.

More Geese than Swannes now live, more Fooles than Wise.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:59 AM on July 10 [3 favorites]


Could you imagine being the Queen? There's hundreds of bizarre events like this for you to choose from every year, all in your honor.
Your Majesty, were you aware that once a year we count all the swans in London?
Why ever would they do that?
Because they belong to you! We are inventorying your property.
Oh that sounds marvelous. Let's do go next year. Prepare my steam launch, the Alaska. I shall choose a hat.
The first year she opened Parliament must have been awkward
Your Majesty, it is time to preside over the opening of the House of Commons!
Oh how exciting! I cannot wait to participate in our country's parliamentary democracy.
I have some bad news, Ma'am, you are not allowed to enter the premises. They will slam the door in your face.
Oh that's not very kind! Why not?
Some awkward and ugly history, Ma'am.
Well bollocks to them then! Send in Black Rod to bash the door in.
And then there's Prince Philip..
I say, good man, what news of Vanuatu?
Where, your Royal Highness?
Vanuatu! It's an island we used to own in the Pacific. I'm a god there, you know.
Why no, how did that come to be?
incoherent racist mumbling
posted by Nelson at 8:00 AM on July 10 [7 favorites]


Swans are beautiful but very, very mean.

They are very intimidating when encountered in a canoe. You don't want to stick around. They surge out of the water with every kick with necks twisting in a very serpentine and baleful manner, hissing and glaring. They will be biting everything they can reach. A meeting while swimming would be far worse -- they can and do drown dogs by driving them under the water.
posted by y2karl at 8:00 AM on July 10 [4 favorites]


There once was a fellow from John's
Who tried to bugger the swans
"Oh no!" said the porter
"Here, please take my daughter,
Them swans are reserved for the dons."

How swan terrine landed Queen's composer on the wrong side of the law.

Swimmers, be thankful that the Giant Maltese Swan and the Poūwa mega-swan are extinct.
posted by Devonian at 8:16 AM on July 10 [4 favorites]


How did you show up and do this so quickly?

Twitter functions for me like a very spotty, pointless Batsignal.
posted by cortex at 8:36 AM on July 10 [5 favorites]


Metafilter: a very spotty, pointless Batsignal.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:43 AM on July 10 [9 favorites]


I don’t have particularly strong feelings either way on the monarchy, so I don’t really know if it is genius or shameful that there is someone whose job boils down to “count swans once a year.”

I should add that only in England could Lewis Carroll have written the Alice books. The idea of someone being charged by royalty to annually count swans could make sense in only three settings: dreams, Wonderland, or Blighty.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:51 AM on July 10 [3 favorites]


How did you show up and do this so quickly?

Wake up, MeFiple!
posted by The Bellman at 9:10 AM on July 10 [2 favorites]


Poūwa mega-swan

Band name!
posted by Foosnark at 10:24 AM on July 10


Royal Swan Uppers: good name for a band or good name for a rave drug?
posted by es_de_bah at 10:49 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


ricochet biscuit: "I don’t have particularly strong feelings either way on the monarchy, so I don’t really know if it is genius or shameful that there is someone whose job boils down to “count swans once a year.”"

FTA:
They are also ringed with ID numbers by the the Queen’s swan warden, a professor of ornithology at the University of Oxford’s department of zoology
Seems clear this fellow has a day job.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:39 AM on July 10 [2 favorites]


Band name!

User name!
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:40 AM on July 10


I feel a bit sad for this poor laughing fellow who appears blissfully unaware that a bloodthirsty swan is rearing up to seize him between the C4 and C5 vertebrae, snap his head clean off and feast on the fleshy contents of his soggy bucket hat.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:17 PM on July 10 [5 favorites]


Seems clear this fellow has a day job.

Bah. I prefer my interpretation.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:20 PM on July 10 [2 favorites]


I don’t have particularly strong feelings either way on the monarchy, so I don’t really know if it is genius or shameful that there is someone whose job boils down to “count swans once a year.”

The Grand Carver of England has the job of carving roasts for the monarch. But only at coronation banquets. The last coronation was in 1953, but the last coronation banquet was in 1821. There have been five generations of Grand Carvers of England who have not ever been required to carve so much as a Cornish game hen.
posted by grouse at 4:52 PM on July 10 [6 favorites]


> posted by grouse at 7:52 PM on July 10 [1 favorite +] [!]

grouse upping! ONE!
posted by not_on_display at 5:46 PM on July 10 [5 favorites]


The last coronation was in 1953, but the last coronation banquet was in 1821.

HM the Queen: “Now, Gerald, I understand your job is to carve the roast at coronation banquets, is that correct?”

Gerald, a Lackey: “Yes, marm.”

HM the Queen: “And the last such banquet was for the coronation of the elder brother of my great-great-grandfather, yes?”

Gerald: “Yes, marm.”

HM the Queen: “How long have you been part of my staff, Gerald?”

Gerald: “Forty-six years man and boy, marm.”

HM the Queen: “So the last time anyone in your job had anything to do was eight monarchs ago? Nearly two centuries?”

Gerald: “Yes, marm.”

[silence]

Gerald: “What shall I do now, marm?”
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:13 PM on July 10 [1 favorite]


The last coronation was in 1953, but the last coronation banquet was in 1821.

Obviously, the only possible conclusion to draw from this fact is that George IV ate it all.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 6:27 PM on July 10 [3 favorites]




FTA:
They are also ringed with ID numbers by the the Queen’s swan warden, a professor of ornithology at the University of Oxford’s department of zoology


In fact they are marked with a cygnet ring.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:43 PM on July 10 [3 favorites]


Meanwhile, in the colonies.
posted by sebastienbailard at 7:52 PM on July 10 [2 favorites]


Once I encountered the notion of swan upping, it made me appreciate the natural English pun that the term one-upmanship is.
posted by y2karl at 7:56 AM on July 11


Apparently Upper Street in Islington is named in honour of the Crown office of Swan Upper.
posted by acb at 4:26 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]




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