by Graham Pierrepoint
If you’ve ever been to the UK, you’ll know that it’s a country proud of its heritage and history – and much of this is thanks to its rich and varied wildlife! Swans are popular sights throughout the rivers and canals of Britain, and they have also been subject to a common misnomer over the years relating to who has official ‘ownership’ over the birds. It’s fairly well-known that, apparently, Queen Elizabeth II officially ‘owns’ all the swans in Britain – but following a response made to a young girl in recent weeks, it seems this really is not the case.
Five-year-old Lyndsay Simpson wrote to the Queen directly to ask if she could buy a swan from her – a delightful story in and of itself, but Buckingham Palace actively responded to the request! While anyone hoping to claim one of the aquatic avians for their own may be disappointed, the Queen’s representation took time out to make sure Lyndsay’s request did not go unheeded – though they were sadly unable to commit to such a sale – and it has nothing to do with Lyndsay’s plans to keep said bird in her bath!
Buckingham Palace thanked Lyndsay for her letter and advised that the Queen was not in fact in ownership of all UK swans and that this is a common misconception – however, she does own mute swans which can be seen ‘on certain parts of the River Thames’. The official response went on to state that swans, as ‘native wild birds’, are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act – meaning that despite the fact Her Majesty has little to do with the various water birds that may glide in and out of the UK’s estuaries, they are at least protected under law. This means that, as a protected species, endangering the birds or illegally harboring them could be met with an arrest and a hefty penalty. The British certainly take their animal welfare seriously!
Regardless – the fact that Buckingham Palace responded personally to a five-year-old girl is somewhat heart-warming – advising that the Queen herself was ‘encouraged to know of (Lyndsay’s) interest in our native birdlife’. It just goes to show, therefore, that the Queen may well respond to a nicely-written letter – but if you’re in the market to buy a swan, you may want to think twice – as she has no say in the matter!