The Queen has answered a letter from a five-year-old girl who wrote asking if she could keep one of Her Majesty’s swans as a pet for the weekend.
According to The Times, Lyndsay Simpson told The Queen that if she was ever given the chance to keep the bird, she would look after it and keep it in the bath.
A few weeks after receiving the letter, Buckingham Palace returned with a response, saying that The Queen “had taken a careful note’’ of the ornithophile’s comments.
Packed with a booklet on the Swan Upping, a letter from the palace read, “The Queen was encouraged to know of your interest in our native birdlife and thought it kind of you to write as you did.”
It went on to correct a common misconception that the monarch owned all swans in the country.
It said, “Her Majesty owns mute swans and only exercises her right of ownership over swans on certain parts of the River Thames.”
Lyndsay also revealed that she was prepared to feed the swans “whatever The Queen feeds her swans,’’ insisting that she will “ask The Queen again if I could borrow it as I would have looked after it very well.”
The issue of ownership of swans in the UK dates back centuries. In the twelfth century, the Crown claimed ownership of all mute swans and considered them a delicacy served at banquets.
In the fifteenth century, this ownership was shared with the Worshipful Company of Dyers and The Worshipful Company of Vintners. Since then, only unmarked swans on certain stretches of the River Thames have been owned by the sovereign.
Though no longer feasted on, swans are celebrated each year in a special Swan Upping ceremony, in which young swans are ringed, weighed and checked for injuries before they are rereleased.
During her reign, The Queen has attended the ceremony only once in 2009.