As a nation, the United Kingdom is subject to countless strange and archaic rules and regulations. One of these traditions decrees that Queen Elizabeth is the official owner of every swan in England and Wales (she can also can stake a claim to any sturgeons, whales, porpoises, and dolphins swimming in UK waters). An unusual perk of the job, huh?
Now, it seems that the queen's status as owner-in-chief of the UK’s swan population might be causing her some emotional turmoil. More than 20 of the birds in her Windsor Castle-flock have reportedly succumbed to an outbreak of bird flu that is the country. Reports suggest that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is investigating the outbreak.
"Over 20 swans have died now, and there’s a lot which are seriously ill, which will die — well over 20 more," says David Barber the queen’s official swan marker. He is responsible for carrying out an annual census of the royal swans, a tradition known as the "swan upping," which has been going on for about 800 years.
"We are deeply saddened by the loss of these swans," David continued. "We’re waiting to hear from DEFRA, but yes, it is bird flu. I’m sure the queen would be concerned. You cannot do anything about it — it will burn itself out. They’re wild birds, and it is spread by wild birds, and we’ve been very unlucky."
Although some commentators have expressed concern that the outbreak might impact Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding, which will take place at St. George’s Chapel in May, this is very unlikely. The chances of bird flu being transmitted from birds to humans is very low, so preparations for the ceremony are likely to carry on as usual.
This post was written by Katie Rosseinsky. For more, check out our sister site Grazia.