There is an investigation afoot in England where someone felled one of the Queen’s swans, plucked it, and barbecued it on the riverbank near Windsor Castle. In a throwback to the age of Robin Hood, all swans in England remain the property of the Crown and, until 1988, killing a swan was an act of treason. The Mute Swans remain protected under law.
Notably, swans were kept as a delicacy to be eaten by the King and Queen. It appears that someone stepped above their station and decided to have a meal fit for a King.
What struck me as curious about this story (beyond the obvious) was the statement of the government in news reports that “Today, the Crown retains the right to ownership of all unmarked mute swans in open water, but the queen only exercises her ownership on certain stretches of the Thames and its surrounding tributaries.” That creates a rather odd criminal law — all swans belong to the Queen but she only “exercises” ownership along certain areas of the Thames. How would someone know that? Is it still a crime in areas that turn out not to be one of those where the Queen’s claim is “exercised”?
Once again, I remain surprised that our English brethren continue to maintain a royal family with such lingering prerogatives. However, if you insist on having a royal family, it might be useful to have clarity. In this case, the law seems to suggest that you cannot hunt swans on not just the Queen’s land but on any land . . . but it may or may not be enforced.