Centuries ago, swans represented nobility and only the very wealthy could afford to own swans. Around the year 1189, the Mute swan became known as the Royal bird in England. By 1483, several Acts of Parliament started restricting the ownership of swans along the Thames to protect their exclusivity status. It meant only people with a certain level of income could own swans. One act designated swan ownership to people with freehold estate of at least five marks a year. In other words, commoners were prohibited from owning the regal bird.
In Britain, an Act of Parliament was passed in 1843 stating that only the British Crown could possess any or all swans on open waters. Swans are given as gifts all around the world in the name of The Monarch. The King or Queen could also grant someone else the right to own them.
Under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act, Mute swans are protected, which makes it illegal to keep the birds and kill them.
In the United States, the beautiful Mute swans have been labeled by Federal and state wildlife officials as invasive, aggressive and non-native swans and as a result thousands have been killed. Here's one article explaining one side of the controversy. For more information reach out to Sheila Bolin is CEO of The Regal Swan Foundation, Inc. and learn more at www.theregalswan.com