Queen Elizabeth II watched for the first time as her staff began the annual job of counting her swans.
The Seigneur Of The Swans — as she is known during the historic Swan Upping ceremony — sailed up the River Thames on a steamer to observe cygnets being weighed and measured.
The 83-year-old monarch, on the British throne since 1952, owns all unmarked mute swans in open water in Britain, but had never watched the traditional custom before.
“Swan Upping” dates from the 12th century when the crown claimed all the unowned mute swans in England to ensure a supply of meat for banquets and feasts.
Although the royal family no longer eat the birds, the ceremony has stood the test of time but is now done for conservation purposes.
Queen Elizabeth only exercises her right of ownership along certain stretches of the Thames and its tributaries.
Wearing an apricot outfit, the monarch sailed in the steamer Alaska to watch the proceedings.
“The queen just seemed generally interested in everything we were doing and asking questions about our work,” said the sovereign’s swan marker, David Barber, who is in charge of the annual census.
“Two hundred years ago there would have been a lot more swans than there are today and conservation is much more important now,” he said.
“Pollution and loss of habitats have affected the birds so the job we do is vital to check on how they are doing.”
The swans face a variety of perils such as being shot, attacked by dogs or getting caught up in fishing tackle.
The supply of swans to the royal household was once considered so important that in the 16th century anyone caught stealing swan eggs could face a year in jail and a hefty fine.