After the death of Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s swans have a new owner.
Following a tradition that dates back to medieval times, swans in the U.K. belong to the monarch. Now, they belong to King Charles III, according to Reuters.
David Barber, who served as Queen Elizabeth’s swan marker for 30 years and is now the swan marker of the king, told Reuters that King Charles can claim any swan that is unmarked, swimming in open waters.
“Not all the swans belong to the king,” Barber said. “But if he wishes to claim them, he can, by the royal prerogative.”
This tradition of giving swan ownership to the monarch started at a time when swans were considered a delicacy, served at feasts and banquets, Barber told Reuters.
“As time went on, different people owned swans,” Barber said. “The crown gave them the right to own them. And they had the young cygnets and they would fatten them up for the Christmas feasts.”
“Of course, today swans are no longer eaten, and it’s all a conservation and education exercise,” Barber added.
Barber said he met Queen Elizabeth at several events over the three decades he served as her swan marker.
In 2014, Queen Elizabeth presented him with the Royal Victorian Order, Reuters reported.
“She was a very, very lovely person, Barber said. “You could get on with her very well. And she took a grand interest in all wildlife but swans as well.”
Barber said he hopes King Charles will do the same.
“He’s very keen on conservation and all this type of thing, which is absolutely brilliant for us as well,” Barber said. “So hopefully he will take a nice interest in the swan population. That will help us do our job.”
Reuters contributed to this report.