Act for Swans 1576
During the short reign of Edward VI (1547-1553) certain rules concerning the ownership of mute swans were introduced.
During the reign of Elizabeth I (1558 - 1603) these "rules" were implemented by the Queen into an "Act for Swans" 1576.
The act decreed that all wild mute swans in England were the property of the Crown - and only the Crown could grant ownership of mute swans.
Ownership was identified by special markings on the upper beak.
Severe penalties were exacted under the law for stealing or killing swans - interfering with their nests and polluting the water of a swan's habitat.
The Act remains on the Statute Book. Today swans and other birds are protected under the Wildlife Act 1981 - and it is still a criminal offence to interfere with nesting birds.