The county of Norfolk, with its regional administrative capital of Norwich, has many connections to the royal family stretching back centuries. The royal coats of arms have been supported by armorial beasts since records began.
The gracious swan is often overlooked or forgotten but forges close ties with the county. One variant of the royal coat of arms for King Henry IV had his escutcheon (shield) supported on the dexter (left-hand side) by an antelope argent (silver), ducally collared, lines, and armed; and on the sinister (right-hand side), by a swan argent.
However, the device of the swan is derived from the Bohun swan of the family of de Bohun, a descendant of which, Mary de Bohun, became King Henry IV’s first wife.
Godfrey of Bouillon (d. 1100), King of Jerusalem and the hero of the First Crusade, had no legitimate progeny, but his wider family had many descendants among the aristocracy of Europe, many of whom after his death made use of the swan as a heraldic emblem. In England such a family was that of de Bohun, Earls of Hereford and Earls of Essex with vast estates and land throughout East Anglia.
The swan emblem has retained royal connections passing from monarch to monarch up to the present day. The reigning monarch has held the right to claim ownership of all unmarked mute swans swimming in open waters across the country since the 12th century. Historically, this legislation was created because swans were eaten as a prized food at banquets and feasts.
Valuable rights of ownership were granted by the monarch to a select few. Apart from the Queen there are only three organisations which are allowed to own swans – Abbotsbury Swannery, since the 14th century, the vintners since the 15th century and the dyers, also since the 15th century.
The swans in the Norfolk region are predominately Bewick swans, a Eurasian species of the tundra swan; its breeding grounds are largely in the Russian tundra. Adult swans forge close bonds with their young greys throughout the summer and then in the autumn migrate in vast numbers to the Fens and the Broads where they remain for most of our winter.
During one of our recent visits to Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter a silver centre piece was being made; I inquired about the swans and got told they were for a newly-commissioned piece for Royalty.
Four extra swans were cast in case of imperfections, all of which I purchased. They had to be altered so I had ours gold gilded and mounted on plinths for the shop display. Here at Juels’ Limited we are always on the search for unusual and one-off items so if you have any hidden treasures, we are here to either purchase them or give a current free valuation.