The Swan

Nominated by: Emma McGrath

Buckinghamshire’s County emblem is a swan and can be seen consistently throughout the area – it’s a logo for the local library, the local Council, the Wycombe Swan theatre, the Swan Pub in Beaconsfield and Wycombe Wanders FC. The swan appears on historic towns in Buckinghamshire such as Aylesbury, Buckingham, Chesham, Marlow and High Wycombe.

The traditional flag of Buckinghamshire features a chained swan on a bicolour of red and black.  There are several theories about why a swan is the emblem of Buckinghamshire.  Some suggest that the swan emblem dates back to Anglo-Saxon times, when Buckinghamshire was known for breeding swans for the king.  

It has also been suggested that the swan arose from when Henry II appointed Henry of Essex as Sheriff of Buckingham in 1156. ‘Swene’ was the surname of one of the Sheriff’s ancestors and due to the popularity of wordplay during this time, this may have led to the Sheriff of Buckingham selecting the bird as the badge of his county.

A third option is suggested by links to the de Bohun family through the marriage of Thomas of Woodstock, son of Edward III and Eleanor de Bohun, whose family claimed descent from the mythical French Knight of the Swan.  Offspring of the de Bohun family wore swan pendants and the family crest was a swan with a coronet.  So, considering this marriage and the appointment of Thomas as Earl of Buckingham (1377), perhaps this offers an insight into when the swan emblem first became associated with the county.  Their son Humphrey Stafford became Duke of Buckingham in 1444.

A book by Henry Gough written in 1863 suggests that it is through the Dukes of Buckingham, of the house of Stafford (who had great estates within the county), that the swan became so associated with Buckinghamshire as to become its emblem.  Gough says that the precise time when it was appropriated is uncertain, but the fact that the parted field in which it has constantly been represented (the red and black background on the flag) consists of the livery colours of the house of Stafford, indicates that it must have been adopted during their ascendancy within the county.

Whatever the real reason for the swan becoming the emblem of Buckinghamshire, real life swans are seen up and down Buckinghamshire on our canals, lakes and waterways. 

The Swans were nominated by Emma McGrath.