LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) — Following the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, 96, her memory will live on through the swans of Lake Morton.
“Because of Queen Elizabeth, we have that iconic swan here and we are paired with the Queen because of those swans,” said Kevin Cook, communications director for the city of Lakeland.
The story dates back roughly one century when Lakeland’s swan population died off in the 1920’s.
A few decades later, a request came from some Lakeland natives.
“We had a couple from Lakeland that was actually living in England that wrote a letter to the Queen asking if she would be gracious enough to donate a swan pair, a pair of swans and she did,” Cook said.
Newspaper clippings from 1957 detailed the anticipation.
The headlines read “Our Royal Swans Held in England” and “Royal Swans Due by Plane.”
A letter described what Queen Elizabeth II expected of the city of Lakeland when it accepted the pair of royal swans.
“She donated the swans but she said we had to pay to have the swans shipped by ship back then to the city of Lakeland,” said Cook.
The city paid $300 for the swans’ travel and they came home to Lake Morton.
From there, the Swan City was born.
“We have the iconic swan that’s a part of the fabric of Lakeland. They live on Lake Morton. It’s almost a rite of passage for people to come down and feed the swans, especially if you’re from here you know that,” Cook said.
In addition to the dozens of royal swan descendants in and around Lake Morton, swan statues and logos are sprinkled throughout the city.
“We have Queen Elizabeth to thank for that thank goodness,” said Petra Sussman, who lives in Lakeland.
The royal swans, a gift from the longest-reigning British monarch, help Sussman to clear her mind while she’s taking strolls around Lake Morton.
“It really helps to have swans swimming and keeping me calm,” she said. “I’m very, very, very glad that we have them.”