Owning swans is a privilege only one landowner shares with the Queen - Charlotte Townshend
Swans mean so much to Charlotte Townshend that when her only son was born, she followed an ancient tradition and laid the infant down in a swan's nest.
She is the only person in Britain other than the Queen entitled to own swans.
Wealthy Mrs Townshend, 52, who like the Queen never carries money, has claimed: "I don't feel rich."
Rather than live a life of idle luxury, she plays an active role in managing her vast estates.
* Bird flu kills three swans at nature reserve - Charlotte Townshend
The only surviving daughter of the 9th Viscount Galway, she is used to appearing in lists of the richest people in the country, and was not afraid to generate more publicity when she once prominently stood up against New Labour's ban on foxhunting.
Yet Mrs Townshend - who is nicknamed Blot --will be struck to her very core by the arrival of bird flu at her swannery at 14th Century Abbots-bury Manor, near Weymouth in Dorset. The swannery was bought by her ancestors from Henry VIII in 1543.
A racehorse owner, she regularly rides her horses to see the swans at dawn.
She inherited her fortune from her father, who died in 1971, and her mother, Lady Teresa, daughter of the 7th Earl of Ilchester, who died in 1990. Both her brothers died in accidents.
Her vast estates include the 15,000 acres surrounding her Dorset home, Melbury.
Charlotte Townshend also has 3,000 acres in Nottinghamshire, more properties in Yorkshire, and almost 40 acres in central London, mostly in Holland Park, one of the most exclusive parts of West London.
The value of her Holland Park estate is immense. Among the properties she owns is the freehold of the 48-room mansion occupied by
film director and restaurant critic Michael Winner.
It is said to be worth £35million.
Mrs Townshend was first married to art dealer Guy Morrison. They had a son, Simon, now 22, but divorced after three years.
She had a long relationship with married Captain Ian Farquhar, a friend of the Prince of Wales and joint master of the Duke of Beaufort's Hunt.
But she went on to marry her second husband, divorced land agent James Townshend, whose ex-wife Olivia did not approve.
Mr Townshend has been an activist with the Countryside Alliance.
Mrs Townshend, a joint master of her local Cattistock hunt, came into conflict with Tony Blair at the end of the Nineties over his opposition to foxhunting.
Charlotte Townshend had been poised to sign an agreement with English Nature to make Chesil Beach a national reserve - but pulled out in 1999 because of the looming hunting ban.