1 All swans in the United Kingdom belong to the Queen. That's why you won't find oven-ready swans in the poultry section at your supermarket.

2 Royal ownership does not apply in Orkney and Shetland: there they fall under ancient Viking jurisdiction known as Udal Law. Swan has featured in the Orcadian diet for centuries.

3 Not everyone understands this, as the Orkney-based composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies found to his cost last week. After witnessing the death of a swan which collided with power lines on his property, he made "a delicious terrine" of it. But when visiting police noticed swan carcasses in his shed, their suspicions were aroused.

4 Maxwell Davies is one of Britain's most admired musicians, and the founder of Orkney's St Magnus festival.

Knighted in 1987 and made Master of the Queen's Music in 2004, he has not previously incurred the monarch's wrath.

5 Swan meat is best prepared after the dead bird has been hung for four days:

the bacterial action tenderises the meat and enhances its rich, gamey flavour.

6 According to one 14th-century recipe, you should then "tak & undo hym & wasch hym, & do on a spite & enarme [lard] hym well & roste hym".

The flesh should then be served with a sauce made from entrails, bread, ginger, galangal, blood and a little vinegar.

7 Whatever you may have heard, swan is unlikely to be on the menu at Charles and Camilla's wedding reception.