WHILE Her Majesty and Prince Philip prepare to spend Christmas day with their bubble in Windsor, we look back at when a king spent the big day in Southampton Castle.

Most people are familiar with Richard the Lionheart or Richard I through the story of Robin Hood when his return to England, from the Crusades, was expected to restore peace and order after the scheming of his brother John during his absence.

Richard was the son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine and spent most of his life enforcing his father’s rule in his French lands.

Following his father’s death he was crowned King in September 1189.

Richard immediately set off on a crusade to the Holy Land with an army of around 8,000 men.

Richard planned to campaign alongside Philip II of France and others but they abandoned him to face Saladin’s forces alone.

He eventually reached a truce with Saladin and set sail for home.

Following a shipwreck, he was forced to travel overland and was captured by Duke Leopold V of Austria who handed him over to the German emperor Henry VI who demanded a ransom for his release.

The ransom was raised with the help of Gervaise de Hampton, a very wealthy Southampton man.

Richard was released on February 4, 1194, and returned to England landing in Southampton where he spent time in the castle.

Richard then returned to France where he spent the next five years fighting to hold on to his lands.

Richard’s reign lasted until April 1199, when he died from a gangrenous wound and was buried in France.

During his 10-year reign he spent only six months in England and just one Christmas, which was spent in Southampton Castle in 1194.

The celebration of Christmas for Richard would have been an important religious affair but a large part would also have been the feasting which would last several days.

Southampton’s leaders would have been expected to provide the food and entertainment and with their reputation with the King at stake they would have wanted this to have been a great success.

Goose and, with the king’s permission, swan would have been eaten and also woodcock. Medieval cooks covered the birds with butter and saffron which gave them a golden colour when served.

A boar's head was a central part of the feast. This wasn’t just roasted but prepared and served as the elaborate exterior of a more familiar pork pie.

Venison would have been eaten with the best cuts kept for the king and his guests while the offal, then known as the “umbles”, given to the poor and made into a pie from which the term “humble pie” originates.

Richard’s brother John held a Christmas feast in 1213, and records show that he ordered large amounts of food including 24 hogshead of wine, 200 head of pork, 1,000 hens, 50 lbs of pepper, 2 lbs of saffron and 100 lbs of almonds.

In Medieval England a large mince pie was baked filled with various shredded meats along with spices and fruit.

A spicy, wheat-based medieval dessert known as frumenty would have been served which has evolved into the Christmas pudding we enjoy today.

Drink was important and an Anglo-Norman carol of the time tells us:

Christmas loves good drinking.

Wines of Gascoigne, France, Anjou,

English ale that drives out thinking,

Prince of liquors, old or new.

A hot mixture of ale, honey, and spices would be put in a large bowl, and the host would lift it and greet his companions with "waes hael" meaning "good health”. The reply was "drinc hael," which meant "drink and be well."

Every neighbour shares the bowl,

Drinks of the spicy liquor deep,

Drinks his fill without control,

Till he drowns his care in sleep.

The Castle Hall would have been decorated with holly, and mistletoe. It was believed that the holly berries had been white before they were turned red by Christ's blood when he was made to wear the crown of thorns.

The real joy of Christmas was sharing food, feasting and drinking with friends kept warm by an oak Yule log stripped of its bark which burned for 12 days.