For Queen and Corgis: ‘She can be herself for her dogs’

In the Queen’s 70 years as monarch, no symbol has become more recognizable to British royalty than a corgi, her steadfast companions since she was a child. They form an iconic duo.

So much so that when Britain celebrates four days of its platinum anniversary this week, the image of the corgi will play a central role. Corgi sculptures have been installed on the streets of central London, while their images adorn commemorative decorations, pillows, mugs and biscuits.

Queen Ellizabeth with her corgi Susan in 1952, the first year of her reign. Credit:Getty

A specially designed emoji of a sassy-looking corgi, tongue out, smiling and wearing a purple-and-silver crown, went viral on social media last week. A pack of 20 puppet corgis will be paraded as part of the parade, causing havoc in The Mall.

A Corgi derby will be held on Sunday at the Musselburgh Racecourse, near Edinburgh. Among the corgis who will compete is a distant relative of one of Her Majesty’s own name Paddy of Port Seton. The race will be broadcast live on TV.

The corgi derby at Musselburgh Racecourse is one of many corgi-themed tributes during the platinum anniversary.

The corgi derby at Musselburgh Racecourse is one of many corgi-themed tributes during the platinum anniversary.

“Her bond with her dogs reveals something essential about the Queen,” says royal biographer Penny Junor.

“She is an essentially shy woman, who has been pushed into a public role at a young age that does not come naturally to her. She can be herself with her dogs, knowing that they love her for who she is, rather than what she is. That has made them her most trusted companions.”

While royalty has always had dogs, over the centuries, the corgi is a very recent Windsor tradition. From the first family pet, Dookie, in the 1930s to her first dog as an adult, Susan, the Queen has not only bred, but also bred, 14 generations of Pembroke Welsh corgis. Not to mention the dorgis (dachshund and corgi crosses) and several generations of hunting dogs.

Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle, Berkshire, England, 2016.

Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle, Berkshire, England, 2016.Credit:© Annie Leibovitz

The dogs, as she has often pointed out, are part of the furniture. Princess Diana called them “a conveyor belt” in the palace because of their number and tendency to follow the sovereign. The Queen calls them “the boys” or “the girls,” depending on which motley crew joins her at any given time.

The Queen, seen here with Prince Philip and her corgi Sugar in 1959, had apparently taken a corgi on her honeymoon.

The Queen, seen here with Prince Philip and her corgi Sugar in 1959, had apparently taken a corgi on her honeymoon. Credit:Fairfax Media

They are such an extension of the family that the palace will not comment on the dogs as it is considered a “personal matter”. Numbers fluctuated over the years with nests given away to friends and family, but traditionally, the queen kept at least one to maintain the connection. Until Willow, the last of the line, passed away in 2018.

In 1981, it was reported that no fewer than 13 Corgis were accompanying her to Balmoral for her summer vacation. Susan, the ancestress of the bloodline, was smuggled into the royal carriage under a pile of blankets by the bride-to-be on her way to her wedding at Westminster Abbey. They accompanied their honeymoon to Balmoral Castle in Scotland.

In 1955, Susan’s daughter, Sugar, was sent to the legendary kennels of Thelma Gray to mate with a handsome boy named Rebellion.

When Gray took the nest to Windsor to show the young Charles and Anne, the Queen—who intended to keep only one—couldn’t make up his mind.

“Don’t tell your father,” she said to the children, according to Junor .’s book All the Queen’s Corgis† “Don’t tell your dad, we have two new puppies!”

She named them Whish and Sherry and gave them to the young prince and princess as Christmas presents. The Queen has personally named all her dogs, of every breed. There is always a theme, i.e. flowers, islands, birds, potions, trees, metals, car brands and fictional characters from favorite books.

She named Sherry’s son, Sandringham Sydney, because she was in Australia in 1970 when he was born. The entire nest is named after Australian monuments.

And the royal bloodline may live further down under. In 1975, Thelma Gray emigrated to set up Rozavel Kennels in Coromandel in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia, where she bred Beagles, Chihuahuas and a few Rottweilers. More than a hundred dogs are left behind in Britain, but among those who accompanied her on the long journey were a few Pembrokes, including Windsor Loyal Subject, who was bred by the Queen. She corresponded with the Queen for years before her death in November 1984. Each February, the Adelaide Hills Kennel Club hosts the Thelma Gray Memorial Show in her memory – featuring a perpetual trophy bestowed by the Queen to the best breed of the Welsh corgi.

The Queen inspects Adelaide Kennel Club corgis in February 2022.

The Queen inspects Adelaide Kennel Club corgis in February 2022. Credit:Fairfax

Originally bred to herd cattle and sheep, there are stories of the royal corgis biting guests, domestic workers and even members of the royal family. Prince Philip was known for moaning those “bloody dogs.”

Given their own Buckingham Palace room with wicker basket beds, they’ve never eaten out of shiny sterling silver bowls. They may be spoiled, but their regal owner is nothing but practical.

Their bowls are a collection of metal and porcelain, but their diet is tailored to their individual needs. On the land they got many rabbits that had been shot on the farmlands; otherwise it is a variety of fresh cooked meats, vegetables and rice, specially prepared for them in the royal kitchens. Every once in a while, they are tossed pieces off the queen’s board.

Roger Mugford, an animal psychologist, was once brought to Windsor after some dramatic dogfights and observed the queen feeding. He wrote in his book, Case book by Dr. Mugford: “The Queen looked at the semicircle of silent but salivating dogs gathered a few yards away and took turns calling for his or her food. There was never a growl or rude look between the dogs and I was amazed at the harmony that prevailed indoors in this theoretically risky time.”

The Queen explained that she had always been strict in demanding good manners from the dogs when feeding and that they all had to wait their turn, the oldest first and the youngest last.

“There is hardly anyone else on the planet who could achieve that level of control over their dogs,” Mugford wrote.

At the same time, as the Queen approached 90 and she decided not to breed or buy any new dogs, Welsh Corgis were simultaneously added by the Kennel Club to the list of native breeds in danger of extinction, numbering in the mid to low hundreds nationwide. .

But the club’s latest registration data showed 1,223 corgis registered nationwide in 2021, marking the highest annual figure in nearly 30 years. And the queen is at it again. After Philip’s death, her family gave her two corgi puppies to add to her cocker spaniel, Lissy, and dorgi named Candy.

The Explosion Of Dog Influencers On Social Media And The Netflix Series The crownis credited with the breed’s sudden turnaround.

The Crown is credited with contributing to the popularity of the Pembroke Welsh corgi as a pet during the lockdown.

The Crown is credited with contributing to the popularity of the Pembroke Welsh corgi as a pet during the lockdown. Credit:Sophie Mutevelian Photography for Netflix

Kennel Club spokesman Bill Lambert said seeing the Pembroke Welsh Corgi once again become a nationally loved breed, it was joyous during such an important year for the Queen.

“The breed has certainly seen a boost in recent years, largely to their starring roles in The crownBut the Queen originally played an integral role in introducing corgis into the public consciousness, so what a wonderful testament to her 70th year on the throne, to see her beloved breed regain popularity.”

Junor thinks the Queen’s devotion to her dogs stems from the fact that, as a former courtier once told her, “dogs are not respected.”

“To us, she is Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, one of the most revered figures of our time. But for her dogs? They don’t complain, they don’t judge, and they may be the only souls in her life who see her as the happy, happy person she really is.”

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