A yapping ‘moving carpet’: Queen’s Corgis tested palace loyalties

Queen's Corgis
Maggie Davies

Never at home unless surrounded by her favourite breed, the Queen championed corgis even though courtiers feared for their ankles.

They were as emblematic of British royalty as the crown: Queen Elizabeth II’s corgis, preceding her like a “moving carpet” wherever she was resident, were the other royal dynasty to inspire worldwide fascination.

They featured in portraits, official photographs and on a golden jubilee Isle of Man crown, and were even immortalised in china.

When 13-year-old Monty died shortly after starring in the James Bond sketch of a parachuting Queen at the 2012 London Olympics, obituaries praised his sublime on-screen tummy roll.

The corgis have their own Wikipedia page, and “What are the names of the Queen’s corgis?” consistently ranked in the top 10 most asked questions on the British monarchy’s official website.

They were a non-negotiable part of her life from the moment her father, then Duke of York, purchased Dookie, a Pembrokeshire, in 1933, and she was given her own dog, Susan, as an 18th birthday present.

Susan even went on honeymoon, concealed beneath travel rugs and next to a hot water bottle, as Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip drove through London in an open carriage to catch the train to Hampshire.

She introduced the “dorgi”, by breeding her corgi Tiny with Princess Margaret’s even tinier dachshund Pipkin. When once asked how the sisters had compensated for the difference in size of the breeds, she replied, matter-of-factly: “Oh, it’s very simple: we have a little brick they can stand on.”

The Kennel Club was less impressed. “The dachshund was evolved to chase badgers down holes, and the corgis to round up cattle. If anyone loses a herd of cattle down a badger hole, then these are just the dogs to get them out,” it said, sniffily, at the time.

During her life the Queen owned more than 30 corgis and dorgis. Not everyone was so enamoured, including Prince Philip, heard often to exclaim: “Bloody dogs. Why do you have so many?”

Susan, from whom most were descended, earned notoriety by nipping the ankle of a royal clock-winder, Leonard Hubbard, and taking chunks out of the legs of various servants, a detective, a police officer, and a Grenadier guardsman called Alfred Edge.

Another, Kelpie, was suspected of disfiguring a jigsaw puzzle borrowed by the Queen from the British Jigsaw Puzzle Library.

Royal staff, who were constantly tripping over the dogs, had to roam the palace and castles armed with blotting paper and a soda siphon to clear up those little accidents. One footman, in revenge, once spiked the dogs’ food with gin and whisky and watched them teetering tipsily round the palace gardens, before he was instantly demoted.

Friends say they were the Queen’s relaxation: walking and talking to them was a way of shaking off the constraints of her job. She loved hand-feeding them, and their meals were prepared by the royal chefs.

Her former nursery nurse, later her dresser, Bobo Macdonald, once painted a vivid picture of the relationship between monarch and pets. If the Queen entered a room wearing a tiara they would “lie mutely on the carpet in a mood of Celtic depression”, but if she arrived wearing a headscarf they started “jumping up and down” knowing they were off for walkies.

Often she had to call in a dog psychologist to correct their misbehaviour. He recommended she use a rape alarm to break up the regular corgi fights. And when Princess Anne’s English bull terrier Florence attacked and killed Pharos, one of her oldest corgis, at Sandringham as the royals gathered for Christmas in 2003, it put a blight on the festivities.

Pharos was buried at Sandringham in a little plot where each of her corgis was laid to rest beneath headstones individually designed by the Queen herself.

In 2009, owing in part to her own longevity, she decided to stop breeding them. She was eventually left with three dogs: Candy now quite elderly, a young corgi called Muick, and another corgi puppy which replaced Fergus the dorgi puppy, who died unexpectedly in May 2021.

(Article source: The Guardian)

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