Throughout Queen Elizabeth II’s long reign there has been many constants. One that captured many people’s imaginations was her love of dogs, particularly Pembroke Welsh Corgis.
In fact she became synonymous with her love of the dog breed. Her corgi, Susan, founded a royal dynasty of dogs that spanned 14 generations!
The House of Windsor welcomed their first corgi in 1933, when King George VI brought home a puppy called Dookie as a gift for seven-year-old Princess Elizabeth.
That’s when she fell in love with the breed. Dookie would be the first of over 30 corgis she owned during her lifetime. Jane the corgi followed, but the dog was tragically struck by a car and killed.
The Queen then received Susan as a gift for her 18th birthday in 1944. Susan became the queen’s constant companion and accompanied the Queen on her honeymoon with Prince Philip and helped her through her grief after her father died.
Every corgi the Queen went on to breed was a descendant of Susan.
The Queen’s dogs were, of course, pampered in many ways. They got their own special room where they would dine on meals prepared by their very own personal chef! And each would get their own stockings at Christmas. They also had raised beds so as to not suffer drafts when sleeping. Spoiled pups!
The dogs were often known to be naughty and snappy. One corgi was known to tug on the guard’s trousers. Palace staff had mixed relations with some of the dogs. It was reported in 1953 that one of the queen’s corgis (possibly Susan) bit a member of the Queen’s Guard and the royal clockwinder! In 1999, a royal footman was demoted after reportedly spiking the dogs’ food and water with gin and whiskey!
Over the following years, the Queen worked on breeding out the “snappy” temperament.
But the dogs always appeared to be very well behaved around the Queen and listened to whatever she said.
Queen Elizabeth chose to stop breeding Corgis after her mother passed away in 2002. Monty Roberts, a horse trainer for the Queen, told Vanity Fair in 2015 that the Queen had told him in 2012 that she had chosen to stop breeding her pups because she “didn’t want to leave any young dogs behind” after she dies.
When it came time to lay her dogs to rest, the Queen buried them in a personal gravesite for her corgis at Sandringham Estate. The estate has a long lineage of royal pets buried there dating back to Queen Victoria’s dog Noble.
It may surprise some to learn that The Queen has also owned numerous working dogs over her reign including Cocker Spaniels and Labrador retrievers who would accompany her on hunts.
Sandringham kennels houses numerous dogs who are bred and trained by a special headkeeper. The kennel has room for 100 hunting dogs. In 2018 there was an estimated 20 dogs, mostly labradors and cocker spaniels. According to Country Life magazine, the queen personally names all of her dogs.
The Queen had a special rapport with the dogs over the years, observed many times by her former Highlands gamekeeper, Bill Meldrum. He said that the Queen was the best dog-handler he has ever seen, saying “probably the best in the country.”
Documentary film-maker John Bridcut said he once observed the Queen direct her black Labrador Sherry from a distance of 800 yards, using only hand signals and whistles.
Meldrum also revealed that staff at Sandringham didn’t need to be told when the Queen would arrive, because the gun dogs alerted them. “All the dogs in the kennels start barking the moment she reaches the gate — half a mile away,” he told Country Life magazine. “We don’t know how they can tell and they don’t do that with anyone else.”
To this day, these gundogs participate in Crufts, Britain’s largest dog show. In 2022, Her Majesty The Queen’s Gundog Display was on show.
In 2018, Her Majesty’s corgi Willow, passed away. Willow was the last in the corgi royal dynasty to descend from Susan. The Queen’s second-last dog, a dorgi named Vulcan, passed away in 2020. Candy, was supposed to be the last remaining royal dog.
However, after Prince Philip was hospitalized in 2021, news broke that she had been gifted two new puppies – a dorgi named ‘Fergus’ and a corgi called ‘Muick’!
Here’s an adorable moment between Candy and the Queen.
A source told Daily Mail, “The Queen was left with only one dog at the end of last year. She had made the decision not to get any more because she didn’t think it fair at her age. But it would be unthinkable for her not to have any. It’s like the Tower of London not having any ravens. The new puppies are adorable.”