Queen was devoted to her royal dynasty of corgis

·7-min read
The Queen, sitting on a grassy bank with the corgis, at Virginia Water to watch competitors in the marathon of the European Driving Championship (PA) (PA Archive)
The Queen, sitting on a grassy bank with the corgis, at Virginia Water to watch competitors in the marathon of the European Driving Championship (PA) (PA Archive)

The snappy little dogs had a penchant for nipping servants’ ankles, but the Queen was devoted to her corgis.

Her first, Susan, was given to her as an 18th birthday present by her parents in 1944.

The Queen had fallen in love with her father’s dog Dookie, a Pembrokeshire corgi, and wanted one of her own.

Susan became the founder of the Queen’s royal dog dynasty but she was not always well-behaved.

She bit a royal clockwinder on the ankle and was also rather partial to going for servants’ legs.

Her grandson, Whisky, apparently tore the seat out of a Guards officer’s trousers.

During her reign, the Queen owned more than 30 corgis, with many of them direct descendants from Susan, who was so loved that she accompanied Princess Elizabeth on her honeymoon.

In April 2018, the Queen was left devastated when Willow, her final corgi descended from Susan, died.

She had adopted a corgi Whisper following the death of its owner, a former Sandringham gamekeeper, but Willow was the last one with links to her line of corgis.

Whisper died in October 2018, leaving the Queen without any corgis at all.

It had been suggested she would not take on any more puppies from the breed because she did want to leave any young dogs behind.

Her two remaining dogs were dorgis, Candy and Vulcan, but Vulcan died in December 2020, leaving the monarch with just one dog, Candy.

But then early in 2021, the Queen was given two new puppies, one dorgi and one corgi, as a gift by the Duke of York while staying in lockdown at Windsor.

The puppies kept the delighted monarch entertained while the Duke of Edinburgh was in hospital and Buckingham Palace and the royals were dealing with the bitter fallout from Megxit and the Sussexes’ Oprah interview.

The Queen named the dorgi Fergus after her uncle who was killed in action during the First World War, and the corgi Muick, pronounced Mick, after Loch Muick on the Balmoral estate.

But the monarch was devastated with five-month-old Fergus died just weeks later, in the aftermath of Philip’s death.

He was later replaced with a new corgi puppy, from Andrew and Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie for her official 95th birthday, who the Queen named Sandy.

The puppies were a constant source of joy for the monarch during lockdown, her dresser Angela Kelly said.

In March 2020, as the Queen headed for the safety of Windsor during England’s first lockdown, she was spotted being driven away from the Palace with her dorgis in tow.

The Queen introduced the new breed of dog known as the “dorgi” when her corgi Tiny was mated with a dachshund “sausage dog” called Pipkin which belonged to Princess Margaret.

When asked how the diminutive dachshunds coped with the comparatively colossal corgis, the Queen reportedly replied in a matter-of-fact fashion: “Oh, it’s very simple – we have a little brick they stand on.”

Her Majesty’s preferred breed of dog was not everybody’s favourite.

Her son Charles, for one, likes Jack Russells more than Welsh corgis, as they are officially known.

Corgis are liable to bite people’s legs because their forebears rounded up sheep by snapping at their feet.

One footman at the Palace found a novel way of getting his own back.

He spiked the dogs’ food and water with whisky and gin, then watched in amusement as the tipsy animals staggered around.

But his act of treason was discovered and he was demoted.

Singer Max Bygraves once revealed how, when dining with the Queen, a flatulent corgi left him red-faced.

“I hope you don’t think that was me,” he told the Queen.

At one stage, the Queen was forced to call in a dog psychiatrist when her corgis kept setting upon each other.

The worst incident was when Ranger, who belonged to the Queen Mother, killed the Queen’s dorgi Chipper in 1989.

Two years later the Queen was bitten on the left hand while trying to break up a fight between six of her corgis and two of the Queen Mother’s at Windsor.

She needed three stitches and her chauffeur needed a tetanus jab.

Canine psychiatrist Dr Roger Mugford prescribed an ear-piercing rape alarm which the Queen used to break up the dog fights.

He also sent the leader of the pack, Apollo, to live with the Princess Royal.

But sometimes it was the corgis who found themselves under attack.

In 2003, as the royals were gathering for Christmas at Sandringham in Norfolk, one befell a tragic fate.

Pharos – one of the Queen’s oldest corgis – was savaged by another dog and had to be put down.

The Queen was devastated at the death of one of her favourite pets.

Dottie, the English bull terrier, owned by the Princess Royal, was blamed.

The year before, Anne had been fined £500 when the same dog attacked two children in Windsor Great Park.

Some days later, an announcement from the Palace was met with surprise when it was revealed that it was a case of mistaken identity.

The real killer of Pharos was Florence, another of Anne’s dogs.

Pharos was buried in the Sandringham grounds, joining Susan and some of the other corgis who had gravestones there.

In 2012, one of the Queen’s corgis, Monty, had a starring role in the James Bond sketch which the Queen recorded for the London Olympics opening ceremony.

Monty, Willow and another corgi Holly, greeted the secret agent, played by Daniel Craig, as he arrived at the Palace to accept a mission from the Queen.

The dogs ran down the stairs, performed tummy rolls and then stood as a helicopter took off for the Olympic stadium, carrying Bond and a stunt double of the monarch.

Monty, who was 13, died a couple of months later. Holly was put down in October 2016 after suffering from an illness, then leaving Willow as the Queen’s final corgi descended from Susan.

The original royal corgi, Dookie, was bought by the Queen’s father, George VI, when Duke of York, in 1933.

He had admired a friend’s corgi and decided to own one himself.

Dookie was a Pembrokeshire corgi from the Rozavel Kennels in Surrey.

Corgis were then a little-known breed and had only been admitted to the Kennel Club as one worthy of championship status in 1928.

In 1936, the King acquired a second corgi, called Jane, who had puppies on Christmas Eve. Two were kept and were named Carol and Crackers.

Princess Elizabeth grew up with these dogs and was given her own for her 18th birthday in 1944.

Susan was a bitch, from a Cambridgeshire kennel, who was born on February 20 1944, and died on January 26 1959.

The monarch looked after her own dogs as much as possible. During weekends spent at Windsor, the corgis went too and lived in her private apartments.

She fed them herself, whenever her busy schedule permitted. She mixed their feed with a spoon and a fork from ingredients brought on a tray by a footman.

She also enjoyed walking the dogs, who knew when it was time for their exercise.

If the Queen came in wearing a tiara, they laid glumly on the carpet – if she was in a headscarf, they knew it was time for walkies.

The Duke of York said his mother’s love of her corgis helped keep her fit.

“She is just amazing at her age and she walks a long way, the dogs keep her active,” Andrew said.

Perhaps less associated with the Queen were her Labradors and cocker spaniels, which were bred and kept at Sandringham and were also firm favourites.

There is a special Sandringham strain of black Labrador founded in 1911.

They are working gundogs more than pets but the Queen had a close bond with them, particularly during the shooting season.