Queen wrote 'wickedly funny' letters from her corgis to her equerry's dog

Victoria Ward
·5-min read
The Queen, pictured with one of her corgis at Sandringham in 1970 - Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
The Queen, pictured with one of her corgis at Sandringham in 1970 - Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The Queen has often delighted her audiences with a quick witted one-liner.

But behind the scenes, Her Majesty’s sense of humour is deployed in myriad ways, as Alexander Armstrong discovered when he came across a set of letters apparently penned by her beloved corgis.

The broadcaster found the framed, hand-written notes hanging in the downstairs lavatory of the Queen’s former equerry, ostensibly sent from her dogs to his.

According to Armstrong they were hilarious, a perfect illustration of the Queen’s “wicked sense of humour”.

He had spotted them by chance during a visit to the home of the late Sir Blair Stewart-Wilson, whose daughter Belinda was married to Ben Miller, his former comedy partner.

“He would write these letters from their Jack Russell to the corgis and the Queen would write these letters back,” he told the Telegraph.

“And they put this series of letters up, and they are so funny. I wish I could remember them.

“I remember holding my stomach, howling with laughter because they are wickedly funny.”

Sir Blair Stewart Wilson was equerry to the Queen from 1976 until 1994
Sir Blair Stewart Wilson was equerry to the Queen from 1976 until 1994

For his latest documentary, The Queen and her Cousins, one of a series being shown on ITV to mark the Queen’s impending 95th birthday, Armstrong traversed the country to meet some of the Her Majesty's many cousins.

Between them, they described how it felt to step out before the crowds on the Buckingham Palace balcony, to be named among Prince Charles’s potential suitors, and how even behind the scenes, everyone remembered that “the Queen is the Queen.”

They included the Russian Princess Olga Romanoff, whose great uncle was Tsar Nicholas II and whose grandmother was rescued from Crimea as other family members were killed by communist revolutionaries.

Showing Armstrong around her Kent home, Provender House, which she runs with her daughter as a holiday let, she insisted she would have made a “lousy imperial Princess” and is relieved to be free of the confines of royal life.

“When my father was widowed, he married my mother without asking permission of the Queen at the time, which was the Queen Mother,” she said.

“I believe that pissed off the Queen Mother and so his invitations to the palace and all that dried up.”

That didn’t stop Princess Olga being included on a list of potential suitors for Prince Charles by the now defunct society magazine Queen.

She added: “The Queen used to take Charles and Anne to have tea with my grandmother and they apparently had beautiful manners and I had terrible manners.”

Asked if there was still a fairy story attached to royalty, Princess Olga made clear her views about the Duke and Duchess of Sussexes’ Oprah Winfrey outpouring.

“Yes and no,” she said. “It depends if they tell you about their problems on television, which I’m afraid I’m not very keen on.”

The Queen with one of her corgis in May 1985 - Yousuf Karsh
The Queen with one of her corgis in May 1985 - Yousuf Karsh

Surveying a signed photograph from Queen Mary, the Queen’s grandmother, she revealed she had something of a reputation for swiping other people’s best furniture and clothes.

“She had kind of upmarket kleptomania," she said. "She would go stay in somebody’s house and she’d be sitting on one of a dozen Sheraton chairs and she’d say ‘Oo, I do like this chair,’ And you’d be obliged to give her all twelve.”

Victoria Pryor, the Queen’s goddaughter, whose late mother Margaret Rhodes was one of the monarch’s closest confidantes, said she thought the Queen “would have loved just to have been a country lady with her animals” and revealed that the monarch once gave her Twister for Christmas.

“We are all just perfectly ordinary people,” she told Armstrong in the deli she runs in Cley, Norfolk.

“The Queen Mother and my granny were very close and the Queen Mother was unbelievably fond of mummy and her siblings, so she spent so much of her childhood playing with the princesses.

“The Queen Mother has said in the past that mummy was like a daughter.”

Armstrong said he was so dazzled when he met the Queen in 2019 that he felt “literally tasered.”

But he admitted it was hard to use logical argument to justify the monarchy, a concept that he described as “deeply irrational and idiosyncratic.”

“It’s very hard, logically, to justify all kinds of things, it's hard to justify love or poetry, logically,” he told the Telegraph.

“All the things in our lives that are wonderful are usually a little bit bonkers.

“But then we are deeply irrational beings in some ways, and I think there are some undeniable benefits to having an authority, or a figurehead at least, that is totally apolitical and carries no carries no baggage other than to be a sort of depository for our love and our sense of community.

“We invest in the Queen quite a lot of our affections, and that she sort of carries around, that's what brings her such enormous power.”

Armstrong said the street parties held in 1977 for the Silver Jubilee were some of the happiest memories of his childhood, whilst even the Duke of Gloucester's appearance at a village event was "thrilling."

"I think that is the sort of strange electrical power that the Royal Family has," he said.

“There is a sense of this sort of perpetuum mobile of purpose that just emanates from the Royal Family and keeps all kinds of cogs turning.”

The Queen and her Cousins with Alexander Armstrong will be on ITV on Thursday April 15 at 9pm