A Pembroke Welsh corgi named Rozavel Golden Eagle, a.k.a. Dookie, was the first of the iconic short-legged dogs given to the future Queen Elizabeth II in 1933. Afterward, throughout the monarch’s record-setting reign, her corgis were never far from her ankles.
A new photo exhibit at London’s Wallace Collection features the late Queen Elizabeth and her corgis, which appeared in photographs with her throughout her lifetime. They were there when she went to meet the astronauts after the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, and while meeting New Zealand’s rugby team, according to All the Queen’s Corgis by Penny Junor. They even witnessed her funeral procession at Windsor Castle.
“We are honored to pay tribute to her late majesty Queen Elizabeth with this display,” Dr. Xavier Bray, the Wallace Collection’s curator, told the BBC. “The queen devoted her entire life to serving the British people, but we hope that this display will show a more personal side of her life—her deep love of animals and her abiding passion for her corgis.”
After Dookie came another corgi named Jane. Elizabeth’s father, the future king George VI, wanted to breed the two, but the dogs merely remained friends. A few years later, after Edward VII abdicated and George acceded to the throne, Michael Chance authored a bestselling picture book titled The Princesses and their Dogs. Published by John Murray, the book featured photographs of the princesses playing with their dogs in the gardens of the Royal Lodge.
Elizabeth never outgrew her love of corgis. When she was 18, she received Hickathrift Pippa, who was called Sue and then Susan. This red and white corgi became the matriarch of the line of corgi descendants that would last for decades. She even came along when Princess Elizabeth married Prince Philip in 1947: as the couple left for their honeymoon, no one knew until years later that Susan was wrapped in a rug beside the princess.
By nature, corgis are herders and will nip at your ankles to keep you in line, and the royal staff and visitors discovered that no one was safe. From footmen to guardsmen and politicians to clockwinders, anyone unfortunate enough to receive a nip from a royal dog became the butt of jokes, cartoons, and stories in the newspapers. Dookie was known for attacking dining room chairs. Honey, Susan’s daughter, bit an off-duty Irish Guardsman in the bum. But the dogs were never punished; they had gourmet meals prepared by royal chefs and lived as regally as their owner. Wherever the queen went, they followed.
Check out some of the photos from the Wallace Collection’s exhibit below.
Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) stands with two corgi dogs at her home at 145 Piccadilly in London, July 1936.
Queen Elizabeth II arrives at King's Cross railway station on October 15, 1969, with four corgis in tow. She owned 30 corgis during her lifetime, but never sold their puppies. Those that she did give away were offered to breeders, family, or close friends.
Queen Elizabeth II sits with two corgis beside a waterfall on the Garbh Allt stream at Balmoral Castle, Scotland, in September 1971. As queen, she was the royal patron of The Kennel Club, but she didn’t begin registering her dogs until that year.
The Queen Mother with her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II, walk outside Clarence House with a corgi on August 4, 1983.
Queen Elizabeth II walks her dogs on a lawn at Windsor Castle on April 2, 1994. In the 1990s, the queen's corgis and her sister Princess Margaret's dachshunds bred accidentally, creating “dorgis.”
Queen Elizabeth II talks with members of the Manitoba Corgi Association during a visit to the Canadian city of Winnipeg on October 8, 2002.