The Queen’s corgis truly led a dog’s life.

While they annoyed most others in the Royal household, the Queen showed them her unstinting affection.

On Saturday, September 10, 2022, The Times had an inspired article from Kate Williams, ‘The Queen and her corgis: Love me, love my yapping, snapping, pampered dogs’.

Many envied the corgis:

Oh, to be a corgi! Princess Diana called them a “moving carpet”, they knocked her butler Paul Burrell unconscious, and they snapped at courtiers with terrifying energy. But the Queen, tough and disciplined with staff and family, was as soft as butter with her pooches.

They got the best of everything (emphases mine):

Her corgis, along with her “dorgis” (crossbreeds of dachshund and corgi), would have the run of the palace apartments, tucking into food cooked by the HM chefs, and enjoying the everlasting confidence of their mistress.

During the Queen’s seven-decade reign, many were photographed and filmed with her:

Over the years the Queen owned more than 30 dogs, and corgis firmly established themselves as a symbol of her reign; in 2012 the trio of Monty, Willow and Holly even featured alongside her and Daniel Craig in the James Bond sketch she filmed for the London Olympics.

George VI started his daughter’s love of the short-legged pooches:

The short, squat-legged, floppy-eared Welsh breed had been beloved by the Queen ever since her father bought a male named Dookie in 1933 when she was six. Many corgis have a sweet, if yappish, temperament. Not so Dookie. He snapped at everybody except Elizabeth and her mother. At least one politician left the royal presence bleeding from a bite to the hand.

The article has a 1936 photo of the then-Princess Elizabeth with Dookie and a second addition, Jane.

This film, newly revealed in 2022, was made in the late 1930s. It shows Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret in Scotland with George VI and the corgis at Loch Muick, on the Balmoral Estate. The Queen narrated it for the BBC as part of her Platinum Jubilee celebrations:

George VI gave Princess Elizabeth another corgi when she turned 18:

When the Queen turned 18, she received her own corgi — Susan, a present from her father. Susan went everywhere with her — even on honeymoon. As Philip found out, he had married the corgis as well as the girl.

Wow.

However, Prince Philip was unimpressed with his wife’s pets:

The Duke of Edinburgh complained about the “bloody dogs”.

This was a typical day for the corgis. Talk about a dog’s life:

A role as a royal corgi is probably as good as it gets, in canine terms. Their day would start with a walk with a footman. When the Queen woke, they would dash into her room, then accompany her to breakfast, where they jumped about the table as she fed them toast and marmalade. In the afternoon she put on a headscarf to take them for walks in the gardens of Buckingham Palace.

They never had tinned dog food, only the freshest ingredients, which had to be carefully prepared:

One of the most important tasks of a palace footman was to pamper the corgis. Their menu was pinned on the wall of the royal kitchens and one of the chefs prepared their evening meal — freshly cooked steak, liver, rabbit and chicken, topped off with gravy and boiled cabbage. The food always had to be fresh — there was a scandal in Balmoral a few years back when the Queen came to suspect that some of the food in the royal dog bowls might once have been frozen.

The Queen often put their dinner into their polished silver bowls, forking in the pieces of dog biscuit.

She kept a gimlet eye on the canine’s meals:

Her passion was not always shared by her family and staff. A footman was demoted for adding gin and whisky to the dogs’ food.

At nightfall:

it was time for bed in the special corgi room, their wicker baskets raised to cushion them from draughts. Very occasionally, they were allowed to sleep in the royal bedroom.

Christmas was a special time:

At Christmas, the corgis, all descended from Susan, received their own stockings, full of chocolate drops and toys.

Burials were important, too:

When they died they were buried in royal grounds with headstones.

Eventually, the Queen decided she did not want any new canines:

Holly died at Balmoral in 2016. Monty died in 2012 and in 2015 it was revealed that the Queen had decided to have no new corgis.

The two surviving corgis are in the care of Prince Andrew and his ex-wife-companion Sarah (Fergie).

It seems that the long-lived corgi tradition disappeared with the Queen.

The King has other ideas:

He much prefers Labradors.

However, what is it like for a commoner to own a corgi?

On September 27, The Telegraph‘s Nicola Shulman wrote an insider account, ‘We all want a Royal puppy — but think carefully before spending £6,000 on a corgi’.

Until I read this, I could not fathom why George VI bought one.

However, Shulman told us of their appeal as puppies:

When I decided to get a dog, I only knew one thing: I didn’t want a corgi … Nasty, yappy bitey things with short legs, that was my opinion.

This had to be made clear from the outset, because I had a son who wanted us to get a corgi. He said nothing, but unleashed a silent campaign in which he sent me photographs and videos of corgi puppies every day. Have you ever seen a corgi puppy? Their enormous paws! Their floppy ears! Their freckled tummies! After a fortnight of this, a desire to possess a corgi took hold of me like a demonic possession.

It turns out that Shulman’s son is a young man, not a little boy. She searched high and low in Britain for a corgi. They are in high demand and cost around £6,000 apiece.

Finally, she found one at a corgi show in Leicester:

I went to Leicester in the snow and threw myself on the mercy of the breeders. The more the owners told me it was impossible, the more I gabbled, handing out cards, that I was the perfect prospective owner. I had the time. I had a garden. My children were grown up. I had come all the way to Leicester. The more I was disappointed, the more I beamed, hoping to look rueful-but-undeterred in the hope that this would recommend me as the sort of person who deserved a corgi. By the time I was halfway round the room, a puppy had materialised.

“He” was Mishka. A Pembroke Welsh Corgi boy, red and white, 11 weeks old, and with ears so big that they had been taped into special rolls that stuck out on either side of his head, in an attempt to make them stand up properly, making him look like an Ewok from Star Wars. It was all in vain: only one ear went up permanently, resulting in the flag-eared appearance that we consider his particular charm.

As Shulman found out, Corgis are not for most would-be dog owners:

… I often returned to the reasons I had wanted a dog. So that someone could look pleased to see me when I came home, a companion on my travels, a loyal friend who would stay with me through the bad times and good. If these are also the reasons you want a dog, get a golden retriever.

The corgi’s natural environment is on a farm. It likes to be kept busy:

Their job is to watch the farm and herd the cattle. They like to be where stuff is happening and are easily bored. A day lying in your room where you are bedridden with, say, Covid, looking adoring and occasionally giving you an encouraging lick, is not their idea of a good time.

His favourite spot in the house isn’t with us at all, but lying sentry at a window on the stairs, scanning our London street in order to save us from visitors and foxes.

Corgis are food-obsessed:

Where he is like all corgis is in being what the dog books call “food led”. He wakes in the morning thinking of food, thinks of food all day and deploys his famous corgi intelligence principally to discover who in the vicinity has food. While often deaf to exhortations such as “walkies” and “that’s enough barking”, the sound of a fridge door opening three floors away will bring him scrabbling in with a hopeful expression.

Such an obsession requires a budget to match:

In principle, they are not expensive to feed: they only need two small meals a day. But a corgi would say, with King Lear, “reason not the need”. In reality, the expense of feeding them can vary dramatically, depending on what you are eating and how much of it they can get off you.

Walks in town can take much longer than expected, because a corgi has to investigate everything:

Corgis are relaxing country dogs. As herders, they never run off: you are their herd and their job is to keep an eye on you. On a lead in town, not so much, as it is a corgi imperative to sniff pointlessly every bicycle and rubbish bin en route.

It can take 40 minutes to go three streets, and I am constantly trying to establish the difference between a walk for him and a walk actually to go somewhere. Their reputation for barking at everything and nothing is well-earned.

Other dogs, she says, can bring out a corgi’s aggression.

Shulman also points out that they shed a lot, especially in spring and autumn.

Despite this, like our late Queen, she is still smitten:

Luckily, you discover none of this until they are about two years old, and by then it is too late. You – like the late Queen and I – are enslaved.

The only caveat I would add is that good first aid skills and a nearby A&E department are recommended in case of bites, something Shulman has not experienced — fortunately — but other owners might do so.

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