London: Queen Elizabeth II’s corgi dogs were the most loyal of all the monarch’s servants, providing domestic companionship during nearly a century in the public glare.
The queen and corgis went together in the British imagination like tea and cake, giving a worldwide exposure to the obscure breed, whose future is now under threat.
The little, mainly sandy-coloured dogs with pointy ears were a busy presence in the queen’s court, following her from room to room in Buckingham Palace and featuring in official photos.
They were even given a starring role in the spoof James Bond clip filmed with the queen for the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics.
The queen stopped raising corgis in her 90s so as not to leave them orphaned after her death, and the 2018 demise of Willow, the last corgi she reared herself, served as a reminder of the monarch’s own mortality.
Nevertheless, the queen still kept two “dorgis” — dachshund and corgi crosses — to keep her company in her final years.
One, Vulcan, died in 2020. But in March 2021, it was reported that the queen had acquired two new corgi puppies, as the royal family battled a series of crises, including her husband Prince Philip’s illness.
The dogs were reportedly living with the queen at Windsor Castle, west of London, where she moved to self-isolate from the coronavirus pandemic.
Royal biographer Penny Junor told The Sun newspaper the dogs are “intensely loving and they have never let her down”.
“Of course, corgis also seldom rush off to LA to give interviews,” she added, referring to grandson Prince Harry and his wife Meghan’s televised chat with Oprah Winfrey when they accused the royals of racism and a lack of support.
– Dogs’ dinners –
The queen was so fond of her corgis that she personally supervised their daily meal, according to “Pets by Royal Appointment”, by author Brian Hoey, a book on British royal pets since the 16th century.
The dogs’ dinners of fillet steak and chicken breast were prepared by a footman and served at 5:00 pm sharp every day, with the queen playing servant, pouring the gravy on the feast.
Hoey suggested the monarch preferred the company of animals to that of humans.
The royals “are suspicious of practically everyone outside their own family, so the only creatures they really trust are not of the human variety”, he said.
Not everyone in the household was a fan, however. Prince Philip reputedly loathed the waddling, short-legged animals because they yapped too much, according to Hoey.
The queen raised dozens of Pembroke Welsh Corgis during her lifetime and some have been a source of heartache.
One of her favourites, Pharos, had to be put down after being savaged by Florence, the English bull terrier owned by the queen’s daughter Princess Anne in 2003.
The queen also used her corgis to great effect when British war surgeon David Nott suffered a terrifying flashback during a private lunch at Buckingham Palace.
Unable to speak about the horrors he had witnessed during the Syrian conflict, the monarch summoned courtiers to fetch the dogs and suggested he fed them biscuits under the table.
“For 20 minutes during this lunch, the queen and I fed the dogs. She did it because she knew I was so seriously traumatised. You know the humanity of what she was doing was unbelievable,” he told BBC radio in 2016.
“Stroking the animals, touching dogs, feeding them… She talked about her dogs and how many she had. She was wonderful and I will never forget it.”