No subjects will be more pleased this weekend with Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee than her own Corgi dogs.
Her 60-year reign makes her the second longest serving British monarch, surpassed only by Queen Victoria, who reigned 63 years. The occasion will be marked by a 1,000-boat flotilla on the Thames with the Queen and the Duke of Edinburg traveling on the Royal Barge, concerts, the lighting of 2,012 beacons throughout the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, services at St. Paul’s, lunch at Westminster Abbey and a carriage process back to Buckingham Palace.
It’s the perfect occasion for celebrating the Queen’s favorite dogs, Welsh Corgis.
A Royal Romance with Corgi Dogs
Princess Elizabeth and a beloved corgi.
King George VI, the Queen’s father, introduced the first corgi, Dookie, to the Royal Family in 1933. (Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret had fallen in loved with the ones that belonged to the children of the Marquess of Bath.)
On her 18th birthday, Princess Elizabeth received her own corgi, Susan, in 1944 from her father. Over the years, she’s had more than 30 and most are descendants of Susan. She currently has four corgis: Linnet, Monty, Holly and Willow. Additionally, she has three dorgis (a cross between a corgi and a dachshund): Cider, Candy and Vulcan.
According to Welsh folklore, the dogs were given to the Welsh by the woodland fairies. Corgis are reputed to be the preferred mount of fairy warriors. The breed’s white blaze — the stripe that runs from nose, between the eyes, to the forehead — is said to have been left on the dogs’ coat by fairy harnesses.
Folklore notwithstanding they are practical working dogs used for herding cattle and other livestock. Unlike collies or shepherds that encircle herds and then push them forward, corgis herd by nipping the legs of the cattle or sheep. They raise around in a semicircle behind the animals, driving them forward. If an animal turns to rush them, the corgi will nip its nose.
The Queen’s corgis are Pembroke Welsh Corgis, rather than Cardigan Welsh Corgis. Each type is named for its county of origin. The Pembrokes are more common. They are slightly smaller with more pointed ears. Corgis typically stand about a foot tall and weight around 30 pounds.
Life as a Royal Corgi
Linnet, Monty, Holly and Willow have their very own Corgi Room at the palace where they sleep in wicker baskets. They also have free access to the Royal apartments. In the kitchen, the dogs’ daily menu is posted on a wall. A Royal Corgi dinner might consist of chuck steak, poached chicken, liver or rabbit, chopped and mixed with boiled cabbage and white rice. For tea, the Queen is served fresh backed buttered scones, which she never eats but the corgis do.
When the Queen travels between residences, the corgis travel as well, usually under the supervision of a footman.
The Queen is renowned for her dog training skills. She is the only allowed to discipline the dogs. While they may have left Wales, they have not left their herding dog instincts behind. They have been known to nip visitors to the palace — one guard officer had the seat of his trousers torn by one of the Corgis.
While it is not known how the Royal Corgis will celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee, there have been few events that haven’t included a tip of the crown to corgis. Corgis have definitely been fairyland dogs for a fairy tale Queen.
Flower Corgis wait to greet Queen Elizabeth at the Chelsea Flower Show. (Photo by Rex Features.)