Almost as iconic as their Royal owner, the corgis have been a lifelong companion of Queen Elizabeth II. Indeed, through its association with the monarch the breed of dog has seen a huge surge in popularity across the world, particularly in America.
So how did this love develop between the Queen and man’s best friend? How many corgis has the Queen owned throughout her reign as monarch? And what are the names of these loyal dogs? Allow us to answer all these questions and more…
Pembroke Welsh Corgi
The Pembroke Welsh Corgi, to give the breed its full name, has a lineage that has been traced back to as early as the 12th century. Known for their short stature due to their achondroplasia, a genetic disease which is characterised through dwarfism, corgis are also renowned for their unwavering loyalty. This typically means they are easy to train, eager to please and will often obsessively follow their owner around (as the Queen’s corgis do around Buckingham Palace).
The Queen’s first corgi
The Queen and her sister, Princess Margaret, were first made aware of the existence of this breed of dog during their childhood. While on a playdate with the Marquess of Bath’s children, Elizabeth and Margaret instantly took a shine to the family corgis and would count down the days until their next visit to play with the lovable dogs again. Taking the hint, their father King George VI brought home a choice of three corgi pups to his delighted children in 1933.
Once they had selected their pup, Elizabeth supposedly having chosen the one with the longest tail so they could measure how happy it was, they were faced with the task of naming him. While the breeder Thelma Gray had initially given the pup the name Rozavel Golden Eagle, she had jokingly referred to it as ‘the Duke’ due to its perceived snooty behaviour once selected by the royal children. ‘The Duke’ stuck, whereas Rozavel Golden Eagle failed to roll off the tongue, and was shortened to ‘Duke’ and eventually ‘Dookie’ by the smitten Elizabeth and Margaret.
The beginning of a beautiful (and long) friendship
Having grown up with Dookie since the age of seven, Elizabeth in particular had formed an unbreakable bond with the corgi. As the future Queen turned 18 she was given perhaps the most significant and long lasting present of her life: Susan, the matriarch of all her future corgis. Not only did Susan effectively begin the lineage of royal corgis, but she held a special place in the heart of the monarch who would even take Susan to Hampshire on her honeymoon with Prince Philip.
While the exact timeline of the Queen’s corgis is unclear after this point, we know that throughout Elizabeth’s nearly seven decade reign as monarch she has raised around 30 of her beloved corgis – owning as many as nine at one point! Opting for a variety of traditional names such as Emma, Linnet and Heather, the Queen has also been unafraid to go for some more untraditional names for her beloved pets with the likes of Oxo, Sugar, Spick and Whisky.
Recent additions to the family
Recently, the corgis were immortalised when appearing in a short film entitled Happy and Glorious which saw the meeting between James Bond and the Queen for the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony. Monty, Willow and Holly starred in the six minute film directed by Danny Boyle, and were some of the last corgis bred by the Queen who did not wish to leave any behind in the event of her passing.
Despite this wish, after the recent death of Prince Philip there have been two new additions to the royal kennels to help the Queen during such a difficult time. Unfortunately one of the corgi pups passed away, but the other pup is keeping the monarch company alongside two elder corgis: Candy and Muick. To find out more about the history of pets in the Royal Family, which extends well beyond corgis, watch the Queen Elizabeth II documentary Royal Pets.