Five facts about corgis, favourite dog of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth – who bade farewell to her last of the breed this week
Monarch who got first corgi on her 18th birthday saw her last one put down this week, ending a love affair with the breed that often made headlines. We set the record straight about a dog that’s been unfairly painted as ill-natured
It’s hard to think of any celebrity with a bigger affinity for their pets than Britain’s Queen Elizabeth with her love of corgi dogs.
The monarch’s long-standing love affair with the breed was brought to a sad end this week when her last remaining corgi, Willow, had to be put down at nearly 15 years old after suffering from cancer.
The queen got her first corgi, Susan, on her 18th birthday in 1944, and has had 30 of them in the years since. However, in 2015 she decided to stop breeding them because she did not want to leave any behind after she died.
Willow, then, will be the last of the royal corgis. The dogs have helped soften the queen’s sometimes cold and distant demeanour, a fact illustrated brilliantly in Netflix series The Crown, which regularly showed her walking around Buckingham Palace with the little terrors snapping happily at her heels.
But what did Her Majesty see in this breed of dogs, and what are they actually like? We take a look.
A regal dog of humble origin
The Welsh corgi, to give the breed its full name, was not always a pet of royalty (or Hongkongers with small flats). Before getting the royal seal of approval corgis were employed as herding dogs in Wales, where they were specifically used to help round up cattle.
During their farming days they were referred to as “heelers”, meaning that they would nip at the heels of the larger animals to keep them on the move – something the royal corgis would later do to dignitaries visiting Buckingham Palace.
Small but feisty
What they lack in size the corgi more than makes up for in personality; it has all the outgoing character of a much bigger breed of dog. Corgis can best be described as smart, fun-loving dogs that love getting up to mischief. The fact that their antics would make the queen smile, no matter what the occasion, is one of the main reasons she had them around.
Their bark is worse than their bite
Corgis have a well-deserved reputation for their very sharp bark. This has been to the fore in television footage involving the queen over the years, when the yapping dogs had to be told by their owner to keep the noise down. There is a good reason for this: corgis are highly alert dogs, and will react immediately to an unfamiliar sound or person. It means they make great watchdogs.
Don’t believe all that you see
Seeing corgis barking at Her Majesty’s heels down the years has given them an undeserved reputation as a bad-tempered, cranky dog. This could not be further from the truth. Because they are so loving and attentive, they will pick up even the slightest sounds, or notice the smallest changes in their environment, and often react to these by barking. So at worst they were looking out for the queen.
You can’t keep them out of the limelight
The little scamps regularly got in on the royal act. In a 2016 Vanity Fair article about the queen, corgis Vulcan and Willow were pictured on the magazine’s front cover with her. The dogs also got to meet James Bond when Willow, Monty and Holly appeared with the queen to welcome 007 actor Daniel Craig to Buckingham Palace during a popular segment filmed for the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony.
Life at the palace just won’t be the same without them.