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A History of Royal Pets

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We are most amused! Karen Boyce takes a look at the history of royal pets.

So, May is going to be quite the month: we will be having our first Coronation ceremony since 1953  (as well as enjoying three Bank Holiday Mondays!)

On Saturday, May 6th, King Charles III will be crowned alongside the Queen Consort at Westminster Abbey. So, I thought it would be a nice idea to look at the pets the royals have had since the Georgian times.

Starting with the current King, Charles and Camilla own two Jack Russels, although, for a very long time, the most popular breed in the Royal Family was our very own Welsh Corgi. This ancient Welsh breed has been around for centuries and was first used for herding cattle and sheep.

There are two types of Welsh Corgi: the Pembroke and the Cardigan, and they have different origins. The Pembroke Welsh Corgi comes from the Spitz family of dogs, while the Cardigan Welsh Corgi belongs to the Dachshund family of dogs.

Welsh farmers used to value the Welsh Corgi highly and used it to drive cattle and sheep to market. They were also guard dogs and known for their ability to keep predators away from the farm.

The Kennel Club recognised both breeds of Corgis in the 1930s, and they are now popular around the world as family pets, show dogs, and working dogs. The breed is famous for its intelligence, loyalty, and playful nature.

King George VI (r 1936-1952) had a pet Corgi named Dookie, which he adored and often took with him on royal visits, and this was almost certainly the catalyst for Queen Elizabeth II’s love of the breed. In 1944 she was given a Pembroke Corgi called Susan as an 18th birthday present.

The Queen went on to own more than 30 of them throughout her lifetime. They appeared in official portraits and were even present at the opening ceremony of the Olympics in 2012.

Looking back in history, King George III (r. 1760-1820) loved dogs and kept many of them as pets, including terriers, spaniels, and greyhounds. He also had a pet zebra named Zanga, given to him as a gift from the Governor of the Cape of Good Hope.

King George IV (r. 1820-1830) was also an animal lover and had a menagerie of exotic animals, including lions, tigers, and monkeys! He was particularly fond of his pet parrot, which reportedly had a vocabulary of over 800 words.

Queen Victoria (r. 1837-1901) was a famous dog lover and popularized the small breed of dog known as the Pomeranian. She owned this breed extensively during her reign, including showing at the world-famous Crufts dog show. They were often seen accompanying her on her travels. She also had a pet parrot named Lory, which she taught to speak and sing.

King Edward VII (r. 1901-1910) was known for his love of animals and owned several dogs, including a bulldog named Caesar, which he reportedly adored. He kept a menagerie of exotic animals at his country estate, including llamas, kangaroos, and a zebra.

King George V (r. 1910-1936) had several dogs, including a Bulldog named Dottie, which he received as a gift from the Prime Minister of Australia. He also owned a pet parrot named Charlotte, which he taught to whistle “God Save the King”.

As mentioned, the new King Charles III owns two Jack Russel Terriers named Beth and Bluebell. Camilla, The Queen Consort, adopted the dogs from Battersea Home Dogs, of which she is Patron, in 2017. They certainly fell on their paws there, with Buckingham Palace now their home!

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