The Queen's corgis are dead: long live the 'dorgis'
Willow’s death marks first time the monarch has not owned a corgi since the second world war
Martin Belam and agencies
Wed 18 Apr 2018 11.24 BST Last modified on Wed 18 Apr 2018 11.39 BST
The Queen’s last remaining corgi has died, it has been reported. Willow, who was almost 15, was put down after suffering from cancer, making it the first time the monarch has not owned a corgi since the end of the second world war.
Willow was the 14th generation descended from Susan, a corgi gifted to the then Princess Elizabeth on her 18th birthday in 1944. The Queen has owned more than 30 dogs of the breed during her reign.
It was reported in 2015 that the Queen had stopped breeding corgis because she did not want to leave any behind after she died.
She still has two dogs, Vulcan and Candy, which are informally known as “dorgis” – a cross-breed between a dachshund and a corgi introduced to the royal household when Princess Margaret’s dachshund Pipkin mated with one of the Queen’s dogs.
Vulcan and Candy appeared alongside Willow on the front cover of Vanity Fair in 2016, shot by Annie Leibovitz to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday.
Willow was the last surviving corgi to have appeared alongside the Queen and the actor Daniel Craig in the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony James Bond sketch. Willow, Monty and Holly had greeted the secret agent as he arrived at the palace to accept a mission from the Queen.
The dogs ran down the stairs, performed tummy rolls and then stood as a helicopter took off for the Olympic stadium, carrying Bond and a stunt double of the Queen. Monty died a couple of months after the sketch was filmed, and Holly was put down in 2016.
Buckingham Palace has declined to comment on Willow’s death, saying it is a private matter.
The Queen has been very fond of corgis since she was a small child, having fallen in love with the corgis owned by the children of the Marquess of Bath. King George VI brought home Dookie in 1933. A photograph from George VI's photo album shows a ten-year-old Elizabeth with Dookie at Balmoral. Princess Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret would feed Dookie by hand from a dish held by a footman. The other early favourite corgi during the same time was Jane.
Elizabeth II's mother, at that time Queen Elizabeth, introduced a disciplined regimen for the dogs; each was to have its own wicker basket, raised above the floor to avoid drafts. Meals were served for each dog in its own dish, the diet approved by veterinary experts with no tidbits from the royal table. A proprietary brand of meat dog biscuits was served in the morning, while the late afternoon meal consisted of dog meal with gravy. Extra biscuits were handed out for celebrations and rewards.
Crackers (24 December 1939, Windsor – November, 1953) was one of the Queen Mother's corgis, and nearly a constant companion; he retired with the Queen Mother to the Castle of Mey in Scotland. In 1944, Elizabeth was given Susan as a gift on her 18th birthday. Susan accompanied Elizabeth on her honeymoon in 1947. The corgis owned by the Queen are descended from Susan. Rozavel Sue, daughter of Rozavel Lucky Strike, an international champion, was one of the Queen's corgis in the early 1950s.
The Queen has owned over thirty corgis since her accession to the thrones of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms in 1952.
The Queen's fondness for corgis and horses is known even in places such as Grand Cayman; when Elizabeth and Prince Philip visited the island in 1983, government officials gave her black coral sculptures of a corgi and a horse as a gift, both made by Bernard Passman.
Sugar was the nursery pet of Prince Charles and Princess Anne. In 1955, her pups, Whisky and Sherry, were surprise Christmas gifts from the Queen to the Prince and Princess. Pictured with the royal family, the corgi Sugar made the cover of The Australian Women's Weekly on 10 June 1959. Sugar's twin, Honey, belonged to the Queen Mother; Honey took midday runs with Johnny and Pippin, Princess Margaret's corgis, while the Princess lived in Buckingham Palace. Heather was born in 1962 and became one of the Queen's favourites. Heather was the mother of Tiny, Bushy, and Foxy; Foxy gave birth to Brush in 1969.
The corgis enjoy a privileged life in Buckingham Palace. They reside in the Corgi Room, and continue to sleep in elevated wicker baskets. The Queen tends to the corgis in her kennel herself. She also chooses the sires of litters that are bred in her kennel. The corgis have an extensive menu at the palace which includes fresh rabbit and beef, served by a gourmet chef. At Christmas, the Queen makes stockings for pets full of toys and delicacies such as biscuits. In 1999, one of Queen Elizabeth's royal footmen was demoted from Buckingham Palace for his "party trick of pouring booze into the corgis' food and water" and watching them "staggering about" with relish.
In 2007, the Queen was noted to have five corgis, Monty, Emma, Linnet, Willow, and Holly; five cocker spaniels, Bisto, Oxo, Flash, Spick, and Span; and four "dorgis" (dachshund-corgi crossbreeds), Cider, Berry, Vulcan, and Candy. In 2012, Queen Elizabeth II's corgis Monty, Willow, and Holly appeared during the brief James Bond sketch when Daniel Craig arrived at Buckingham Palace for a mission to take the queen to the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony. Monty, who had previously belonged to the Queen Mother, and one of her "Dorgis" died in September 2012. Monty had been named for the horse whisperer and friend of the queen, Monty Roberts. As of November 2012, it was reported that Elizabeth owns two corgis, Willow and Holly, and two Dorgis, Candy and Vulcan. It was reported in July 2015 that the Queen has stopped breeding corgis as she does not wish any to survive her in the event of her death. Monty Roberts had urged Elizabeth to breed more corgis in 2012 but she had told him that she "didn't want to leave any young dog behind" and wanted to put an end to the practice.
The dogs have traditionally been buried at the royal residence, Sandringham estate in Norfolk, at which they died. The graveyard was first used by Queen Victoria when her Collie, Noble, died in 1887. In 1959, the Queen used it to bury Susan, creating a cemetery for her pets.However, Monty was buried in Balmoral estate.
On several occasions, the Queen or her staff have been injured by the corgis. In 1954, the Royal Clockwinder, Leonard Hubbard, was bitten by Susan upon entering the nursery at the Royal Lodge, Windsor. Later in the same year, one of the Queen Mother's corgis bit a policeman on guard duty in London.
In 1968, Peter Doig called for the royal staff to put up a "Beware of the dog" sign at Balmoral after one of the corgis bit the postman. In February 1989, it was reported that the royal family had hired an animal psychologist to tame the dogs after they developed a habit of nipping them and the staff. In March 1991, the Queen was bitten after trying to break up a fight between ten or so of her corgis. She had to have three stitches to her left hand. John Collins, the Queen Mother's chauffeur, had to have a tetanus injection after he also tried to intervene. In 2003, Pharos, a tenth-generation offspring of Susan, was put down after being mauled by Princess Anne's English bull terrier Dottie. Anne arrived at Sandringham to visit her mother for Christmas and the corgis rushed out of the front door as they arrived. It was reported that "Dottie went for Pharos, savaging the corgi's hind legs and breaking one in three places."
The royal corgis are known all across the world and are closely associated with the Queen. The corgis have had numerous items dedicated to them, in particular being the subject of many statues and works of art. Because of the Queen's fondness for the Welsh Corgi, an increased number of corgis were exhibited in the 1954 West Australian Canine Association's Royal Show.Queen Elizabeth II’s crown coin KM# 1135, made of copper nickel of size 33 mm, issued during her Golden Jubilee year, shows the Queen with a corgi.