Queen Elizabeth and Her Court of Beloved Corgis

Introduction: In this article, Melissa Davenport Berry pays tribute to Queen Elizabeth II’s lifelong love for her corgi dogs. Melissa is a genealogist who has a blog, AnceStory Archives, and a Facebook group, New England Family Genealogy and History.

“Never complain, never explain,” and “Never raise your voice to a dog.”
–Queen Elizabeth II

There is a pouring out of grief over the death of Queen Elizabeth II – and may she rest in peace.

Photo: Princess Elizabeth (left) and her younger sister, Princess Margaret, with one of the first two Pembroke corgis to join the House of Windsor, in 1936. Courtesy of the American Kennel Club Library and Archives.
Photo: Princess Elizabeth (left) and her younger sister, Princess Margaret, with one of the first two Pembroke corgis to join the House of Windsor, in 1936. Courtesy of the American Kennel Club Library and Archives.

Also making news: a deep concern about what will happen with her corgi canines still romping the palace. Don’t worry peeps, the Queen’s dogs will continue to receive the royal treatment.

It was just released that Sarah Ferguson “Fergie” and Prince Andrew will take guardianship of the beloved corgis and I am sure a Christmas stocking loaded with treats and toys will stay the tradition at holiday time. (Read more from Country Living.)

Queen Elizabeth II’s craze for corgis started when she was young. Her father King George VI brought home the first corgi, “Dookie,” in 1933. Princess Elizabeth was smitten. Then came Jane, another favorite.

Crackers (1939-1953), one of Queen Elizabeth’s (wife of King George VI) corgis, was featured in the 25th silver anniversary photo of Princess Elizabeth’s parents. The family was crazy for corgis!

Royal silver wedding photo, Canton Repository newspaper article 14 April 1948
Canton Repository (Canton, Ohio), 14 April 1948, page 4

On her 18th birthday Elizabeth’s father gave her Susan (1944-1959), a Pembroke corgi, who is the common ancestor of all the Queen’s royal corgis. Two of her final pups – Holly and Willow – are 14th-generational descendants. The pedigree chart of the royal corgis shows the lineage.

Photo: Royal corgi pedigree chart. Courtesy of Judit Bekker.
Photo: Royal corgi pedigree chart. Courtesy of Judit Bekker.

Susan, like her scions, was never far from the royal presence. In fact, Susan even went on honeymoon with the Queen. Sources say Susan was hidden under rugs as the Princess and the Duke of Edinburgh traveled through London in an open carriage on the way to their bridal tour.

Susan may have been living like a princess, but she had quite a rep with the royal staff for naughtiness and nipping. This mischievous trait ran through all the bloodlines (see more below).

The corgis accompanied the Queen to most of her dress fittings. Their paws picked up so many pins that couturier Hardy Aimes presented the queen with a satin-covered magnet.

Like the royal family, the palace pooches have had their share of saga and scandal in the press! One problem was the dogs biting people.

Here is one such incident reported by the Columbus Dispatch.

An article about a royal corgi, Columbus Dispatch newspaper article 7 November 1954
Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio), 7 November 1954, page 157

This article reported:

The policeman’s trousers were torn and he was treated for a lacerated knee.

Note: The Guardsman, Alfred Edge, sustained two tiny teeth marks.

In February 1959 Susan fell prey to some fake news. Apparently one of her descendants at Buckingham Palace bit another “Bobby.”

Susan was already among the dearly departed pets resting at Sandringham Pet Cemetery. Yet she was demonized beyond the grave as a story leaked that “Surly Susan Scores Again.”

The papers were forced to retract the story by Palace officials. Londoners speculated the culprit was Whiskey, Susan’s grandson who already had established a rep for munching on guards.

In 1988 the palace went bonkers and corgi drama reached a whole new level. Reports circulated that after a long nipping spree the corgis were sent to a shrink. The generation of corgis guilty at the time were Spark, Mist, Sable, Diamond, Kelpie, Phoenix, Piper, Chipper, and Harris (all descendants of Susan), though it was not reported how many were under treatment.

Here is a snippet on the skinny from London newspaper the Mail on Sunday via the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

An article about the royal corgis, Daytona Beach News-Journal newspaper article 7 November 1988
Daytona Beach News-Journal (Daytona Beach, Florida), 7 November 1988, page 2

This article reported:

Queen Elizabeth’s corgi dogs are being treated by an animal psychologist because of their bad record of nipping members of the royal household, the Mail on Sunday reported.

The paper said guardsmen, policemen, footmen and even the royal clockwinder have fallen prey to the corgis’ nips.

…The dogs are being seen by animal behavior specialist Dr. Roger Mugford, who firmly believes in counseling owners as well. [Doubt that happened.]

Mugford told reporters:

“They are, of course, collie-type dogs, originally bred for cattle herding. As such, they will chase anything, particularly ankles.”

In 1999, a major brouhaha broke out when Mathew King, the Queen’s royal footman, was caught serving her corgis cocktails.

King was not banished – but he did get the royal boot via a demotion downstairs. The San Francisco Chronicle reported on the “soggy saga.”

An article about the royal corgis, San Francisco Chronicle newspaper article 23 July 1999
San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco, California), 23 July 1999, page 113

This article reported:

One of Queen Elizabeth’s royal footmen has been demoted for getting her pet corgis drunk. The British newspaper the Sun, which isn’t afraid to express moral outrage, quoted a Buckingham Palace insider on the soggy saga.

He said the offender had been “famous for his party trick of pouring booze into the corgis’ food and water… He thought it was funny to see the dogs staggering about. He was lucky not to be sacked.”

The demon drink that went to the dogs was whiskey and gin.

The footman, 28, once one of the queen’s two footmen, was punished by being sent down to be among “14 ordinary footmen,” a Buckingham Palace footman said.

In the October 1999 edition of the Weekly World News a story broke about a London lad who was outraged over the will of his 92-year-old mom, who left her cash to the Queen’s corgis – a total of $28,000.

He made attempts to block the will and pleaded he needed the money more than the corgis. He claimed his mom was unstable, but her lawyer argued his client was of sound mind and just loved dogs. The corgis won the case and the coin!

Note: An online collection of newspapers, such as GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives, is not only a great way to learn about the lives of your ancestors – the old newspaper articles also help you understand history and the times your ancestors lived in, and the news they talked about and read in their local papers.

Note on the header image: a photo of Princess Elizabeth with the first two Pembroke corgis to join the House of Windsor, Dookie and Jane, in 1936. Courtesy of the American Kennel Club Library and Archives.

4 thoughts on “Queen Elizabeth and Her Court of Beloved Corgis

  1. Melissa,
    Hilarious! I am sure this made the Queen happy, she loved those dogs. Another great article and a slightly different kind of genealogy and their descendants. ❤️

    1. Thanks Elizabeth! I noticed her last two corgis attended the funeral. May Queen Elizabeth II rest in peace and she will be with Philip and her family and Susan and all her descendant corgis!

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