A History of Queen Elizabeth II and Her Devotion to Corgis

The late monarch took the throne at age 25, but her love for these Welsh herding dogs dates back to the early days of her childhood

Queen Elizabeth II of England at Balmoral Castle with one of her Corgis, 28th September 1952. UPI color slide.
Photo: Bettmann

Queen Elizabeth II, who died on Sept. 8 at the age of 96, was just a young girl when her famed interest in corgi dogs began.

The breed first stole her heart in 1933, when her father, the soon-to-be King George VI, brought home a corgi named Dookie from a local kennel. Soon after Dookie came another furry friend, Jane.

According to Vanity Fair, these first corgis kept Elizabeth and her sister Margaret company as they fled to Windsor Castle during World War II.

The Queen's early love for the stout breed eventually led to a corgi dynasty. Atop the royal corgi family lineage sits Susan, whom the Queen received as a gift for her 18th birthday. Susan gave birth to Honey and Sugar and from there the corgi family tree expanded to include dozens of dogs that can be traced back to Susan, who even joined the Queen and Prince Philip on their honeymoon to Scotland.

July 1936: Princess Elizabeth sitting on a garden seat with two corgi dogs at her home on 145 Piccadilly, London. (Photo by Lisa Sheridan/Studio Lisa/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Lisa Sheridan/Studio Lisa/Hulton Archive/Getty

The Queen was dog mum to more than 30 corgis and dachshund-corgi mixes known as "dorgis." As one might guess, her pets lived lives of luxury, from the food they noshed to the attention they received.

According to former royal chef Darren McGrady, the pooches could expect an elaborate, rotating menu featuring beef, lamb, rabbit and chicken. "The Queen would feed them herself, I think after she'd had her tea," McGrady said to Hello! Magazine in April 2022.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh with their children, Prince Andrew (centre), Princess Anne (left) and Charles, Prince of Wales sitting on a picnic rug outside Balmoral Castle in Scotland, 8th September 1960.

Queen Elizabeth devoted much of her 96 years of life tending to her pack. Following the news of her passing, photographer Annie Leibovitz shared a moment captured at Windsor Castle. "The Queen went out walking with her dogs every day," Leibovitz wrote on Twitter alongside a photo of the late monarch and her pooches.

The corgis have been photographed riding with their mum in limousines and being lifted out of private planes by security personnel. They even rested with the Queen in her private quarters, in "a special corgi room where they have raised wicker baskets lined with cushions to keep draughts away," wrote Penny Junior in her book All The Queen's Corgis.

During the holiday season, the corgis followed the Queen to her estate at Sandringham, where, according to the BBC, "they each have their own stocking, filled by the Queen herself."

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 15: Queen Elizabeth II arrives at King's Cross railway station in London 15 October 1969 with her four dogs of Corgis breed after holidays in Balmoral Castle in Scotland and before welcoming at Buckingham Palace US astronauts of Apollo 11 who walked on the Moon. (Photo credit should read STF/AFP via Getty Images)
STF/AFP via Getty

As she surrounded herself with more and more corgis, the Queen developed a preference for the breed's specific features. Diana King, the Welsh Corgi League's former chairman, told Vanity Fair that the Queen liked their coats to be a darker red color, with "not too much white on them."

King even recalled a time her own dog, Oliver, crossed into the Queen's line of sight. "Oh, he's got a lot of white on him, hasn't he?" King remembered the monarch noting in a tone traced with "faint disapproval," King shared in Vanity Fair.

With such a prominent presence in the media, the royal corgis have not gone without scandal. In 1968, an overzealous pup nipped a postman delivering mail to Balmoral Castle. This prompted British politician Peter Doig to suggest the Queen's staff hang a "Beware of the Dog" sign outside of her properties.

Queen Elizabeth II with one of her dogs, as she arrives at Buckingham Palace in London from Windsor, for Prince Charles' 7th birthday, 14th November 1955. (Photo by Monty Fresco/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
Monty Fresco/Topical Press Agency/Getty

In 1999, Buckingham Palace reportedly penalized a footman for allegedly pouring booze into the dogs' food and water bowls, calling it his "party trick" and relishing in the humor of watching the corgis "stagger about when they were a bit tipsy," a source told The Sun.

Generally, however, the corgis were beloved within and beyond the palace walls. Their likeness could be found in art paying tribute to the Queen, and events honoring Queen Elizabeth II inherently celebrated the breed as well. In 2002, for the monarch's Golden Jubilee (her 50th anniversary on the throne), the United Kingdom issued a new coin depicting the Queen alongside a corgi.

A wreath with British Union flags and a corgi image hangs on a door near Windsor castle during Platinum Jubilee celebrations in Windsor, UK, on Sunday, June 5, 2022. The Platinum Jubilee is a year of celebrations in the UK and Commonwealth countries to mark the 70th anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II on Feb. 6, 1952, which culminates with a four-day bank holiday weekend. Photographer: Hollie Adams/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Hollie Adams/Bloomberg/Getty

The world saw a corgi cameo in a short sketch from the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony, in which the Queen was escorted to the London games via helicopter with Daniel Craig, in character as James Bond.

(Original Caption) Sandringham, Norfolk, England, UK: Britain's Queen Elizabeth II smiles radiantly during a picture-taking session in the salon at Sandringham House. Her pet dog looks up at her. These photos were taken in connection with the royal Family's planned tour of Australia and New Zealand.
Queen Elizabeth. Bettmann

The monarch opted to stop taking on corgis in the mid-2010s because, according to The Telegraph, she did not want to leave any dog behind when she died.

In 2021, however, she did welcome new additions to the royal corgi pack. After receiving two puppies in March 2021 not long before Prince Philip's death — and suffering the loss of one dog just weeks later — Prince Andrew gifted his mother with a new puppy on what would have been Philip's 100th birthday, a full circle moment from Elizabeth's first gifted corgi when she was just 7 years old.

Princess Elizabeth with her pet Corgi Sue or Susan at Windsor Castle, UK, 30th May 1944. (Photo by Lisa Sheridan/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Lisa Sheridan/Hulton Archive/Getty

According to The Washington Post, the Queen is survived by four dogs: one dorgi, one cocker spaniel, and two Pembroke Welsh Corgis. Regardless of who inherits the pooches (some speculate it may be Prince Andrew), their safety and comfort are guaranteed as reminders of the Queen and her legacy. In fact, they're currently top of mind for the royal family: in his first address to the nation as King on Friday, Charles displayed a corgi-adorned vase on his desk filled with sprigs of rosemary — a sign of remembrance.

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