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Royal Pets

Royal Pets
Royal Photograph Collection

Book by Sophie Gordon with over 200 color illustrations.


This charming publication celebrates the important role played by dogs in the public and private lives of the Royal Family. Selected from the Royal Photograph Collection, it brings together over 200 affectionate, amusing and often poignant images of canine companions – from Dash, Queen Victoria’s beloved King Charles spaniel and Eos, Prince Albert’s elegant greyhound, to the famous corgis of the House of Windsor.  

Over the 150 years covered by the book, dogs appear centre stage in both formal studio portraits and as part of relaxed family groups.  Most of the photographs come from private family albums and have never been published before. With the advent of photography and the development of the hand-held camera, proud owners could record favourite animals at work, rest and play. Dogs are seen riding in carriages, on board the royal yacht, on guard duty at Windsor Castle and in the arms of monarchs, consorts, princes and princesses. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were patrons and collectors of photography, and several members of the Royal Family were gifted amateur photographers.  Queen Alexandra, consort of King Edward VII, exhibited her work and did much to popularise the medium.  Her son Prince Alfred shared his mother’s interest and took a series of photographic self-portraits in 1864 with his Scotch terrier.

As pets or working animals, dogs came into the possession of the Royal Family through many different routes. Quarry, a Russian dog, was brought back for Queen Victoria from Sebastopol by British troops serving in the Crimean War. Looty, another gift to the Queen, was probably the first Pekingese dog to arrive in Britain. King Edward VII’s Samoyed was a present from the German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, while Vassilka and Alex, the first Borzois in the royal kennels, were presented by Tsar Alexander III of Russia.  Skippy, on the other hand, was rescued from Battersea Dogs Home by Prince Leopold, son of Queen Victoria.

The Royal Family has been responsible for popularising many unusual breeds in England. Queen Victoria brought back Marco, a Pomeranian, from a visit to Italy in 1888 and at one time had 35 of the breed in the royal kennels. In 1891 she showed six of the dogs at Cruft's - Fluffy, Nino, Mino, Beppo, Gilda and Lulu.  A Pomeranian called Turi often accompanied the Queen on her carriage drives in the last years of her life and was at her side when she died.  The Japanese Chin, which had been introduced from Japan in the 1880s, became a favourite breed of Queen Alexandra, as were Papillons and Pekingese.  She was also well known for the Borzoi dogs that were bred at Sandringham and regularly entered them into competitions.

Her Majesty The Queen is among the world’s leading breeders of Pembroke corgis. The first royal corgis, Dookie and Jane, were bought for the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose by their parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.  A series of charming photographs taken at Windsor and in London in 1936 shows Princess Elizabeth’s affectionate relationship with the dogs.  All of The Queen's corgis are descendants of Susan, who was given to the Princess as an 18th-birthday present in 1944. Her Majesty currently has nine dogs: five corgis and four dorgis (a dachshund and corgi cross).

Photographs reveal the deep devotion shared by generations of dogs and their royal owners.  Queen Victoria’s spaniel, Dash, was buried at Windsor with an epitaph that read: His attachment was without selfishness, His playfulness without malice, His fidelity without deceit. READER, if you would live beloved and die regretted, profit by the example of DASH.  In a particularly tender image from 1863, Boy, the Queen’s favourite dachshund, is shown a few days before his death, watched over by a concerned housekeeper.  King Edward VII’s terrier, Caesar, accompanied his master everywhere. He wore a collar with the inscription ‘I am Caesar. I belong to the King’ and was even immortalised in a tiny sculpture by the famous Russian jeweller, Carl Fabergé.  Caesar achieved widespread fame on the King’s death in 1910, when the inconsolable dog walked behind his master’s coffin in the funeral procession. 

Many of the photographs show the Royal Family at play with their pets.  Prince Wilhelm of Prussia (Queen Victoria’s eldest grandson and the future German Kaiser) and the young Princess of Wales (the future Queen Alexandra) are seen teaching a dog the trick of ‘sit up and beg’.   An image of 1895 records the Duke of York (later King George V) smiling fondly at a pug wrapped in a coat and wearing a scarf on its head.  In 1883 Spot the fox terrier posed for the camera while apparently smoking a pipe, and in 1896 Sammy the poodle demonstrated his acrobatic skills by balancing on two chairs, holding a stick in his mouth. 

"Noble Hounds and Dear Companions," by Sophie Gordon, Curator of the Royal Photograph Collection, will be available from Royal Collection shops at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse, from www.royalcollection.org.uk and all good bookshops.


Noble Hounds and Dear Companions
The Royal Photograph Collection
By Sophie Gordon
Royal Collection Publications, October 2007
£9.99 hardback
200 x 200mm, 120 pages
Over 200 colour illustrations
ISBN 978 1 902163 85 7

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