The Royal Family and their dogs

It’s no secret that many of the Royal Family are huge dog lovers – discover some recent royal dogs and their owners.

We’re a nation of dog lovers, and the Royal Family is no different. Their passion for pets spans the centuries and plays a key part in the legend and history of royalty.

In Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee year, it’s the perfect time to pay tribute to the depth of Her Majesty’s enormous affection for the animals she has loved over the years. And of course, we can’t talk about royal dogs without mentioning the Queen’s Corgis.

The Queen was given her first Pembroke Welsh Corgi, named Susan, as a birthday present when she was just 18. The little dog was so precious to her that she even accompanied the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh on their honeymoon. The Queen went on to own many more Corgis over the years, all descendants of Susan, and helped popularise this loyal, bold and active breed. She has also owned Dorgis (a Corgi-Dachshund cross) and Cocker Spaniels. The Queen considers her dogs an extension of her family, and they’re often part of her entourage on trips and visits. It is thought that she has had at least 30 dogs since her accession to the throne in 1952.

When the Queen’s Corgi Whisper died in 2018, followed by Vulcan, her Dorgi, in 2020, the Queen reportedly decided not to get any more dogs. It seems her family had other ideas, however, and decided she needed a couple more dogs to keep her company. The Queen’s latest acquisition is a Cocker Spaniel known as Lissy. A trained gundog, Lissy recently saw off other competitors to win the Kennel Club Cocker Spaniel Championships.

The Royal Family’s dogs are a diverse bunch, with every relative seeming to have their own favoured breeds. In his younger days, HRH The Prince of Wales was often pictured with his golden Labrador Retriever, Harvey and more recently Jack Russel Terriers have been a firm favourite with the Prince.

Tigga, the Jack Russell, was perhaps the most famous of the Prince’s dogs, featuring in many a family portrait in the 1990s until his death at the ripe old age of 18. Today, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall share their home with two Jack Russells, Bluebell and Beth, who were adopted as rescue dogs from Battersea (where the Duchess is a royal patron). The royal couple were photographed with the dogs for a  celebrating their 15th wedding anniversary in 2020.

Prince William’s dog, Lupo, became something of a royal celebrity in his own right thanks to his lively antics and clear devotion to his owners. A typically energetic and loving Cocker Spaniel, he regularly popped up in family pictures, including an official snap released for the young Prince George’s birthday in 2016. Sadly, Lupo passed away in 2020 and was deeply mourned by all the Cambridges. ‘He has been at the heart of our family for the past nine years and we will miss him so much,’ the royal couple said in a statement on Instagram. Meanwhile, Kate’s brother, James, has reportedly gifted the family another Cocker Spaniel pup from his own dog Ella’s litter.

It’s not just the present Royal Family who like to surround themselves with pets. Earlier generations of royals were equally attached to their favourite breeds. In the 19th century, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert did much to popularise pet ownership.

Of all the gifts Victoria bestowed on her beloved husband, one of the most touching is a portrait of Prince Albert’s dog, Eos, painted by one of the most revered artists of the time, Sir Edwin Landseer. A majestic Greyhound, Eos was Albert’s loyal companion for more than 10 years. As the young Prince prepared to travel to the UK for his wedding to Victoria, he made sure to send her on ahead. Apparently, Queen Victoria was thrilled to see ‘dear Eos’, who arrived the evening before Albert did.

Queen Victoria herself is said to have kept and bred many Pugs during her lifetime, helping to make this playful and social breed a hit with high society. King Edward VIII later inherited his great-grandmother Victoria’s love of Pugs, and passed it on to his wife, Wallis Simpson. During their life together, this couple – who rocked the foundations of the British monarchy – are said to have owned at least 11 Pugs.

While Corgis and Cockers may be firm favourites with modern royalty, perhaps the ultimate royal dog breed is one that has actually been named after a monarch: the King Charles Spaniel and its cousin, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

Toy spaniels began to appear in Europe during the 16th century, and were probably bred down from bigger sporting dogs in order to become pets of royalty and the upper classes. Queen Elizabeth I is said to have owned a ‘spaniel gentle’ – as this new type of companion dog was known. By the reign of Charles II, a number of toy spaniel varieties were popular at court, including a red and white variety (the Blenheim) and the tri-coloured Prince Charles, and came to be associated with the monarch.

Fast-forward to the era of dog shows and officially recognised breeds, and the Kennel Club decided to merge the various toy spaniel varieties into one breed, which was named the King Charles Spaniel, with the blessing of King Edward VII himself, who wanted to preserve the royal association.

In the early 20th century, flat-faced dogs with domed skulls and flatter muzzles, like the Pug, were becoming popular, and this also began to influence the breeding of the King Charles Spaniel. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel developed when some breeders decided to try and bring back the more traditional style of slightly bigger, flatter-skulled, longer-muzzled spaniels. The Cav was recognised as a separate breed in 1945.

One notable royal spaniel fan was the late Princess Margaret, who adored her Cav, Rowley. No doubt Charles II himself would have approved – it’s said the flamboyant king wouldn’t go anywhere without his spaniels, and was even painted with one in his lap in his earliest-known portrait at the age of four months.

From adaptable King Charles Spaniels to high-energy Cockers and loyal Corgis, every dog breed has different traits, making them wonderful pets for some people and less than ideal for others, depending on your available time, space and lifestyle. Our handy Dog Breed Selector can help guide you when it comes to choosing your next canine companion.  For example, while the Queen may be known for her Corgis and Dorgis, we reckon she’d also be perfectly suited to Beagles, Cavapoos, Cockapoos and West Highland White Terriers!

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