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The Queen and Her Corgis

Corgis have been part of Queen Elizabeth’s life ever since she was a little girl.

Corgis.

These chonky lowriders are more than just big ears and cute butts. Corgi is Welsh for “dwarf dog” – cor means dwarf and ci means dog (and in Welsh, ci and gi sound the same). They were originally bred to herd cattle and sheep. Corgis are affectionate, smart and have a “big dog” bark.

According to Welsh folklore, tiny fairy warriors would use corgis to ride into battle. The darker patch of fur that corgis have under their shoulders is sometimes known as the “fairy saddle,” since the markings were supposedly left by fairy saddles and harnesses.

Queen Elizabeth II sits in a pink rose garden with 3 of her Corgis sitting at her feet, and one sitting next to her on the bench.

There are two types of corgi, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi and Cardigan Welsh Corgi.

According to the American Kennel Club, the two breed types differ in a few ways. The main differences are:

• Ears – the Pembroke’s ears are pointed, while the Cardi’s are rounded. 

• Tail – the Cardi tail is longer.
• Size – the Pembroke is slightly smaller.
• Color – Cardi’s come in more colors.

The History of The Queen and Her Corgis

Queen Elizabeth is a Pembroke girl. She likes her corgis with a dark red coat and very little white coloring.

So how did the Queen of England become the Queen of Corgis?

It all started in 1933 when Her Majesty was only seven years old, and her father, then the Duke of York, gifted her and her little sister Margaret a corgi puppy named Dookie.

Queen Elizabeth II as a child cuddling up to her pet Corgi.

The Princesses fell in love and soon a second corgi, Jane, joined the household.

The corgis were the Princesses’ constant companions. In fact, just days before King Edward VIII abdicated the throne to marry the American divorcée Wallace Simpson, a photo book titled “Our Princesses and Their Dogs” was released.

The book featured photos of the girls and their dogs, and, more importantly, reassured the British public that their new king, Elizabeth’s dad, was a cool dude with cute kids and even cuter dogs.

Susan the Corgi

For her 18th birthday, Elizabeth’s dad, now the King, came through again and gifted her a little girl corgi puppy named Sue, who eventually became Susan.

If the Queen is the ceremonial leader of the British Empire and the Commonwealth, then Susan was the corgi equivalent of the royal corgis. Susan is the Queen’s foundation bitch – every corgi the Queen owned from age 18 until just a year ago was a descendant of Susan.

That’s 14 generations of corgis, all descending from Susan.

Susan was so beloved that she joined the Queen on her honeymoon with Philip.
When Susan died in 1959, the Queen designed the headstone for her grave, and had it sent back multiple times until it was just right.

Susan, along with the majority of the Queens’s dogs, was buried at the Sandringham Estate, in a graveyard first used by Queen Victoria when her Collie died. This graveyard is now a pet cemetery for all of the royal pets.

Susan and her descendents enjoyed a privileged life in Buckingham Palace.

The Queen’s corgis have their own room, called the Corgi Room, and sleep in elevated wicker baskets. They are fed fresh rabbit and beef, served by a gourmet chef. They have huge gardens in which to run and play, and they often travel with the Queen on holiday.

The Queen helps care for the corgis herself, and even chooses their mates. I guess you could call her the official Royal Corgi matchmaker.

Queen Elizabeth II sits on steps outside in a yellow dress with two corgis. Circa 1970's.

She’s never sold any of her puppies, and has only given them away as gifts.

How Many Corgis?

How many exactly? Queen Elizabeth has owned purebred corgis for more than eight decades. She’s had more than 30 corgis during her reign!

While the crown has never released official numbers, in 1981 the Queen flew to Scotland on holiday and took 13 corgis with her.

Queen Elizabeth II sits in the Corgi Room in a blue dress and smiles at the camera while one of her corgis lies on the couch.

But having a pack of corgis does come with its problems, even if you’re the Queen of England.

Susan once bit a policeman who was patrolling Buckingham Palace. It was the fourth time she had bitten someone at the palace. She also bit a sentry, a detective and the royal clock winder.

A member of Parliament even felt compelled to ask that the royal family post a “Beware of Dog” sign after a postal worker was bitten by one of the Queen’s corgis.

Even the Queen herself was bitten when breaking up a fight between 10 of her corgis. She received three stitches. Her mother’s chauffeur was also bitten and had to get a tetanus shot.

But being naughty certainly didn’t hurt the corgis’ popularity. They’ve been immortalized as statues, starred in a James Bond skit, and appeared in books, on magazine covers and posed for portraits.

At the Palace Gift Shop you can shop for corgi-themed items, like scarves, stuffed animals and socks

So, did the corgi love rub off on the other members of the family? Not really.

The Queen mother and the Queen’s sister Margaret both had corgis, but the only other family member to own a corgi has been Princess Anne’s son Peter.

A 20-year-old Prince Charles told reporters that he wasn’t too fond of corgis. He said, “I like Labradors.”

Harry told the BBC that he’s “spent the last 33 years being barked at.”

And William said, “They’re barking all the time. I don’t know how she copes with it” in an interview.

Although the corgi love isn’t hereditary, the Queen just can’t quit her favorite breed. “My corgis are family,” she once said.

The End of an Era…

In the last few years, the Queen stopped breeding her corgis. Her final litter was born in 2003, and she said goodbye to the last of her own purebred corgis, Willow, in 2018. Willow’s death marked the first time the monarch has not owned a purebred corgi since World War II.

She was left with two dorgis – dachshund-corgi mixes that were introduced when Princess Margaret’s dachshund mated with a corgi – and when one passed away, she was down to only one and almost completely dog-less.

A New Chapter

Susan’s royal reign was over, and just as the world prepared to say goodbye to the House of Susan, the Queen surprised everyone. She was gifted two new puppies – a dorgi named Fergus and a corgi named Muick, pronounced Mick.

These two puppies mark a new chapter of the Queen’s life as she mourns the loss of her husband of 73 years, Prince Philip. They are also the first corgis she’s had as an adult that weren’t descended from Susan. The Sun reported that “The Queen is delighted” over the addition of the two dogs.

Long live the Queen’s corgis!

Queen Elizabeth II sits next to a waterfall with a Corgi on her lap and a Corgi by her feet.

About the Author:

Candy Pilar Godoy has visited over 40 countries across six continents, and speaks three languages. She often travels with her dogs, and writes about pet travel on her blog boogiethepug.com. Candy currently lives in New York City with her two dogs, Boogie and Marcelo, and cat Kitty. She has been featured in the NY Times, Nomadic Matt, and on Buzzfeed.

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