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The Queen and her Corgis: Inside The Wallace Collection’s new photographic display

A selection of joyful and moving images immortalises the unique bond the late monarch had with her beloved dogs

Queen Elizabeth II was known for many things: her timeless style, her regal poise, her unflinching sense of duty. But if asked what brought her the most joy, it would have to be her love of animals, in particular her devotion to Pembroke Welsh corgis. She owned over 30 of the dogs throughout her historic 70-year reign – and now that special relationship is being brought to life in a new photographic display at the Wallace Collection, entitled The Queen and her Corgis

The Queen And Her Corgis At The Wallace Collection, LondonPin
Queen Elizabeth II sitting on rocks beside a waterfall on the Garbh Allt burn with two corgis on the Estate at Balmoral Castle, Scotland, September 1971. Photo by Lichfield Archive via Getty Images

The Queen and her Corgis features a selection of images that captures Her Majesty and her steadfast love of the breed, with each decade of her life marked by a single image of the monarch with her beloved dogs. The display will coincide with the Wallace Collection’s major exhibition, Portraits of Dogs: From Gainsborough to Hockney (29 March – 15 October 2023), which explores our devotion to four-legged friends across the centuries and highlights the unique bond between humans and their canine companions.

The Queen And Her Corgis At The Wallace Collection, LondonPin
The Queen Mother with her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II, outside Clarence House, 4 August 1983. Photo by Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

The Queen’s own passion for the fearless breed of herding dog began in 1933 when she was just seven, after she and her sister, Princess Margaret, were given a pair named Jane and Dookie by their father, the future King George VI. After that, corgis were always to be found by her side, and snapshots of The Queen walking her dogs or bringing them along to public engagements have become some of the most enduring images of the monarch, with a selection of the most iconic being chosen to form this display. 

The Queen And Her Corgis At The Wallace Collection, LondonPin
Queen Elizabeth II talks with members of the Manitoba Corgi Association during a visit to Winnipeg, 8 October 2002. ADRIAN WYLD/AFP via Getty Images

The earliest image on show in The Queen and her Corgis dates back to July 1936 and features the young Princess Elizabeth playing in the garden of 145 Piccadilly – the London house where she lived for much of her early childhood – with Jane and Dookie. 

The Queen And Her Corgis At The Wallace Collection, LondonPin
Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) with two corgi dogs at her home at 145 Piccadilly, London, July 1936. Photo by Lisa Sheridan/Studio Lisa/Hulton Archive via Getty Images

A similarly playful shot was taken shortly after her 18th birthday, on 30 May 1944, and shows the Princess holding a puppy, Susan, in the grounds of Windsor Castle. The puppy was given to her as a treasured birthday present by her father, and Susan would go on to be the corgi from which many of the dogs The Queen would own throughout her reign were descended.

The Queen And Her Corgis At The Wallace Collection, LondonPin
Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) pictured holding a corgi in the grounds of Windsor Castle, Berkshire, Great Britain, 30 May 1944. Photo by Lisa Sheridan/Studio Lisa/Hulton Archive via Getty Images

Other images in the display show the corgis accompanying The Queen during her working engagements, which often led to them appearing at important events. One particularly striking image shows Her Majesty disembarking from a train at King’s Cross station with four corgis in tow. The snapshot, taken on 15 October 1969, shows the monarch returning from Balmoral in order to meet the astronauts of Apollo 11 at Buckingham Palace. 

The Queen And Her Corgis At The Wallace Collection, LondonPin
Queen Elizabeth II arrives at King's Cross railway,15 October 1969. Photo by STF/AFP via Getty Images

And it wasn’t just corgis The Queen kept – she was just as devoted to her dorgis, a breed which came about when one of Her Majesty’s corgis had a chance encounter with Princess Margaret’s dachshund Pipkin. A photo taken on 2 April 1994 shows The Queen walking around the grounds of Windsor Castle, her iconic headscarf firmly in place, with a corgi and a dorgi following alongside her. 

The Queen And Her Corgis At The Wallace Collection, LondonPin
Queen Elizabeth II walking her dogs at Windsor Castle, 2 April 1994. Photo by Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images

While the exhibition is largely a celebration of The Queen’s jubilant love for her pets, it does feature some poignantly touching moments too. One of the most enduring images from Her Majesty’s funeral on 19 September 2022 is that of The Queen’s corgis, Sandy and Muick, waiting patiently for her return to the committal service at Windsor. Although The Queen stopped breeding corgis in 2015, she was gifted Sandy and Muick to be her companions after Prince Philip’s death. Faithful friends, they remained with The Queen until her own death.

The Queen And Her Corgis At The Wallace Collection, LondonPin
Members of the Royal Household with the two royal corgis on September 19, 2022 in Windsor, England. Photo by Justin Setterfield via Getty Images
“The Queen devoted her entire life to serving the British people, but we hope that this display will show a more personal side of her life – her deep love of animals and her abiding passion for her corgis.”
Dr Xavier Bray, Director of The Wallace Collection

“We are honoured to pay tribute to Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth with this display,” says Dr Xavier Bray, director of The Wallace Collection. “The Queen devoted her entire life to serving the British people, but we hope that this display will show a more personal side of her life – her deep love of animals and her abiding passion for her corgis.”

‘The Queen and her Corgis’ is on display at The Wallace Collection from 8 March – 25 June 2023 
wallacecollection.org

 

Main picture: Queen Elizabeth II of England at Balmoral Castle with one of her Corgis, 28 September 1952. Bettmann / Contributor via Getty Images

 

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