Queen Victoria’s love for her dogs was lavishly recorded in paint and sculpture and not least, in her sketches and words. Lord Melbourne, the Queen’s Prime Minister, once commented dryly: ‘You’ll be smothered with dogs‘.
The Queen’s characteristic need to memorialise her friends and servants could also be why she wanted to create memorials to her dogs, for all these individuals merited shared inscriptions which emphasised their devotion to herself. The desire to record the domestic dogs owned by the Queen and her family is something to which the many albums in the Royal Collection amply testify. These include the red leather-bound volume with its letters picked out in gilt Photographs of Dogs in the Royal Kennel, Windsor. The album makes no mistake about its content relating to royal dogs, with the words following swiftly (and firmly) The Property of The Queen and a seated dog in gold on the red cover, the greyhound ‘Helios’. Queen Victoria commissioned this album, which contains some fifty-one photographs by William Bainbridge taken at the Royal Kennels at Windsor, with the names, dates of birth and death of each of these, the Queen’s dogs. Bainbridge continued this programme of photographic record until the end of Queen Victoria’s reign. Even the dog of John Brown – her devoted Highland servant – named ‘Nigel’, was photographed.
A charming picture exists in the Royal Collection showing the Queen’s beloved wardrobe maid, Annie Macdonald surrounded by royal dogs in the Kennels at Windsor Home Park, including the Queen’s Scotch terrier Podge and her puppies. Bainbridge photographed among these dogs at the Queen’s Kennels, ‘Laddie’, her Scotch terrier – who was given to her prior to her marriage to Prince Albert and who died in 1867 -, ‘Dandie’, another Scottish terrier, bought in June 1866, and ‘Topsy’, who was born in Braemar on the Balmoral estate and was yet another of the Queen’s terriers. ‘Princess’ was a terrier, born at the Royal Kennels in 1868. This shows that royal dogs were routinely bred as well as enjoyed as personal pets. Generally, the dogs were photographed in front of brick walls at the Queen’s Kennels, or even next to a guard’s box. Not only were the dogs painted and photographed; they were regularly documented, such as the list made of the dogs living in the Queen’s Home Park Kennels at Windsor, in 1846. Two Italian dogs, ‘Lina’ and ‘Beppo’ from Florence – a happy association from the Queen’s later Italian holidays – were photographed enchantingly, in a basket only three months old, at the Royal Kennels, Windsor in 1888.
The Queen’s love for her extensive family of dogs might be seen as an extension of her role as a matriarch in her own enormous family, with puppies being noted, like her ever-increasing grandchildren. An example of this is ‘Maggie’s puppies‘, photographed at the Kennels in a basket in 1891. Up to a hundred dogs could be in the Queen’s Kennels at any time. ‘Ayah’s daughter and her pups’ is the caption for a charming photograph of a collection of royal pugs at the Kennels, gathered in a doorway, like so many of the Queen’s canine granddaughters. We can see from all this, the warm interest the Queen took in all of her dogs and their descendants. ‘Scot’ was a piebald greyhound and as was carefully noted, the son of ‘Animosity’ and ‘Princess Royal’. ‘Noble’, one of the Queen’s most treasured collies, had descendants which included the collie dog, ‘Regina’, whose coat was multi-coloured. ‘Regina’ had been a gift to the Queen from the Duchess of Roxburghe. ‘Dick’ was the terrier who was the grandson of Vic, the dog at Claremont who was owned by Queen Victoria’s beloved uncle, Leopold, later King of the Belgians. The dogs then were part of the Royal Family.
Dogs were in some cases, diplomatic presents as well as personal pets. The Royal Kennels established in Windsor Home Park in the 1840s contained not only the descendants of favourite dogs but also those dogs which had been presented to the Queen as political gifts. Looty was the Queen’s Pekinese, presented to her in the aftermath of the Second Opium War.
Queen Victoria’s most famous dog is arguably her beloved King Charles spaniel ‘Dash’, in fact, a present from the majordomo of her Kensington childhood and youth, Sir John Conroy, although Victoria’s journal records that he originally belonged to her mother, the Duchess of Kent, from Conroy. ‘Dash’ was accordingly painted by Sir Edwin Landseer, as was Prince Albert’s beloved greyhound ‘Eos’, who followed him to England from Germany on his marriage. ‘Hector’ was another of Princess Victoria’s dogs at Kensington Palace, who regularly came to her in the mornings after breakfast. Victoria’s journal contains innumerable references to dogs, even her curiosity on meeting dogs belonging to other people.
A dog was with Queen Victoria as she was dying on her sofa-bed at Osborne House in 1901, asking touchingly, ‘Then may I have Turi?’, almost as a child would ask for a favourite toy before going to sleep, ‘Turi’ being the Pomeranian Spitz who jumped off her bed and outlived her. She also owned another Pomeranian, named ‘Marco’.
Unlike her son, Edward VII – who has a figure of his devoted fox terrier ‘Caesar’, sculpted at the foot of his tomb in St George’s Chapel Windsor, the same ‘Caesar’ who merited a special grave of his own and movingly followed the King’s coffin at his funeral – Queen Victoria’s effigy in the Royal Mausoleum at Frogmore, has no dog at her feet. She is unmistakably a young queen and wife on this memorial effigy, and there is no other figure on the tomb chest, other than that of her husband, Prince Albert, by Baron Carlo Marochetti.
There were, of course, dogs who were given as private gifts as well as political. Prince Edward of Saxe-Weimar gave the present of a German dachshund named ‘Sylvia’; ‘Ferry’ was a present from Lord Roseberry, ‘Bout’, a Cashmere dog from Lord Hardings. ‘Maurice’ was the name given to a St Bernhard dog who was presented to Queen Victoria by William James in 1855. ‘Giddy’ was a gorgeous greyhound with polka dots given to Queen Victoria by Lord Lurgan in 1873, the year she was photographed by the fashionable photographers, Hills & Saunders. ‘Berghina I’ was a German dachshund, a present to Queen Victoria from her brother-in-law, Duke Ernest of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. ‘Goliah’ was a ‘Cuba dog’ from Lady Ellesmore.
The white marble memorial effigy of the Prince Consort in the Albert Memorial Chapel at St George’s Chapel, however, does have a dog at his feet, probably ‘Eos’. Beautiful ‘Eos’ was painted by Sir Edwin Landseer, life-size, with her master’s hat and gloves, a picture given to Prince Albert from the Queen and which hung in his Dressing Room at Buckingham Palace. ‘Eos’ was described to the Queen by Prince Albert before their marriage as sleeping by his stove and ‘very friendly if there is plum-cake in the room‘. ‘Eos’ is immortalised in a statue on the terrace at Osborne House; she came from Albert’s beloved Coburg. It was ‘Eos’ who accompanied the Queen and Prince Consort on the Terrace at Windsor Castle, in those brief days of their honeymoon. She arrived in England before Albert, arriving with the Prince’s valet, the day before his arrival. Before their engagement, she had charmed the Queen, gliding around the lunch table and even eating from a fork (Elizabeth Longford, Queen Victoria, 142). Prince Albert took to exercising ‘Eos’ in the Little Park in the first years of his marriage, something mentioned in the Select Parliamentary Committee, drawing attention to the fact that during this early period, the availability of suitably private places to exercise for the Royal Family, was still found to be wanting (Jane Roberts, Royal Landscape: The Gardens and Parks of Windsor, 97).
The Royal Kennels were situated north of the Dairy and Home Farm, near to the place where Queen Victoria’s Walk and Queen Elizabeth’s Walk intersect (Ibid, 207). Designs were approved by the Department of Woods and Forests, the proposed cost of £1,240 being agreed in October 1840. The feeder of the Queen’s dogs was named one Maynard and slept in the Keeper’s House adjoining the buildings, one of which was where the royal dogs slept, the other most likely where their food and bedding was stored (Ibid, 207). Maynard was later replaced by John Macdonald, Prince Albert’s Highland ghillie from Balmoral (Ibid, 208).
John Elder was employed at the Kennels from around 1852 until roughly 1863; he was photographed with one of the dogs, ‘Rufus’, a bloodhound who was later given as a present to the Count of Flanders. Mr Hill was Kennel Master at Windsor in the 1890s and was duly photographed, surrounded by a healthy sample of the Queen’s now massive dog family and its descendants, which included Borzois, pugs, dachshunds, greyhounds and fox terriers. Kennels Cottage still exists.
An indication of just how much time Queen Victoria wished to spend visiting her dogs might be seen in the fact that she considered a sitting room necessary to be built when she drove into the Park to see them and also a new separate space, including a hospital for any dogs that were sick, which was to be located near the kennel block. Examples of some of the paintings made of the royal dogs were appropriately hung in their frames in the Queen’s Sitting Room at the Kennels when the room was completed. Typically for Queen Victoria, the Sitting Room at the Kennels was painted as well, showing dogs in it, ‘Cairnach’ and ‘Dot’, near a table on which are laid almost certainly, the Queen’s gloves and fan, a characteristic theme in pictures made of the Queen’s interiors, to indicate a person’s presence and to whom the room belonged.
I want to explore the memorials that Queen Victoria erected to her dogs, as they reveal a fascinating and lesser-known facet of her intense need to memorialise at large and also are telling for the way they demonstrate the Queen’s obsessive observance of mourning. This should not surprise us when it came to making instructions for burial, in due time for herself.
Her beloved spaniel ‘Dash’ was often referred to in characteristic capitals in her juvenile diaries, as ‘DASH’. This was the dog she had repeatedly sketched from nature and whom after her coronation in 1838, she hurried upstairs to give his rudimentary bath, despite the exhaustion of a five-hour ceremony at Westminster Abbey. ‘Dash’ had entered her journal in early 1833, and he must have been about three-years-old at the time that she got him; we know this from his gravestone. Symbolically perhaps, it was Prince Albert, now the ‘DEAREST DEAREST DEAR Albert’ in her journal, showing the emotional shift, who broke the news to her of Dash’s death, on Christmas Eve 1840, the year of their marriage.
Her journal entry records in no way the kind of passionate grief one might have supposed this event would have drawn forth from the Queen before her accession. Instead, the journal records Dash’s death with simple but sincere regret. ‘Dash’ was buried at Adelaide Cottage in Windsor Home Park, so fittingly, not a considerable distance from the Royal Kennels. He was honoured with a marble effigy and had an elaborate grave inscription, unmistakably as a dog once owned by a queen: ‘Here lies DASH The favourite spaniel of Her Majesty Queen Victoria In his 10th year His attachment was without selfishness His playfulness without malice His fidelity without deceit READER If you would be beloved and die regretted Profit by the example of DASH’ (cit., Longford, 166).
In short, Adelaide Cottage became something of an established custom as a place in which to bury the Queen’s dogs. ‘Cairnach’ – painted by Thomas Musgrove Joy with the graceful Eos – was the Queen’s Skye terrier and described by her as ‘such a beautiful dog’. ‘Cairnach’ died in 1844 when the Queen was at Buckingham Palace and sadly for her, at a time when Prince Albert was not there. Cairnach was duly buried at Adelaide Cottage. Queen Victoria mentioned visiting his grave at the Cottage when she was with Prince Albert at Windsor, in April 1844. At the beginning of her reign, Queen Victoria had taken to walking at Adelaide Cottage and on the Terrace, above what was called “The Slopes” – a kind of hanging garden extending from the end of the North Terrace to the Keeper’s Lodge – where in due course, the beloved greyhound ‘Eos’ would be buried, when she died. Prince Albert visited the grave of his Coburg dog at Windsor in August of that year.
The Queen’s journal tells us that Prince Albert was so upset by the death of ‘Eos’, that he didn’t want to speak of it at first, when it occurred on 31 July 1844; when talking about the location of the grave of ‘Eos’, the Queen’s journals (Princess Beatrice’s copies), contain original pen and ink sketches of ‘Eos’, sitting, lying down and with her second daughter, Princess Alice. ‘Islay’ was the Queen’s favourite Skye terrier, who died on 26 April 1844 at Buckingham Palace, her ‘great darling’. ‘Islay’ has his own statue, in Sydney, Australia, at the Queen Victoria Building, perched on his hind legs, on a wishing well. He too was buried at Adelaide Cottage, joining ‘Dash’ and ‘Cairnach’.
Dogs were buried and honoured with numerous memorials and personalised inscriptions, dotted about Windsor’s Home Parks. These included a headstone on the island at Frogmore, commemorating the Duchess of Kent’s favourite dog, ‘Lambkin’, although the inscription is now almost entirely weathered. ‘Lambkin’ was immortalised in watercolour on paper, contained in an album compiled by either Queen Victoria, or more probably, her mother. ‘Boz’ was the Duchess of Kent’s Skye terrier, whom the Queen inherited on her mother’s death in 1861. He had been given by the Queen to her mother in 1857 and named after Charles Dickens. He remained in the Queen’s care until his death in 1864. Like so much commissioned to commemorate the Duchess, ‘Boz’ was drawn in chalk by Friedrich Wilhelm Keyl, in preparation for an oil painting and photographed. ‘Basco’, was the pug dog belonging to Princess Beatrice, Princess Henry of Battenberg and her husband. He was their favourite dog and as such, received a bronze statuette over his grave in Frogmore grounds, by order of Queen Victoria. Another dog with an especially tragic history was of imperial origin. This was ‘Joy’, the beloved dog of the Tsarevich Alexei Nikolaevich of Russia, executed by the Bolsheviks with his Russian Imperial Family in 1918. ‘Joy’ was buried in Windsor Park.
A Scotch terrier ‘Briach’, died in 1846. He had been painted by Musgrove Joy the previous year, together with ‘Vulcan’, the Queen’s German boar-hound – a present from Coburg in 1840 – ‘Nelson’, a Newfoundland, who died in 1847 and ‘Hotspur’, a bloodhound who died in that year of Revolutions, 1848. None of these dogs were recorded in the Queen’s (edited) journals. She acquired a bay pony in 1890, which she called ‘Hotspur’, perhaps in memory of the bloodhound. ‘Mishka’ was the beautiful greyhound who was ‘Eos’ daughter, as the Queen noted in her journal, with all the amazing accuracy of her grandfather George III, for remembering names and relationships. Mishka broke her leg in 1842, and this was, of course, recorded by the Queen, so perhaps she convalesced in the hospital established at the Queen’s Kennels. ‘Minka’, as her name might indicate, came from Moscow and was one of the Queen’s beloved pugs. Another Russian dog, ‘Quarry’, was brought back to Windsor from Sebastopol, after the Crimean War, probably by a surviving soldier, as a gift to the Queen.
Alongside dachshunds and pugs, the Queen particularly loved collies, one of the most beloved of these being ‘Noble’, whom she adored. His death occurred in the wake of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, and this loss deeply saddened her. Calling the dog her ‘darling old Noble’, she sent two photographs of him to one of her favourite grandchildren, Victoria, Princess Louis of Battenberg and added: ‘It is indeed a grievous loss to me of a real friend whom I miss terribly’ (cit., ed. Richard Hough, Advice to a Granddaughter, 91). ‘Gypsy’ was another of her Scottish collies, who came from Ballater.
‘Sharp’ was another collie-dog – from Aberarder – of the Queen’s, along with ‘Neil’, ‘Nellie’ and ‘Joss’ to name several more. ‘Sharp’ was buried under a cedar tree at Windsor when he died, under the (private) Castle Terrace. The Queen visited his grave on one occasion in 1879. Eight years earlier, she described picking a spot beneath the terrace at Windsor for a dog’s grave, over which she intended to have a statue erected of the late dog, in begging pose. ‘Sharp’ didn’t die until November 1879, so this must have been another dog, although tellingly, the news of his death is the Queen’s entire (edited) journal entry for 20 November 1879. ‘Sharp’ was sculpted in bronze on a marble plinth by the eminent sculptor Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm as a statue over his grave in around 1881. The inscription reads still: ‘Sharp. The Favourite and Faithful Collie of Queen Victoria from 1865 to 1879. Died Nov 1879. Aged 15 years’. The sculpture shows ‘Sharp’ as if lying dozing, head downwards. Boehm had made a statuette of Queen Victoria with ‘Sharp’ and that solemn attendant in her widowhood, her lonely spinning-wheel.
A moving memorial was erected to ‘Noble’ by Boehm in the grounds at Balmoral, showing him sculpted, ever ready to attend his royal mistress. A sculpture in marble of him may also be found in the Grand Corridor at Osborne House. ‘Noble’ had once guarded the Queen’s gloves (Christopher Hibbert, Queen Victoria: A Personal History, 496), as ‘Eos’ had once been painted by Landseer with Prince Albert’s hat and gloves. ‘Noble’ died at Balmoral on 16 September 1887. The Queen noted his death with genuine grief in her journal the following day, evidently missing the dog’s presence, waiting for her. So upset was she that at first, she could not even choose the spot for this dog’s grave (Ibid, 496). The Queen, according to her trusted physician, Sir James Reid, wept ‘a great deal’ over ‘Noble’ and said that she ‘could not bear’ to see the dog after he had died, but would have liked to have kissed his head (Ibid, 496). The Queen sent Reid private instructions for the dog’s burial – not unlike those to which she would entrust to Reid for her burial on her death. These instructions included those for ‘the Prince’s beloved old dog’ some forty-three years earlier, which certainly should refer to the beautiful Eos’s death in 1844.
Queen Victoria wished for Noble’s grave at Balmoral to be a brick vault, with the ‘dear dog to be wrapped up in the box lined with lead and charcoal, placed in it’ (cit., Ibid, 496). Later, the Queen’s coffin would be lined with a layer charcoal in 1901. The Queen also asked that into her coffin be placed ‘some souvenir of my faithful wardrobe maid Annie MacDonald’ who had since died and who had been depicted on that enchanting picture, at the Royal Kennels at Windsor, with the Queen’s dogs. Noble’s memorial recorded that he had been ‘more than 15 years the favourite collie and dear and faithful companion of Queen Victoria, died at Balmoral 16 September 1887′. Two days after his death, the Queen chose a burial place for this beloved collie, not far from the river, in the grounds of Balmoral.
The Queen did not, of course, seek to replicate the wish of Frederick II ‘the Great’ of Prussia, who instructed that he should be buried on the terrace of his residence at Sanssouci with his beloved greyhounds, a wish finally honoured in 1991, after German reunification. Nor did ‘Turi’, her Pomeranian, who survived her, follow her coffin at her military funeral, as would Caesar at Edward VII’s funeral, a procession that included Europe’s kings and heads of state. Caesar, who had been modelled in miniature by Faberge, had once worn a collar proudly proclaiming his royal pedigree: ‘I AM CAESAR. I BELONG TO THE KING’. Edward VII’s other favourite terrier, ‘Jack’, died at Viceregal Lodge in 1903 and received his own headstone, recording that he was the King’s ‘favourite Irish terrier who only lived twelve hours after reaching his native land’. In the manner of Queen Victoria’s obsessive love of memorialised hair, King Edward VII had kept strands of Jack’s hair in a locker on his writing desk, when he returned to London. Perhaps surprisingly, Queen Victoria does not appear to have taken samples of any of her favourite dogs’ hair. It was her son, Edward VII, who cleared out the clutter of royal rooms after her death, that ended up having kept strands of his Irish terrier’s hair, not her.
Queen Victoria loved her dogs, and consequently, she memorialised them, as she would her other faithful servants and friends. These memorials, mostly hidden, help us to understand that more.