As of Wednesday, April 18, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II has lost the last descendant of the line of Pembroke Welsh Corgis that she has owned since her 18th birthday in 1944. With the passing of Willow, after a battle with cancer, the Queen has lost the last corgi in a line tracing back to the life of Susan, the first royal corgi. Over the decades, the Queen has become known for her fondness for corgis, with them oftentimes appearing in portrayals of her likeness, from memorial statues to the crown coin in commemoration of her Golden Jubilee. While the passing of her final royal corgi is a very somber occasion, it at least lends itself to a historical look at the Queen’s storied tradition of owning corgis.
The Queen’s fondness for corgis traces back to her childhood, during which she reportedly fell in love with the corgis owned by the children of the Marquess of Bath. Her father, King George VI, purchased the corgi Dookie in 1933 as a gift for his daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret. Upon her 18th birthday in 1944, Elizabeth was gifted the corgi Susan, who would go on to accompany the future queen on her honeymoon with Prince Philip in 1947. Susan would be the starting point of the line of royal corgis, and she would be the first of over 30 corgis that Elizabeth owned since she became Queen of the United Kingdom in 1952.
Reportedly, the royal corgis all lived a very privileged life in Buckingham Palace, residing in their own special “Corgi Room” and sleeping in elevated, hand-woven wicker baskets. The Queen would often tend to the kennel herself, even choosing the sires of litters that were to be bred. The royal corgis are even provided with their own gourmet chef, serving them an extensive menu of fresh rabbit and beef. Every Christmas, the Queen makes stockings for her corgis full of toys and delicacies. Supposedly, in 1999, one of the royal footmen was fired from Buckingham Palace for “his party trick of pouring booze into the corgis’ food and water” and watching them “staggering about.”
The Queen’s royal corgis have made many appearances beside her. One of the more notable examples occurred for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, where the corgis Willow and Holly appeared in the brief James Bond sketch where actor Daniel Craig arrives at Buckingham Palace to accompany the Queen to the opening ceremony.
In 2015, the Queen stopped breeding corgis out of a desire to not outlive any of her corgis. With the passing of Willow, this wish has come true. Traditionally, royal pets are buried at the royal residence, Sandringham estate in Norfolk. However, while Willow was the last royal corgi, two “dorgis” (half-corgi and half-dachshund), named Vulcan and Candy, are still alive.