Yappy, snappy ankle-biters! As the Queen mourns death of the corgi that starred in James Bond stunt, why she loves her pooches ‒ as much as the rest of the Palace hates them
13-year-old Monty passed away over the weekendHolly and Willow are the Queen's only remaining corgis Buried in special corgi cemetery at Balmoral
07:15 GMT, 11 September 2012
The Queen has loved corgis from a very young age and the loss of 13-year-old Monty will hit Her Majesty hard
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone, lower the royal standard to just half-way. Which might sound a slightly melodramatic response to the death of a 12in tall dog with huge flappy ears, stumpy legs, a penchant for biting ankles and a bohemian attitude to personal hygiene. But Monty the corgi was not just any dog.
He was one of the Queen’s three remaining corgis, her co-star in the James Bond skit for the Olympics opening ceremony and her constant (if occasionally incontinent) companion.
His death at Balmoral over the weekend has thrown Her Majesty into extreme mourning and the Royal Household into, well, if not mourning, then at least a respectful (if highly relieved) silence.
Poor old Monty. Never again will he loll
about in the Queen’s private sitting room, gorging himself on fillet
steak, buttered scones and occasional chambermaids.
Gone are the endless holidays in
Sandringham and Balmoral, the helicopter rides and limousine drives and
the daily vandalising of the royal flowerbeds and lawns. Never again
will he trot down Buckingham Palace’s thick carpeted corridors with 007
at his side, or hear Prince Philip swear: ‘Bloody dogs! Why do you have
to have so many’ Or, indeed, the Queen’s stock response: ‘Because they
are so collectable, my dear’.
Monty’s death reduces the Queen’s corgi pack to two, Holly and Willow, plus two dorgis (corgi/daschund crosses), Candy and Vulcan.
Which is a bit of a comedown after the heady days of nine or ten corgis, plus endless dorgis, when Princess Diana referred to them as ‘a moving carpet’ and Paul Burrell, once personal footman to the Queen, claimed that he was knocked unconscious when nine leashed corgis pulled him over on the steps at Sandringham.
Star performer: 13-year-old Monty has passed away not long after he was watched by millions in the Olympics Games opening ceremony film
Monty strolled through Buckingham Palace behind Daniel Craig and the Queen
Monty won’t be replaced. Three years ago, devastated by the loss of two more of her beloved pets to cancer, the Queen decided not to replace her remaining corgis by breeding — as she had done for more than 65 years — but to let her love affair come to a natural end.
In the meantime, however, life for Holly, Willow, Candy and Vulcan will continue as usual. Each day starts with a brisk early walk with a footman. When the Queen wakes, they dash to her room and accompany her to breakfast, where they yap and jump for slices of toast and marmalade — fed to them from the table.
There’s a daily walk after lunch — the Queen in her headscarf, the dogs careering through flowerbeds and ripping up lawns — followed by dinner, dished up by the Queen, if she’s free, in highly polished metal bowls.
It’s not any old dinner. All food is cooked from scratch (there was uproar in Balmoral a few years ago when the Queen suspected some of the food in the gleaming dog bowls had previously been frozen) and a new corgi menu is typed and posted to the kitchen wall daily.
Former royal chef Darren McGrady, who worked for the Queen for 11 years, said: ‘One day it would be chuck steak, which we boiled and served with finely chopped, boiled cabbage and white rice. The next they’d have poached chicken or liver. Or rabbits shot by William or Harry that we’d clean, cook, debone and chop for the dogs.’
The Queen has always taken pleasure in walking her dogs as she shows here while walking them round Windsor
Not forgetting their special gravy and
hot scones, baked daily, served with lashings of butter and crumbled
onto the floor by the Queen each afternoon.
while she adores her corgis and they clearly adore her (any sighting of
the Queen is preceded by the pitter-patter of little feet), no one else
in the Royal Household seems to feel the same way. As one footman said:
‘They’re yappy, snappy and we bloody well hate them — because for some
reason the Queen will not allow them to be fully house-trained.’
And woe betide anyone who pets them. At an informal Palace lunch, a well-meaning guest was rebuked with a sharp: ‘Leave them alone please. They are my dogs, they don’t like other people petting them.’
Brian Hoey, author of Not In Front Of The Corgis, a book about life with the royals, says: ‘Nobody is allowed to raise a finger or a voice to any of the dogs. They cock their legs and do what corgis do wherever they want — on antique furniture, priceless carpets . . .’
Which is why the royal staff are armed with blotting paper (for mopping up little accidents) and soda siphons (for squirting to get yapping dogs off juicy ankles).
While she has a reputation for being rather firm and fierce in other matters, the Queen is ridiculously soppy over her corgis and thinks of every teeny detail that could make their lives even more luxurious — such as special rubber-soled booties (designed by the man who invented knife-proof vests for the police) to protect their paws from all that smart royal gravel, and their Christmas stockings (filled with crackers, cakes and a strictly non-squeaking toy).
On patrol: The Queen with her corgis at Windsor Castle in 1962
Then there is their individual doggy palaces lined up in the corridor outside the Her Majesty’s sitting room — smart wooden houses, thoughtfully raised off the floor to avoid drafts and filled with soft (and daily laundered) bedding.
When the Queen has a dress fitting in the Palace, she even carries a special magnet to pick up the pins to stop the corgis pricking their paws.
But for all her fussing, she’s not afraid to get her hands dirty. She de-fleas them herself and dispenses cough mixture and homeopathic remedies, and is heavily involved in the breeding process.
She was once asked how, given the different heights, corgis and dachshunds were able to mate. ‘It’s very simple. We have a little brick,’ was her crisp response.
Love them or loathe them, the corgis (and dorgis) seem to have been part of royal life for ever.
It all started with the Queen as a young girl playing in Hyde Park with her sister Margaret and a corgi belonging to Viscount Weymouth, who later became the Marquess of Bath. No one knew much about corgis then (other than they were once used to guard cattle and were sufficiently agile to see off wolves), but the princesses were smitten and started lobbying for their own.
Constant companions: Arriving at Aberdeen Airport with her corgis to start her holidays in Balmoral in 1974
Dookie duly arrived as the family pet at the Yorks’ London home, 145 Piccadilly, with a stump of a tail and a delight in biting politicians (at least one left bleeding from the hand).
But only when Susan was given to Elizabeth on her 18th birthday by her father did she have her own dog. Susan became the matriarch of the royal corgi line and it was the beginning of a 68-year love affair.
She went everywhere the Queen (and Prince Philip) went — their honeymoon, their bed chamber — savaging people whenever she could.
Victims included royal clock winder Leonard Hubbard — she left an inch-long gash in his leg — and guardsman Alfred Edge, who ended up in hospital after his wound went septic.
Prince Philip (who prefers labradors) has been fighting a losing battle against royal corgis ever since. Because when Susan went up to the great dog basket in the sky, her legacy (and appalling behaviour) lived on.
Her grandson Whisky tore the seat from a Guards officer’s trousers. Corgis attacked Her Majesty’s favourite German designer Karl-Ludwig Rehse. And, in 1989, Chipper, the Queen’s favourite dorgi, was ‘ripped to shreds’ by one of the Queen Mother’s corgis.
Walkies: The dogs take a dip while walking with the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh in Scotland in 1994
In 1991, the Queen needed three stitches in her hand when she tried to stop a corgi fight at Windsor Castle. And, last month, Princess Beatrice’s dog suffered horrible injuries after it was set upon by corgis in Balmoral.
But it’s not been one-way traffic. In 2003, Pharos had to be put down after being savaged by an English bull terrier owned by Princess Anne.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that the Queen has decided to stop replenishing her beloved corgis.
‘She’s letting them go,’ says Hoey. ‘She hopes they’ll see her out and that will be that.
‘The Queen’s not a big crier. She’s said to have only once shed tears in public: when the Royal Yacht Britannia was decommissioned in 1997, though it was a windy day.’
Yet as Monty is laid to rest in the special corgi cemetery at Balmoral, beneath a specially commissioned headstone — Monty, a faithful royal companion for 13 years — there are bound to be a few royal tears.
But perhaps only from Her Majesty. As Brian Hoey puts it: ‘The Queen will be very, very, sad. But other members of the Royal Household will probably be able to contain their grief.’