A week ago, the death of an elderly dog made headlines. A pet’s death is always momentous for his or her loved ones. But it’s usually not world news. Willow, who died April 15th, was Queen Elizabeth’s pet, however, and her last link to Susan, matriarch of the Royal Corgis.
Willow is a 14th generation descendant of the Queen’s first Corgi, Hickathrift Pippa, known as Susan. Susan was born in 1944 and died in 1959. King George VI gave the two-month old pup to his daughter Elizabeth on her 18th birthday, 74 years ago.
Corgis in the York family
Susan wasn’t the first Corgi in the royal household. In 1933, the Queen’s father bought a pup from Corgi breeder Thelma Evans Gray. The pup’s name was Dookie (Rozavel Golden Eagle). Three years later, a female pup called Jane (Rozavel Lady Jane) joined the family.
Unbeknownst to the then Duke of York, he and Thelma had discussed dogs before. When Thelma was 9, her dog was killed by a car – the Duke’s car. He wrote to Thelma’s parents, offering to buy her another dog. Thanks but no, they replied, Thelma’s grief was too great. Thelma, however, wrote to him that she would happily accept. He told her that they must abide by her parents’ wishes.
Thelma grew up and established Rozavel Kennels. When the Duke bought the Corgi pups from her in the 1930s, he didn’t make the connection to the child Thelma. And she never told him.
The Susan Lineage
Susan was the Queen’s first dog of her own. Susan had pups and they had pups. So through the decades, there were always Royal Corgis of Susan’s line. But several years ago, the Queen said no more. She didn’t want to leave any young dogs behind.
Willow, Monty and Holly were the last three Susan descendants. Monty died in September 2012, soon after the Corgis starred in the London Olympics “007” video with the Queen and Daniel Craig. Monty was named for Monty Roberts, the “Horse Whisperer” and friend and advisor of the Queen. Holly passed away in 2016.
The Queen’s Pembroke Welsh Corgis were of the best stock. She put the same care into their pedigree that she does for her horses. But they were her pets, her friends. Unlike her horses, the Queen has never entered her dogs in competition.
Only one royal Corgi ever competed in dog shows. The Queen gave Windsor Loyal Subject, aka Edward, to Thelma Gray, along with permission to show him. He won twice at Crufts dog show in the 1970s.
The Queen still has her Dorgis. They started from an unsanctioned dalliance between one of the Corgis and Princess Margaret’s Dachshund. She also has one elderly Corgi. The Queen took Whisper home after his owner died in 2017. Bill Fenwick, her retired gamekeeper, and his late wife Nancy looked after the Royal Corgis for many years.
So a Corgi is still with the Queen. But no Corgis of Susan, a lineage that has accompanied the Queen for longer than even Prince Philip.