LONDON — Never easy to lose a pet. Getting a little weepy even typing that sentence. Reports from the palace say Britain's Queen Elizabeth II is absolutely gutted by the loss of her beloved corgi Willow, the last in a royal line of loyal, nippy dogs who have kept the monarch company during her entire reign.
The Daily Mail’s correspondent says the 91-year-old queen was hit “extremely hard” by the death of good ol' Willow, 14, who died on Sunday — was put down, actually — after suffering a bout of damnable cancer.
For more than 80 years, Her Majesty has been surrounded by corgis. There is barely a family portrait that does not include a couple of the tawny red, white-pawed, short-legged pooches under foot.
Elizabeth was mad for Pembroke Welsh Corgis ever since she was a little girl. During her long life, the queen has not had just a corgi — she has had a pack of corgis. Thirty of them in all.
Alas, no more.
A person with ties to Buckingham Palace told the Daily Mail: “She has mourned every one of her corgis over the years, but she has been more upset about Willow’s death than any of them. … It is probably because Willow was the last link to her parents and a pastime that goes back to her own childhood. It really does feel like the end of an era.”
Why? Family. Tradition. Dynasty. Sands of time, all that.
Twitter was filled with notes of condolences for the queen's loss of the royal couch-surfer.
Elle magazine posted a note at the end of its report, “Our thoughts go out to the Queen and her household during this difficult time.”
When Elizabeth was a little girl, her father, who would go on to be crowned King George VI, brought home a corgi named Dookie in 1933. Elizabeth was 7; her sister, Margaret, 3.
In 1944, for her 18th birthday, Princess Elizabeth was given a corgi of her own named Susan, who later accompanied Elizabeth on her honeymoon. Susan would become what breeders call the “foundation bitch.”
And from Susan’s line, the queen’s breeding program at the Kennels of Windsor whelped hundreds of corgi puppies. Elizabeth never sold them but instead gave them to family friends.
The British press reported that the breeding program quietly ended a couple of years ago. The queen did not want to leave dogs behind for others to care for after her death.
The queen has, quite obviously, loved her pets. She reportedly took pride in feeding them herself — and was often photographed on walks beside them. They leaped on the sofas. They insisted on tummy rubs. They chased a lot of rabbits.
The little dogs, too, gave much in return. They softened and humanized a monarch who has sometimes been viewed as a cool, distant star (at least until “The Crown” television series came along). The dogs have also been steady stand-ins for the sometimes dysfunctional royal family.
“In living memory, no world leader has been as widely identified with a particular animal as Elizabeth II with her corgis,” Michael Joseph Gross wrote in Vanity Fair in 2015. “Symbols of friendliness, they are shrewdly deployed for publicity purposes, lending warmth to her public image.”
Gross and other corgi-watchers recalled a skit for the Opening Ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympics, which featured the queen’s corgis — Willow, Monty and Holly, now all departed — leading the actor Daniel Craig, playing a tuxedoed James Bond, into Buckingham Palace.
The royal corgis have included a few notorious little nippers. The scamps bit the ankles and trouser bottoms of a policeman, the Royal Clock Winder, a chauffeur and a member of the Grenadier Guard and a palace sentry.
Those are just the ones we know about.
Elizabeth herself was chomped on her left hand when her corgis got into a dogfight with the Queen Mum’s pack. The wound required three stitches, palace sources revealed.
In an interview last year, Prince Harry and his fiancee, American actress Meghan Markle, told their own shaggy dog story.
“The corgis took to you straight away,” Harry said of Markle's first meeting with the pups. “I've spent the last 33 years being barked at. This one walks in, absolutely nothing.”
“Just laying on my feet during tea — it was very sweet,” Markle said.
“Just wagging tails,” Harry said, moving his hand back and forth. “And I was just like, 'Argh!' "
In the 2015 Vanity Fair article, the author quotes Monty Roberts, “the California cowboy and horse whisperer who serves as the Queen’s adviser on all things equine.” Roberts observed: “The dogs are so critical, and the horses, the cows, and the other animals, the wild deer and the stags of Scotland — they all play into it, because in my opinion the Queen created an avenue by which people could include animals as a part of our social structure.”
For company, Elizabeth still has her dogs Vulcan and Candy, both “dorgis,” a corgi-dachshund mix.
The Guardian went with the headline: The Queen's corgis are dead: long live the ‘dorgis’