Wallace Collection: The Queen and her Corgis

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Queen Elizabeth II of England at Balmoral Castle with one of her Corgis, 28 September 1952.
Bettmann / Contributor via Getty Images

From 8 March to 25 June 2023, a special one-room display at the Wallace Collection – The Queen and her Corgis – celebrates the unique connection The Queen had with her Corgis. Each decade of her life will be marked by a single image that captures Her Majesty and her love of the breed.

The display will coincide with the Collection’s major exhibition, Portraits of Dogs from Gainsborough to Hockney (29 March – 15 October 2023), which explores our devotion to four-legged friends across the centuries. Through carefully selected paintings, sculptures, drawings, works of art and even taxidermy, the forthcoming exhibition highlights the unique bond between humans and their canine companions.

The Queen’s own passion for the fearless breed of herding dog began in 1933 at the age of seven, when she and her sister, Princess Margaret, were given a pair named Jane and Dookie by their father, the future King George VI. From then on, they were always by her side. Being a constant presence in her life often led to them being immortalised with her in photographs taken by the press – a selection of which form this display.

Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) with two Corgi dogs at her home at 145 Piccadilly, London, July 1936. (Photo by Lisa Sheridan/Studio Lisa/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The earliest image (above) dates from July 1936 and is of the young Princess Elizabeth playing in the large garden of 145 Piccadilly – the London house where she lived much of her early childhood – with Jane and Dookie.

As an 18th-birthday present, Princess Elizabeth’s father gave her Susan, the Corgi from which many of the dogs The Queen would own throughout her reign were descended. A photograph taken on 30 May 1944 (below) depicts the Princess holding Susan as a puppy in the grounds of Windsor Castle.

Princess Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth II) pictured holding a Corgi in the grounds of Windsor Castle, Berkshire, Great Britain, 30 May 1944. (Photo by Lisa Sheridan/Studio Lisa/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Other images show Corgis accompanying The Queen during her work, which often led to them appearing at important events. One photograph in the exhibition from 15 October 1969 shows The Queen with four Corgis in tow, returning from Balmoral to King’s Cross in order to meet the astronauts of Apollo 11 at Buckingham Palace.

As well as Corgis, The Queen also kept Dorgis, which came about when one of her Corgis had a chance encounter with Princess Margaret’s Dachshund Pipkin. On a walk around the grounds of Windsor Castle on 2 April 1994, a Corgi and a Dorgi follow alongside The Queen (below).

Queen Elizabeth II walking her dogs at Windsor Castle, 2 April 1994.
(Photo by Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images)

As part of her Golden Jubilee celebrations, The Queen went on a tour of the Commonwealth. On 8 October 2002, during her 20th trip to Canada, she was photographed meeting members of the Manitoba Corgi Association and their dogs in Winnipeg.

Queen Elizabeth II talks with members of the Manitoba Corgi Association during a visit to Winnipeg, 8 October 2002. (ADRIAN WYLD/AFP via Getty Images)

One of the most heart-rending images in the display was taken on 19 September 2022 – the day of Her Majesty The Queen’s funeral. Although she stopped breeding Corgis in 2015, Prince Andrew gifted Muick and Sandy to his mother after Prince Philip’s death. Faithful friends, they remained with The Queen until her own death, and were caught on camera waiting patiently for her return to the committal service at Windsor. The pair now live with Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson.

Members of the Royal Household with the two royal corgis on September 19, 2022 in Windsor, England.
(Photo by Justin Setterfield via Getty Images)

Director of the Wallace Collection, Dr Xavier Bray, said,We are honoured to pay tribute to Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth with this display. The Queen devoted her entire life to serving the British people, but we hope that this display will show a more personal side of her life – her deep love of animals and her abiding passion for her Corgis. The display has been designed to complement with our major exhibition opening in March on dog portraiture, Portraits of Dogs from Gainsborough to Hockney.”

Portraits of Dogs from Gainsborough to Hockney (29 March – 15 October 2023) brings 59 works of art spanning almost 2000 years to Hertford House – from a late first-century Roman marble sculpture of Greyhounds to affectionate vignettes of David Hockney’s Dachshunds. Portraits of Dogs presents a broad range of portraiture, showing dogs in all their different shapes and sizes, with each painter or sculptor challenging themselves how best to represent mankind’s best, faithful and fearless friend.

About the Wallace Collection

As one of Britain’s preeminent cultural institutions, the Wallace Collection is home to one of the most significant ensembles of fine and decorative arts in the world. Highlights include oil paintings from the fourteenth to the late nineteenth centuries by artists such as Titian, Velazquez, Rubens and Van Dyck; princely arms and armour; and one of the finest collections of eighteenth-century French paintings and decorative arts. Visitors can also enjoy superb medieval and Renaissance objects, including Limoges enamel, maiolica, glass and bronzes. Displayed at Hertford House, former home to Sir Richard and Lady Wallace, this outstanding collection is displayed in a manner designed to evoke the lives and tastes of its founders, creating a special ambiance that remains an essential part of its charm. www.wallacecollection.org

The Wallace Collection is open daily, 10.00-17.00

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