Diamond Dogs: The Queen’s Corgis

This Sunday, we will be watching, with baited breath, to see if the Queen takes her corgis aboard the Royal Barge, the Spirit of Chartwell, to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee with her.  Well, perhaps not, but in Britain the Pembroke Welsh corgi immediately evokes images of Queen Elizabeth II, walking her adored pets through the grounds of Balmoral or posing for portraits with a short-legged beast by her side.

According to Welsh folklore, corgis were the mount of choice of the fairy folk, when going into battle.  According to experts however, corgis probably have their origins in Scandinavia and were later used by Welsh farmers as cattle drovers.  The ubiquitous royal dog is undoubtedly an ancient, although not particularly majestic looking breed, steeped in folklore.

Her Majesty’s love of corgis was inherited from her father, King George VI, who introduced the breed into the Royal Family in 1933.  A corgi named Dookie was bought from local kennels and quickly became a favourite playmate of the royal children.  For her 18th birthday the Queen received a corgi named Susan, from which she bred a number of dogs.  The corgis that currently grace Buckingham Palace are called Monty, Willow and Holly.  Her Majesty also keeps several ‘dorgis’, a corgi/dachshund cross, named Cider, Candy and Vulcan. Princess Margaret’s dachshund, Pipkin, is the sire of most of the Queen’s dorgis.

The corgi’s exact breed history is not traceable.  Welsh legend tells of a hardworking farming community, who struggled to tend their cattle and make their cheeses. A pair of children tending to the cattle came across two puppies under a tree, almost identical to foxes.  The brought them home with them and were told that they were dogs, gifted to them by the fairies.  As these strange puppies grew, they helped the community herd cattle, guard their homestead and kill vermin.  Experts think that the corgi bares a similarity to several Scandinavian breeds, most notably the Swedish Vallhund.  The Pembrokeshire corgi was officially recognized by the Kennel Club in 1934 but could have arrived in Wales as early as the 10-12th century.

You can read more about the Queen’s love for animals, of all shapes and sizes, on the website of the British Monarch. For more details on the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee festivities, please visit the official website.

Queen Victoria and the vet who ‘took this turn for horses’

As part of the celebrations for her Diamond Jubilee the Queen recently launched a website documenting the life of her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria.  The site contains the journals that Queen Victoria kept from the age of 13 (1832) until just before her death in 1901.  The diaries contain a staggering 43,765 pages.

Diamond Jubilee Floral Crown,

Diamond Jubilee Floral Crown, St James’s Park

After her death Queen Victoria’s diaries passed into the keeping of her youngest daughter Princess Beatrice who set about creating a transcript.  It was only when this was completed that the journals were transferred to the Royal Archives.

On the website there are scanned images of four versions of the diaries – the original which Queen Victoria wrote; the abridged transcript written by Princess Beatrice; a later typed transcript prepared for Lord Esher; and some draft volumes written by the Queen.  There are also 141 images from the journals.

At present, entries from July 1832 through to February 1840 – the date of Queen Victoria’s marriage to Prince Albert, have been fully transcribed and are fully searchable.  Later years will be added as the project progresses.

Now I guess most people would search for ‘Albert ‘or ‘marriage’ but not me!   I entered ‘veterinary’ to see what it would come up with.

The answer is two results:

Wednesday 17th July 1839 which reads  ‘Talked of a Veterinary Surgeon who is dead.’ Unfortunately there is no indication of who Queen Victoria is referring to!

Saturday 1st December 1838 is more informative – it reads

‘Talked of Goodwin being our Veterinary Surgeon, who, he says, is a very clever man; he was bred to Surgery and then took this turn for horses; “it’s just the same; horses are made just the same with some slight difference”; which made me die with laughing’

It would appear that in a conversation with ‘Lord M’ (Lord Melbourne, Prime Minister 1835-1841) about their horses, the talk had turned to who they trusted to care for them.

I then wondered if there were any further references to Goodwin so I entered ‘Goodwin’ and found:

Tuesday 15th January 1839 where it says

‘Talked of Goodwin’s being made to decide always, if the horse was sound or not, &c., and of the possibility of his often not saying quite honestly what they were &c.’

So who is Goodwin?  It is William Joseph Goodwin (1799? -1869) who served as Veterinary Surgeon to George IV, William IV and Queen Victoria.

Goodwin had obtained his Diploma from London Veterinary College in April 1817.  As Queen Victoria hints in the phrase ‘he was bred to Surgery’ he was medically trained, and had been a contemporary of Edward Coleman (Professor at the London Veterinary College 1793-1839) at Guy’s hospital.

In 1824 Goodwin fell out with the Governors of the London School, when they dismissed a motion of his at the subscriber’s annual meeting, and from that point onwards he was at the forefront of moves to reform the school.  His obituary in The Veterinarian  states he ’took a leading part in obtaining the Charter of Incorporation of the veterinary profession.’

Goodwin was one of the first elected members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons’ Council, serving for 17 years, was RCVS President in 1853 and was instrumental in the RCVS obtaining its first permanent home at 10 Red Lion Square.

I am looking forward to reading more of Queen Victoria’s views on the abilities of Goodwin and his successors as ‘her’ veterinary surgeon as the online collection grows.