A not so tall tale

One of the things I love about working in libraries is the weird and wonderful questions you are asked and how, on occasions, information you find for one enquirer can be useful in answering another – sometimes years later.Giraffes at Belfast Zoo copyright Kenneth Allen from Georgraph

This has happened to me recently with King George IVs giraffe!  In 2010 I found an article in The Veterinarian about this animal for someone who was going to give a talk on the subject  – they also wrote  about it on the Brighton Royal Pavilion and Museums collections blog.

The giraffe had been given to George, in 1827, by the Viceroy of Egypt, Mohammed Ali (who also gave a giraffe to Charles X of France at the same time) and was kept in the King’s menagerie at Sandpit Gate, Windsor Great Park. Unfortunately the giraffe did not survive that long, dying in 1829, a fact that was satirised in a number of prints that can be seen on the Royal Pavilion and Museums blog.

All of this came back to me when I was doing some research on the RCVS Museum Collection and saw an entry in the museum catalogue of 1891 which read “the trachea of the first giraffe ever brought to England”.  I wondered could this be from the famous giraffe that belonged to the King?

Well the answer is yes it was.  The link is the donor of the specimen William J. Goodwin who was an RCVS Council member from 1844-1861, Veterinary Surgeon to Kings George IV and William IV, and Queen Victoria – and the author of the article in The Veterinarian

The article contains information on the health of George’s giraffe in particular as well as more general information on an animal that most readers of The Veterinarian at that time would not have encountered.

Speaking of the giraffe kept at Sandpit gate Goodwin writes:

 Extract from The Veterinarian Vol. 3 No. 26 pp. 216-219

Unfortunately it’s health did not improve

Extract from The Veterinarian Vol. 3 No. 26 pp. 216-219

And it remained small in stature

Extract from The Veterinarian Vol. 3 No. 26 pp. 216-219

Sir Everard Home  had also spent time with George’s animal and wrote about  the tongue of a giraffe in  volume 5 of his Lectures on comparative anatomy (p244-250) which was published in 1828.

In spite of all the pain the giraffe must have suffered Goodwin is able to write of its gentle nature

Extract fron The Veterinarian Vol. 3 No. 26 pp. 216-219

Perhaps a more fitting way to remember this creature than the one portrayed in the satirical illustrations?

GOODWIN, W.J. (1830), ‘An account of the giraffe: which lately died at Sandpit Gate.’ The Veterinarian Vol. 3 No. 26 pp. 216-219

Image of giraffes in Belfast Zoo © Copyright Kenneth Allen from the Geograph website and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Extracts from The Veterinarian Vol. 3 No. 26 pp. 216-219

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.