As any dog owner will know, the bond between a person and their canine is like no other. They will stand by you through thick and thin and will give you their love when you need it most.
This statement also rings true for the British royals, who treat their pets like any other member of their family.
The most notable pet owner is Queen Elizabeth II who had bred her beloved corgis for her entire life. Sadly, it was revealed on April 18, the monarch had to put down Willow, who was her last remaining corgi. The decision was difficult for the Queen, as her 14-year-old Pembroke corgi was the last remaining link to her first ever dog, Susan.
“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,” a Buckingham source said.
So, in honor of the late Willow, let's take a look back at how the Queen's longstanding relationships with her corgis first began.
The beginning of a legacy
Elizabeth's first grew an attachment to dogs in 1933 when 1933, when her father George VI (then Duke of York) brought home a corgi named Dookie for the royal family.
After showcasing her affection to the pooch, she was gifted her own corgi Hickathrift Pippa (nicknamed Susan) for her 18th birthday. The faithful companions were inseparable and even accompanied Elizabeth when she was performing her royal duties as the country's new monarch.
Susan eventually would give birth to a litter of puppies, which would lead to a staggering 14 generations of corgis. Most of these canines were direct descendants of Susan, in a time span that lasted for more than five decades.
While no one else in Elizabeth's family would share her fierce passion for the corgis, it didn't stop her from letting them from take over the palace walls.
A full house
Since 1945, the Queen has been the owner of more than 30 corgis that came from Susan's bloodline. At one time she had 13 dogs running all over Buckingham Palace.
Former royal butler Paul Burrell was often responsible with the dreary task of cleaning up after the corgis, especially when they had indoor accidents at the castle. He even claimed to have once been knocked unconscious when nine of the energetic pups tripped him.
While the Queen's pets have mellowed with old age, they haven't always been docile creatures.
Back in the 50s, Susan was once reported to have bit a royal clock winder, while another also chomped on a member of the Queen’s Guard. In 1968, a member of Parliament insisted the Queen post a "Beware of the Dog" signs outside her homes after one of her pooches attacked a postal worker.
Even though she's the owner of her precious pups, the Queen hasn't been spared from their bite either. In 1991, one of Elizabeth's corgis bit her after she tried to break up a fight between her dogs.
With their violence duly noted, it's not surprising the dogs also have a history of turning on one other. In 1989 the Queen Mother's corgi Ranger led a pack of his fellow dogs that killed Elizabeth's favorite dorgi (a cross between a corgi and a dachshund), Chipper. Fast forward to 2003, and the Queen's corgi Pharos had to be euthanized after he was viciously attacked by Princess Anne's bull terrier Dotty.
Along with their aggressive attitudes, the corgis were also known to be incredibly loud. Prince William once admitted the dogs never stop barking.
“They’re barking all the time,” William shared. “I don’t know how she [Elizabeth] copes with it.”
His brother, Prince Harry also echoed his brother's sentiments in 2017 when he said he's never had a moment of piece and quiet around his grandmother's pets. “I’ve spent the last 33 years being barked at.” he said.
While the canines may not have been as prim and proper as the public once imagined, when it was announced the Queen's final corgi passed away, she had been reported to"hit hard" by her recent loss.
An end to an era
At nearly 15 years old, the Queen made the heartbreaking decision to put Willow to sleep after she was diagnosed with cancer.
"She does not like seeing her dogs suffer and she knows that sometimes putting a dog down is the kindest course of action – although that doesn’t make her loss any less," a source revealed. "One comforting fact was that Prince Philip, recuperating from his hip replacement operation, was able to be with her at Windsor."
Willow's passing follows the death of the Queen's other corgi Holly who died 18 months prior at the age of 13.
Like the rest of the royal dogs, Willow has been buried in the castle grounds, which will eventually feature a headstone with her name, along with the words "a faithful companion of the Queen."
According to a source, the royal family's matriarch is taking her dog's passing especially hard, as her death represents an end to an era.
"Willow represents a significant thread running through the Queen’s life from her teenage years to her 90s," an insider said. "For many, many years she bred and raised corgis and to think that the last one has now gone is something of a milestone."
In 2015 it was announced Her Majesty would no longer continue breeding her corgis, due to her fear younger dogs would accidentally trip her and that she didn't want to leave any behind after she passes away. However, despite Willow's death, the Queen is still a dog owner to three other pooches. She has two dorgis (daschund and corgi mixes) named Candy and Vulcan, and adopted another corgi (who isn't a descendant of Susan) Whisper following the death of one of the her estate's gamekeepers.
Although Willow and Holly are no longer with us, fans of the corgis can still reminisce over the two beloved pups through their media appearances.
In 2012, Daniel Craig and the Queen starred in a short film for the London Olympic's opening ceremony. It featured Willow and Holly, who played supporting roles in the first half of the video.
They've also shown to have been depicted in fictional portrays of the British Monarchy, such as The King's Speech and The Queen. The dogs that appeared in the latter actually received were so talented, they received awards for their portrayal.
Most recently, corgi actors have been seen on Netflix's television series The Crown, which has been credited for reviving the younger generation's interest in the dog breed.
“People used to have the impression that while corgis were in the spotlight, because of the queen, they could be seen by young people as an older person’s dog,” David Robson of the Kennel Club told The Telegraph this past February. “Now that’s changed, partly because we are seeing the character of the younger queen surrounded by them.”
How did you cope with the loss of a beloved pet?