The world was a little bit agog this week at the confirmation that Queen Elizabeth has decided to stop breeding her famous Corgis. While the announcement isn’t quite as catastrophic as if the ravens had suddenly left the Tower of London, for many it does have that same sense of loss and ending. The Queen’s Corgis have been a part of English culture for decades, and have in a way come to represent the Queen herself just as strongly as any of the official royal symbols, such as crowns or scepters, if not more so.
As of this September, Queen Elizabeth II is poised to become the longest-reigning monarch of England, finally outlasting Queen Victoria’s reign of 63 years and seven months. But even as she reaches that mark, the end of the Corgis is a reminder that the Queen herself doesn’t have that much longer.
That is, in fact, the reasoning behind the Queen’s decision to stop having Corgis. According to Monty Roberts in the August edition of Vanity Fair, who advises the Queen on care of the royal horses, she doesn’t like the idea of leaving the dogs behind after her death.
When Roberts talked to her about getting a new dog from a breeder, “[S]he didn’t want to have any more young dogs. She didn’t want to leave any young dog behind. She wanted to put an end to it. I understood that we would discuss it further at a later date. Well, we never discussed it at a later date, and I have no right to try to force her into continuing to bring on young puppies if she doesn’t want to. That isn’t my right. But it still concerns me. Because I want her to believe in her existence until she’s no longer here, because she’s just too important to the world to contemplate checking out. For me, the Queen can’t die.”
Roberts’ account is really just confirmation of what many have suspected for a long time. The number of dogs the Queen keeps has slowly dwindled down to only two, Holly and Willow. Both are 12 years old, and probably won’t live much longer.
Most of the coverage has had a tone of wistful loss, but one op-ed in The Guardian sees this change as a potential opportunity. Instead of completely calling an end to royal dog ownership, columnist Michele Hanson would like the Queen to adopt senior rescue dogs as her companions for her own senior years.
If the Queen did… imagine what a shining example this would be to the nation. What a golden opportunity to encourage us all to follow her example and stop breeding dogs. We have several million too many – unwanted, unloved, and some of them are Corgis. Imagine how fabulous life would be for one of those, if the Queen adopted it. What fun it would have! The spacious grounds to play in, the adoring new mummy, the scores of helpers and walkers if she was too tired or busy, the accommodation, and the menu. Those lucky dogs would think they’d entered paradise.
Of course, we know that this is about as likely as the Queen summoning John Lydon (formerly known as Johnny Rotten) to Buckingham Palace and bestowing a knighthood on him. But it is a lovely fantasy world to inhabit, even for a few hundred words. The problem with the Queen’s Corgis has always been that they preserve the cult of the purebred dog, while thousands of senior mutts continue to linger in shelters around the world. The problems with “purebred” dogs are legion, and the fact that they persist is largely due to the fact that they’re status symbols, associated with the wealthy and powerful who can afford “the best” of everything, even if it’s not actually the best.
But Hanson’s point is still a strong one, and if the Queen is unlikely to take her advice, hopefully others will. In modern England, after all, the Queen is just a figurehead, while the power for actual change lies with the common people.
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