Queen Elizabeth II has experienced the loss of both her parents and her younger sister Princess Margaret over the years. But now another member of the royal family has passed away. And the Queen is said to be heartbroken over the death.
Elizabeth Alexandra Mary came into the world on April 21, 1926. She arrived four years earlier than her only other sibling, Margaret Rose, and the pair were later home educated. A book about their youths called The Little Princesses detailed how Elizabeth adored dogs and horses from a young age.
And even though it was not initially anticipated, Elizabeth became queen on February 6, 1952. She has reigned ever since, overseeing periods of great change throughout the United Kingdom. But one thing has remained constant throughout this entire time.
On her 18th birthday, Elizabeth II’s parents gave her a pet corgi. The Queen’s father, King George VI, began the royal tradition of keeping corgis after acquiring one named Dookie in 1933. He then had a dog called Jane before gifting one to his eldest daughter and heir to the throne. She named her Susan. Susan was a fully fledged member of the royal family and rarely left the Queen’s side.
She started what would become a lifetime of royal Pembroke Welsh corgis. In fact, the 92-year-old has owned about 30 corgis throughout the years, all of which have descended directly from Susan. She is also thought to have been instrumental in making corgis more popular. Indeed, when her coronation took place in 1953, they were one of the most sought-after dog breeds around.
Queen Elizabeth has long been recognized as an animal lover, particularly favoring her dogs and horses. At one time she purportedly said, “My corgis are my family.” And the Queen certainly appears relaxed whenever she is with her pets.
The corgis apparently ate a diet of specially prepared rice and chicken, as well as treats from time to time. Queen Elizabeth usually fed and walked them herself each day, and people have grown accustomed to seeing her surrounded by the dogs. In fact, Princess Diana is said to have once described them as “moving carpet,” and the crown coin in honor of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee depicts her with a corgi.
By 2012, the popularity of the breed had declined. But it received a boost after the opening ceremony of the London Olympics that year. The Queen filmed a sketch with Daniel Craig as James Bond and she was joined by her dogs Monty, Holly and Willow.
The clip shows Agent 007 arriving at Buckingham Palace, where the corgis watch him jet off alongside the Queen in a helicopter. They are then seen pretending to parachute into the Olympic stadium. The video has since been shared on YouTube and viewed nearly 18 million times.
Monty died shortly afterward, and Holly passed away at the age of 13 in 2016. She was buried at Balmoral in Scotland. Queen Elizabeth had posed with Holly and Willow a few months beforehand in a photo shoot with Annie Leibovitz to mark her 90th birthday.
The two dogs were Susan’s 14th-generation offspring and the last that shared the original corgi’s bloodline. Then, earlier this year, further sad news emerged. And what happened left the Queen distraught.
Tragically, Willow died at the age of 14. The dog was put to sleep at Windsor Castle on April 14, 2018. Willow had been battling a cancerous illness and the Queen made the difficult decision to euthanize her to prevent any further pain and suffering.
In 2015 it emerged that Queen Elizabeth was not going to breed any more Pembroke Welsh corgis as she did not want someone else to have to care for them after her own passing. “She didn’t want to leave any young dog behind,” royal adviser Monty Roberts told Vanity Fair. “She wanted to put an end to it.”
However, the loss has still hit the Queen “extremely hard,” according to the Daily Mail.She was devastated to say goodbye to Willow, who has apparently been buried in the grounds of Windsor Castle. The pet will get a headstone featuring its name and the inscription “a faithful companion of the Queen.”
Although the lineage of Pembroke Welsh corgis that Susan began is now over, Queen Elizabeth still has three dogs. These include two dorgis, a dachshund and corgi cross, named Candy and Vulcan. They were born after the Queen’s corgi Tiny and Princess Margaret’s dachshund Pipkin were mated.
The Queen also has one more corgi that is not descended from Susan. The dog’s name is Whisper, and it previously belonged to a gamekeeper at Sandringham. When the gamekeeper died last year, Queen Elizabeth took Whisper in.
In the past, the dogs have had their vicious moments and have apparently bitten members of staff including the Royal Clockwinder and even the Queen herself. And while they’ve never been especially fond of her grandson Prince Harry, he says they took to his future wife Meghan Markle “straight away.” Harry explained during their engagement interview with the BBC, “I’ve spent the last 33 years being barked at, this one walks in, absolutely nothing.”
“Just laying on my feet during tea. It was very sweet,” Markle added. In addition to Queen Elizabeth’s remaining dogs, the royal family pets include Prince William and Kate Middleton’s English cocker spaniel Lupo. Markle also owns a beagle named Guy, who now lives with her and Prince Harry, as well as Labrador-shepherd mix Bogart, who she left with friends in Canada when she moved to the United Kingdom.
After the death of Willow was revealed, people were quick to send their condolences to Her Majesty The Queen. “How sad for her,” one Daily Mail commenter wrote. “She’s had a lifetime love of corgis and this must have cut her to the quick. RIP Willow.”
“Non dog owners just don’t understand how much the death of a faithful companion can hurt,” another person shared. “Dogs are amazing companions.” Although Queen Elizabeth has dealt with the deaths of many of her beloved corgis over the years, it’s clear that losing the last of them after decades of friendship has been especially difficult.