Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Queen Victoria and Her Pets, Part 1

This week, we're delighted to welcome Regency author and dog expert Judith Laik back to Nineteenteen to finish up her series on Dogs of the Nineteenth Century.

I mentioned back at the beginning of my series for Nineteenteen that dogs have provided companionship to people in all strata of society, and from ancient times. Dogs have been equally beloved by royals as well as by ordinary folk.

Queen Victoria was the ultimate royal animal lover. She had many pets from an early age and throughout her life. As a young girl, her life was strictly regimented, with lessons, simple food, and ample fresh air and exercise. Her mother, the Duchess of Kent, did not like to allow her to play with children who weren't royal, so dolls and animals became her companions.

Victoria had the company of her half-sister Feodora, from her mother’s first marriage, for the first nine years of her life, until Feodora’s marriage to Prince Ernest of Hohenlohe-Langenburg in 1828. After this event, her governess, Louise Lehzen, was her closest companion. It’s understandable how important her pets became to the lonely princess.

One of her early favorites was Dash, a black and white King Charles Spaniel. (That's him above, with Victoria, and at left, sitting on the footstool...next to him is Victoria's mother's parrot!) He had originally been a gift in from Sir John Conroy, her mother’s comptroller, to the Duchess, but in not too long he'd become Victoria's beloved pet. Dash was her constant companion in her teen years and through the beginning of her reign. In fact, the first thing Victoria did on arriving back at Buckingham Palace after her Coronation was to hurry up to her apartment to give Dash a bath! Her mother had a painting of Dash commissioned by Edwin Landseer for her 17th birthday, which began a long association with him. He went on to paint many of Victoria’s pets.

Dash also helped set the seal on Victoria’s approval of Prince Albert as her consort. When they first met, Albert’s attentions to Dash earned him high marks.

On Friday Judith will tell you about more of the Queen's beloved dogs.


Gina Robinson said...

What an interesting article. I'm eager to read the second half :-)

Judith said...

Thanks, Gina!

Anonymous said...

Excellent article Judith. I love to read about historical figures and their pets. It makes them seem that much more human and relatable.