The Young Victoria’s producer’s Martin Scorsese and Sarah Ferguson starring Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend has rekindled an interest in Queen Victoria(1819-1901) Britain’s longest reigning monarch.
Windsor Castle in Modern Times by Sir Edwin Landseer
Queen Victoria was delighted that the above picture which took several years to complete was finally hanging up in Windsor “with us, Vicky and the “dear dogs”(greyhound Eos, three skye terriers Islay, Dandie Dinmont, and Cairnach). (Source: Text adapted from The Conversation Piece: Scenes of fashionable life, London, 2009)
“If it were not for the honest faces of dogs, we should forget the very existence of sincerity”.
The Personal Life of Queen Victoria by Sarah Tooley P.256
The Queen’s diary reveals that the same day in 1837 that she was crowned, she came home to give her cavalier king charles spaniel Dash a bath.
The young Princess Victoria was the only legitimate child of the fourth son of George III, the Duke of Kent, who died in 1820. As such, she became heiress presumptive after the death of George IV in 1830. Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent, would act as Regent during the Queen’s minority, if she acceded to the throne while still a minor.
Victoria described her childhood as “rather melancholy.” Victoria’s mother was extremely protective of the princess, who was raised in near isolation under the so called “Kensington System”, an elaborate set of rules and protocols devised by The Duchess and her comptroller and supposed lover, Sir John Conroy, to prevent the princess from ever meeting people whom they deemed undesirable, and to render her weak and utterly dependent upon them. She was not allowed to interact with other children. (Source: Wikipedia: Victoria of the United Kingdom)
Victoria despised Conroy because of this system and Conroy hoped to win her over by giving her Dash a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in 1833. Conroy’s plan didn’t work but Dash became Victoria’s main companion. They were inseperable spending “his little life” in her room. Victoria would dress him in scarlet jacket and blue trousers, and at Christmas she gave him three India-rubber balls and two bits of gingerbread decorated with holly and candles. Victoria had him painted half a dozen times at least, sometimes with other dogs such as the greyhound Nero and the huge mastiff Hector. (Source: Queen Victoria and ‘those four-footed friends no bride can buy’ Spectator, The, Apr 15, 2000 by Johnson, Paul)
Dash also played a part in bringing Victoria and Albert together. On their first meeting Victoria was taken with the tall, serious, blue eyed Albert, but it was his behaviour toward Dash which sealed her aproval of him. She recorded in her diary that “Albert played with and fussed over Dash”.
Dash lived until 1840 and was buried in the gardens at Adelaide Lodge. Dash’s tombstone is inscribed with the following message written by the Queen herself:
“Here lies Dash, the favorite spaniel of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, by whose command this memorial was erected. He died on the 20th December 1840 in his ninth year. His attachment was without selfishness, his playfulness without malice, his fidelity without deceit. Reader, if you would live beloved and die regretted, profit by the example.
Throughout her lifetime, Queen Victoria commissioned many dog portraits. Although artwork featuring dogs goes back centuries before her time, her influence significantly increased the popularity of dog art, especially portraits of pet dogs.
Prior to Queen Victoria’s time, dogs in paintings had primarily been represented in sporting scenes. (Source: dognameswoof.com)
Queen Victoria loved Islay very much; she taught him to beg for tidbits which he became famous for as seen in the the above Landseer painting and the Justin Robson’s bronze sculpture(1983) below. Islay was Queen Victoria’s much loved companion for only 5 years because he became involved in a dispute with a cat and it was Islay that died. Queen Victoria recorded: `My faithful little companion of more than five years, always with me’ ( Source: The Spectator, Apr 15, 2000 by Johnson, Paul)
In John Plunkett’s book “Queen Victoria: First Media Monarch” he points out that Queen Victoria was the first British Monarch to use the media to her advantage.
Queen Victoria at Balmoral 1896 and during her Jubilee Celebrations 1897: Turi, Queen Victoria’s cherished pomerainan often accompanied the Queen on her carriage drives in the last years of her life.
Queen Victoria was one of the best known Pomeranian owners in history. She first saw the dog as a girl, when her mother, Queen Charlotte kept one as a pet. Queen Victoria got Marco, a Pomeranian of her own, in 1888.
The English royal family had then, and has now, a keen interest in breeding horses and dogs. Queen Victoria applied this enthusiasm for breeding to the Pomeranian, at one time keeping 35 Pomeranian dogs. The monarch is credited with further reducing the size of the Pomeranian through her efforts. Her show Pomeranians Fluffy, Nino, Mino, Beppo, Gilda and Lulu, competed in many dog shows and won at least two championships. According to her biographers, in 1901, from her deathbed, the Queen asked for Turi, who was brought to her and remained at her side until she died. (Source: The Free Library: The Royal History of the Pomeranian Breed)
Noble My favorite collie Noble is always downstairs when we take our meals, and was so good, Brown making him lie on a chair or couch, and he never attempted to come down without permission, and even held a piece of cake in his mouth without eating it, till told he might. He is the most “biddable” dog I ever saw, and so affectionate and kind; if he thinks you are not pleased with him, he puts out his paws, and begs in such an affectionate way. Queen Victoria’s Journal of a Life in the Highlands – Sunday, September 14, 1873, page 268
Queen Victoria frequently donated money to animal charities. The issue of cruelty to animals was one to which the queen always responded with a great outpouring of emotion. At her various jubilees prisoners were released all over the empire provided that she personally signed their remission. There was only one category she refused: those convicted of cruelty to animals. ( Source: The Spectator, Apr 15, 2000 by Johnson, Paul) It was the averred, “one of the worst signs of wickedness in human nature”(Fulford 1976, 185) . ( Source: Queen Victoria: A Biographical Companion By Helen Rappaport.)
Queen Victoria’s empathy for animals was demonstrated when she had once asked for the life of an ox to be spared at the Cattle Show “because it had licked the hand of Prince Albert. ( Source: Queen Victoria: A Personal History by Christopher Hibbert p. 355)
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) was founded in 1824, it adopted its current name The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) after being granted royal status by Queen Victoria in 1840.
Helen Rapport writes in her book Queen Victoria: A Biographical Companion on page 38: During the ministries of Disraeli and Gladstone Queen Victoria began lobbying her ministers to bring in legislation to control the growing practice of vivisection in medical schools- a practice that horrified her. She subjected Disraeli and many other ministers on the suffering of dogs. She corresponded with the home secretary Sir William Harcourt, himself a leading antivivisectionist, referring to a recent court case involving a vivisector, she insisted: “This must be stopped -It is a disgrace to a civilized country” Source: (Gardiner 1923, 403).
Under pressure the queen and the antivivisection lobby, led by a powerful female advocate of the cause, Frances Power Cobbe, Disraeli was eventually forced to call a royal commission on the subject.; which resulted in the passing of the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1875; which included compulsory anesthesia of animals being vivisected and their prompt humane destruction as soon as the experiment was complete.
In 1885 Queen Victoria was still writing memorandums that “her poor dear friends the dogs” should never be destroyed unnecessarily or kept muzzled unless they were know to be dangerous. (Source: St. Aubyn 1991, 433). She also wished to see stricter controls of abattoirs. In her view “nothing brutalizes human beings more than cruelty to poor dumb animals, whose plaintive looks for help ought to melt the hardest heart” (Guedalla 1933, 2:152 , and the queen funded school prizes for essay writing on kindness to animals.
She also supported the work of the Royal Society of the Protection of Birds and condemned the use of feathers for trimming ladies’ hats.
The Lory by Sir Edwin Landseer (1837)
Queen Victoria was delighted with the parrot which was a gift by her uncle Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha on his visit to England with his two sons. Queen Victoria wrote in her Journal “so tame that is remains in your hand, and you may put your finger into its beak, or do anything with it, without it ever attempting to bite.”