A Tribute to the Late Queen Elizabeth II: Our Animal-Loving Monarch

Since I last wrote, the country has been shaken by the sad death of our beloved monarch of 70 years, Queen Elizabeth II. Just a few short months ago, we were celebrating her incredible Platinum Jubilee as she was the first monarch in British history to reach this amazing milestone of loyal service to the country. Right up until days before her death, she was still working. Her dedication was incredible and she serves as an inspiration to us all.

 

It’s easy to take for granted how much her presence was interwoven into our daily lives, but from her face on stamps, coins and notes to her annual Christmas speech, she was a cornerstone of Britain and, despite it not being hugely unexpected given her age, we have all been nonetheless shaken in some way by her passing.

 

For the past two weeks, people all over the country – and the world – have expressed gratitude and grief as we have collectively mourned her death. But, it’s not just people who had a lot to thank Queen Elizabeth for. She was a huge lover of animals and supported many animal charities throughout her reign, championing causes close to her heart and helping to improve the care and welfare of animals in this country and abroad. Amongst hundreds of other charities, she was patron of the RSPCA, ZSL (Zoological Society London), The Dog’s Trust and the British Veterinary Association. BVA President Justine Shotton, responding to the news of the Queen’s death, said “All of us at the British Veterinary Association are deeply saddened to learn of the death of our Patron Her Majesty The Queen. A dedicated public servant and a lifelong animal lover, as our Patron for more than seven decades she helped build the UK’s international reputation for high standards of animal welfare, supported the vital work of our veterinary professionals, and improved the lives of animals both here in the UK and across the world. We are eternally grateful for her service and our hearts and thoughts are with her family, her friends, and the nation.”

 

Of course, she was famed for her love of horses and dogs – namely corgis – and kept many of both throughout her life. The Royal Family’s first corgi, Dookie, was bought by young Elizabeth’s parents when she was just seven years old and therein began a love of the breed. She was given her own pup, Susan, as a gift from her father, King George VI, on her 18th birthday. Susan was a faithful companion to the Queen for nearly 15 years, and over the next 60 years she owned more than 30 of Susan’s descendants, both corgis and dorgis (dachshund corgi cross). At the time of her death, Queen Elizabeth had four pet dogs, two corgis, a dorgi and a springer spaniel, who will now reportedly be cared for by Prince Andrew and his ex-wife, Sarah Ferguson. Anyone who watched the Queen’s funeral on TV will have no doubt been deeply moved by the sight of her beloved corgis, Muick and Sandy, waiting to pay their respects to their late owner at Windsor Castle as the cortege passed by. Also present was one of the Queen’s favourite fell ponies, Emma, who she continued to ride well into her 90s. As a keen rider she loved all horses, owning and breeding many throughout her life from ponies to successful race horses. However, fell ponies were particularly close to her heart and The Fell Pony Society was yet another of the Queen’s patronages.

 

Her love of animals extended far beyond dogs and horses though; she cared about the welfare and survival of many species. As patron of ZSL, an elephant at Whipsnade Zoo was famously named ‘Elizabeth’ after the Queen, as she was born the day before Her Majesty’s 90th birthday. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip met her 10-month-old namesake in 2017 when they visited Whipsnade, enjoying some time feeding the elephants with their favourite snack of bananas – an image that made it onto that year’s royal Christmas card!

 

And it seems the Queen’s love of animals hadn’t escaped the attention of foreign royals and dignitaries, either. Unsure of what to gift a lady who clearly has everything, many foreign visitors over the years decided to present her with an animal … the list of creatures that she was gifted during her reign is astounding! You can read the full list here, which includes numerous horses, six kangaroos, two giant tortoises, sloths, an elephant, two black jaguars, a Nile crocodile, two beavers and an arctic fox! The majority of these animal ‘gifts’ went on to be cared for at ZSL. Now, I would never advocate giving a living creature as a present, especially not an exotic one (certainly NEVER give your granny an elephant or crocodile for Christmas!!) but, as the patron of ZSL, I have no doubt that the Queen’s animals were very well looked after. They weren’t gifts destined to be discarded and unloved by Boxing Day.

 

It’s fair to say that the Queen has left a lasting impression on millions of people the world over and her record-breaking reign will certainly go down in history for many reasons – her genuine, lifelong love of animals being one of them. Her heartfelt care and compassion will never be forgotten.

 

All that remains for me to say is: thank you Ma’am; may you rest in peace.

 

Photo credit: Press Association, from @theroyalfamily, Instagram.