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Corgi canine companions never far from the Queen’s side at Royal Deeside

The Queen and Prince Edward walk to their aircraft at Aberdeen Airport carrying two of their dogs in 1974.
The Queen and Prince Edward walk to their aircraft at Aberdeen Airport carrying two of their dogs in 1974.

The Queen once declared “my corgis are family”, so it’s no surprise that Her Majesty’s summer trips to Deeside have always been accompanied by her canine companions.

A mainstay throughout the Queen’s remarkable 70-year reign, the pampered pooches were part of the Crown before The Queen was ever on the throne.

It was her father King George VI that first instilled a love of dogs in the Queen, who has become the first British monarch to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee.

An informal family photo at Balmoral in 1955 as a young Princess Anne throws a ball for her mum’s Corgi Sugar, while Candy gazes at the Queen.

In 1933 he brought home the first family pet, a Welsh Pembroke Corgi with a deep chestnut-red coat, that they named ‘Dookie’ – a nickname for Duke.

On her 18th birthday in 1944, the Queen was gifted a Corgi of her very own called Susan which even joined the princess on her honeymoon to Scotland in 1947 after marrying Prince Philip.

Prince Andrew and Prince Edward at Balmoral playing with some of the Queen’s dogs in 1972.

The dozens of Corgis she has owned throughout her reign are believed to have descended from Susan.

In 1949, Susan went into heat during a holiday at Balmoral and was flown back down south on a royal mail plane to meet a stud dog.

The match produced two puppies, Sugar and Honey, marking the start of the Queen’s dynasty of dogs.

Queen Elizabeth II arriving in Aberdeen with two of her prized pooches in 1973.

Throughout her glorious reign, the Queen has been personally involved in the care and top-secret breeding of her beloved Corgis and Dorgis – the latter being a Corgi Daschund crossbreed.

Buckingham Palace has never been without a Corgi or Dorgi, and it is thought she has owned more than 30 of the faithful dogs.

The breeds were so synonymous with the Royal Family that two of her pets Holly and Willow – 14th generation descendants from Susan – even had starring roles in the London 2012 Olympic Games opening sketch.

The Queen and Prince Edward carry their dogs to their London-bound aircraft at Aberdeen Airport at the end of their Balmoral summer holiday in 1974.

But it’s not the first time the Queen’s dogs have tried to steal the limelight.

The dogs have always travelled in style and have been a familiar – and often amusing – sight for staff at Aberdeen’s railway station and airport any time the royals arrive for their summer stay at Balmoral trailed by packs of pooches.

When the royal plane landed at Aberdeen in 1975 two of the family corgis were carried from it and onlookers were amused when more pets kept appearing at the top of the plane steps.

And despite being commanded by Her Majesty the Queen, the corgis have been known for their cheeky and disobedient behaviour.

In 1952, the journey to Balmoral was delayed when the dogs gave their owners the slip on the royal train at Aberdeen Station.

The Queen with the Duke of Edinburgh in the Drawing Room at Balmoral Castle with her dog, Tinker, at their feet in 1976.

And they were up to their old tricks again pulling a disappearing act on the Queen Mother at Wick Airport in 1957.

It was reported that Honey was reluctantly retrieved from the crowd of amused onlookers while royal aides frantically searched the runway for the runaway.

A reluctant corgi is coaxed aboard the royal train by the Queen at Aberdeen Station in 1977. A persuasive tap from the bowler hat of British Rail area manager Roderick McKenzie helped the dog into the carriage.

Corgis’ playful personality is said to be one of the many reasons the Queen has surrounded herself with the dogs.

Leading a life ruled by the Crown and its associated protocol could be lonely, and the constant companionship and affection from her pets has been very important to the Queen.

The late Prince Philip once described the Corgis as a “kind of therapy” for his wife.

Her Majesty departs from Aberdeen Airport in 1978, with the royal corgis. Looking on is Bill Aitkenhead, airport manager.

Although waited on hand and foot herself, such has been her devotion to the dogs that she would often oversee their mealtimes and welfare herself.

The Queen would take them out for their daily walks while in Scotland and ensured they always enjoyed a life of luxury.

A careful breeding programme at Windsor has also ensured the Queen has always had a number of pure-bred Corgis at the palace.

The Queen followed by Princess Margaret make their way with the royal Corgis to their plane at Aberdeen Airport this afternoon in 1981.

Her pedigree puppies were never allowed to be sold or compete at dog shows, although the Queen is said to have gifted many to family and friends.

And in the 1960s, Foxy, Tiny, Pickles, Tinker, Mask, Rufus, Cindy and Brush were welcomed into the royal household and the canines were no strangers to Balmoral.

Like monarchs before her, Balmoral has been a retreat for the Queen where she could enjoy country pursuits and relaxing away from the glare of the public eye.

The Queen and a Corgi at Aberdeen Airport in 1984.

Deeside locals would often see Her Majesty behind the wheel of a landy, on horseback or striding through the glens – and her beloved dogs would never be far behind.

In 1981, the Queen turned heads at Aberdeen Airport when she jetted into the city with no fewer than 12 Corgis in tow destined for a summer break at Balmoral.

Eight hounds trotted off the royal plane before the Queen emerged leading a ninth, but the camera-shy canine needed a gentle nudge on the backside from Her Majesty to descend the steps.

The Queen ended her summer stay on Deeside in 1986, but one member of the royal household was none too keen to leave – the corgi stood firm at the bottom of the steps.

On the return flight at Aberdeen, the Corgis hit the headlines again as the Queen found herself in the role of a lady-in-waiting to the impatient pups.

The Queen and Princess Margaret had to stand aside at the airport and wait in the wind and rain as the royal pets were carried onboard the flight taking them back to London.

The Queen smiles as she sorts out her corgis and dorgis before boarding her aircraft at Aberdeen Airport in 1987.

In more recent years, the Queen reduced the number of her Corgis to a more manageable number, welcoming two new dogs to the family in the weeks around Prince Philip’s death in 2021.

Taking inspiration from Aberdeenshire, one of the new additions was named Muick after Loch Muick on the Balmoral estate, which was said to be one of the Queen’s favourite destinations.

And one that was sure to have had many happy memories for the Queen and the downtime she spent with her family and dogs at Balmoral.

Those corgis will continue to be by her side during this very special year.

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