While we at Pet Industry News are preparing to relaunch in print this May, wedecided it would be nice to scroll back through the archives and revisit someof the great articles that have been published over our 30-year history.

Here is a flashback to an article entitled ‘Royal pets captured on canvas’,written by Rachael Pilley for a back issue of the Pet Industry News printmagazine…

Walk through any art gallery and gaze upon the old renaissance art, it’shard not to notice the animal companions of the elite rulers and high societyof that era. Some of the earliest paintings of pets date back to the 16thCentury. As cameras weren’t handy back then, artists had quite a task on theirhands in creating the finest of portraits.

Pets were loved dearly by their wealthy owners and considered a great luxuryduring the 16th Century; exotic animals were often given as gifts to themonarch. Many of the Tudor families owned dogs. Greyhounds in fact were thedog of choice; they held symbolic value, appearing on the Tudor coat of armsalongside the Tudor rose. These animals were not only affectionate companionsbut great hunting partners. They were also used to attract fleas away fromtheir owners!

Queen Catherine of Aragon, King Henry VIII’s first wife was known to keep petmonkeys; they reminded her of her much loved homeland of Spain. There is afamous painting of Catherine holding her pet monkey, which is now held inLondon in a private collection.

Another of the earliest portraits (1580) capturing palace pets was of three ofthe Elizabethan children, two young girls each holding their favourite pets; aguinea pig and a goldfinch and the young boy believed to be studding his ownpet sits firmly with his hands on his hips. At this time, guinea pigs wereused as a source of protein and eaten in South America, the Spanish begunimporting them into Europe as exotic pets for wealthy European families.Guinea pigs made excellent pets for royal children.

England’s Queen Victoria was renowned for her love of animals. As a young girlshe was given a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, whom she named Dash. A prizeportrait of Dash was painted in 1836; this was arranged by the Queen Motherfor Victoria’s 17th birthday. During this period many more portraits of theroyal pets were painted and hung upon the palace walls.

Queen Victoria’s love of animals extended to her public service, she was thefirst advocate for the RSPCA, established in 1824 to “prevent cruelty, promotekindness to and alleviate the suffering of animals”.

Victoria’s love of dogs and her popularity influenced the demand of petportraits and dog ownership during the 19th Century. Wealthy and fashionablewomen owned lap-dogs, the ladies took their dogs everywhere. On carriage ridesthe small dogs were placed on the laps of the women to keep their legs warm –hence the name ‘lapdog’. The small dogs were treated as royals themselves,having trained maids to dote on their every need, sleeping on satin cushionsand getting up to five brushes a day.

The most popular dogs of this time were Pomeranians, Skye Terriers, CavalierKing Charles Spaniels, and Japanese Spaniels.

We all remember Queen Elizabeth II adoration of Corgis. In 2007, the Queen hadfive pet Corgis; Monty, Emma, Linnet, Willow and Holly. Her love of thesecreatures stemmed from when she was a small child. In her reign she owned morethan 30 Corgis as well as many other four legged friends including CockerSpaniels, Labradors and Dorgis (Dachshund-Corgi crossbreeds). The Queen Motherprovided a privileged life for her pets, each having their own wicker basketraised off the ground to escape draughts, a veterinary approved diet, treatsand rewards for good behaviour and their own gourmet chef with an extensivemenu of delectable fresh meats including rabbit and beef.

Queen Elizabeth took her dogs very seriously; in 1999 a footman was demotedfrom his position at Buckingham palace for a party trick pulled on the palacepets, he poured alcoholic beverage into their water and food bowls and watchedthem “staggering about”. The Queen was undeniably not impressed!

Many portraits and sculptures have been portrayed throughout the world of theQueen Mother and her Corgis. The crown coin, which commemorated the Queen’sGolden Jubilee shows her with a Corgi.

So, regardless of our social status, class or culture, pets have always beenwith us, satisfying a deep, universal human need. They provide us with asource of companionship and bring pleasure to our lives.

Whether it be sloppy doggy kisses first thing in the morning, or warming ourlaps on a cold winter night, protecting us from potential intruders, or justknowing that another little being is beside us keeping us company. Sometimesthat’s just enough.

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