While we at Pet Industry News are preparing to relaunch in print this May, we
decided it would be nice to scroll back through the archives and revisit some
of 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 print
Walk through any art gallery and gaze upon the old renaissance art, it’s
hard not to notice the animal companions of the elite rulers and high society
of that era. Some of the earliest paintings of pets date back to the 16th
Century. As cameras weren’t handy back then, artists had quite a task on their
hands in creating the finest of portraits.
Pets were loved dearly by their wealthy owners and considered a great luxury
during the 16th Century; exotic animals were often given as gifts to the
monarch. Many of the Tudor families owned dogs. Greyhounds in fact were the
dog of choice; they held symbolic value, appearing on the Tudor coat of arms
alongside the Tudor rose. These animals were not only affectionate companions
but great hunting partners. They were also used to attract fleas away from
Queen Catherine of Aragon, King Henry VIII’s first wife was known to keep pet
monkeys; they reminded her of her much loved homeland of Spain. There is a
famous painting of Catherine holding her pet monkey, which is now held in
London in a private collection.
Another of the earliest portraits (1580) capturing palace pets was of three of
the Elizabethan children, two young girls each holding their favourite pets; a
guinea pig and a goldfinch and the young boy believed to be studding his own
pet sits firmly with his hands on his hips. At this time, guinea pigs were
used as a source of protein and eaten in South America, the Spanish begun
importing 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 girl
she was given a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, whom she named Dash. A prize
portrait of Dash was painted in 1836; this was arranged by the Queen Mother
for Victoria’s 17th birthday. During this period many more portraits of the
royal pets were painted and hung upon the palace walls.
Queen Victoria’s love of animals extended to her public service, she was the
first advocate for the RSPCA, established in 1824 to “prevent cruelty, promote
kindness to and alleviate the suffering of animals”.
Victoria’s love of dogs and her popularity influenced the demand of pet
portraits and dog ownership during the 19th Century. Wealthy and fashionable
women owned lap-dogs, the ladies took their dogs everywhere. On carriage rides
the 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 cushions
and getting up to five brushes a day.
The most popular dogs of this time were Pomeranians, Skye Terriers, Cavalier
King Charles Spaniels, and Japanese Spaniels.
We all remember Queen Elizabeth II adoration of Corgis. In 2007, the Queen had
five pet Corgis; Monty, Emma, Linnet, Willow and Holly. Her love of these
creatures stemmed from when she was a small child. In her reign she owned more
than 30 Corgis as well as many other four legged friends including Cocker
Spaniels, Labradors and Dorgis (Dachshund-Corgi crossbreeds). The Queen Mother
provided a privileged life for her pets, each having their own wicker basket
raised off the ground to escape draughts, a veterinary approved diet, treats
and rewards for good behaviour and their own gourmet chef with an extensive
menu of delectable fresh meats including rabbit and beef.
Queen Elizabeth took her dogs very seriously; in 1999 a footman was demoted
from his position at Buckingham palace for a party trick pulled on the palace
pets, he poured alcoholic beverage into their water and food bowls and watched
them “staggering about”. The Queen was undeniably not impressed!
Many portraits and sculptures have been portrayed throughout the world of the
Queen Mother and her Corgis. The crown coin, which commemorated the Queen’s
Golden Jubilee shows her with a Corgi.
So, regardless of our social status, class or culture, pets have always been
with us, satisfying a deep, universal human need. They provide us with a
source of companionship and bring pleasure to our lives.
Whether it be sloppy doggy kisses first thing in the morning, or warming our
laps on a cold winter night, protecting us from potential intruders, or just
knowing that another little being is beside us keeping us company. Sometimes
that’s just enough.
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