Queen Elizabeth II’s reign lasted for 70 years, and one of the most significant symbols of her monarchy was the corgi. The image of the queen’s mourning corgi became a dominant pop culture representation of her death in September. However, the queen’s last pets, Muick and Sandy, are now living in obscurity with Prince Andrew and his ex-wife Fergie, enjoying their retirement. Contrary to an internet joke that circulated, the queen never intended for her dogs to be killed upon her death. With the coronation of Charles III, British retailers have attempted to recapture the Corgi-mania that was present during the Platinum Jubilee last year, where it was possible to purchase corgi-themed cakes, beer (known as “corgi juice”), and mincemeat balls.
The Cavalier King Charles spaniel, named after the most recent King Charles, emerged as a prominent contender to claim the corgis’ crown. King Charles II was famous for his love of little spaniels, and Aldi has offered its shoppers a limited-edition series of beers featuring Cavaliers. Bill’s, a restaurant chain, promised free dog treats “fit for royalty” to any King Charles spaniels who dined with their owners over the coronation weekend. On the day King Charles was crowned, more than 100 Cavalier King Charles spaniels were paraded along King’s Road in London’s Chelsea. However, it turns out that the Cavalier King Charles spaniel is not Charles III’s favourite dog.
Beth and Bluebell, Queen Camilla’s Jack Russell terriers, have emerged as potential icons of the new king’s reign. The duo’s status is further reinforced by their backstory as they were rescues from the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, one of the oldest and most famous animal welfare charities in Britain. They serve as a reminder of the couple’s personal values and Camilla’s charity work, which is one of the ways she has tried to rehabilitate her image. Camilla has harnessed her pets’ potential star power, with Beth and Bluebell embroidered in gold thread on the front of the gown she wore to the coronation. The royals declined to comment on the dogs, according to the BBC.
When we talk about animals, we are often talking about humans and the values that we think they represent. Jack Russells are perceived as no-nonsense, hardy little dogs, descendants of ratting terriers who provided vermin control and, at one point, entertainment in rat-baiting pits. In a nation that remains obsessed with class, Jack Russell terriers have unusually broad appeal across social boundaries. They are as likely to be found snapping at the feet of a pack of Labradors in a lord’s country pile as they are to be peeking through the net curtains of a widow’s council estate house. The same cannot be said of the Prince and Princess of Wales’ cocker spaniels, which occasionally appear in their family pictures.
Retailers in the U.K. have attempted to capitalise on the popularity of the dogs, hoping that dog-themed food and commemorative royal memorabilia will win the public’s affection and hard-earned disposable income. Waitrose, the supermarket of choice for well-heeled Brits, has a coronation range featuring Beth and Bluebell, with their likenesses on the brand’s commemorative biscuit tins. Celebrating subjects could nibble on their coronation quiche from paper plates decorated with the two dogs. There was even a succulent planter in the shape of a Jack Russell and a Jewel-the-Jack-Russell cake, each sold in aid of the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home. Cath Kidston, one of Middle England’s lifestyle brands, has hedged its bets, with its commemorative coronation plates coming as a pair with two designs. One design features the late Queen Elizabeth with a corgi, and the other features King Charles with Beth and Bluebell. However, introducing Beth and Bluebell as icons of Charles’ reign quite late compared to the corgis, which began appearing in photographs of the Princess Elizabeth when she was still a young girl, and Pembroke Welsh corgis were themselves almost entirely unfamiliar to the public. If Prince William wishes to capitalise on his grandmother’s brand power early on, he may consider choosing a distinctive-looking but lesser-known dog breed, such as an English Setter or another dog from the British Kennel Club’s vulnerable native breeds list.
The United Kingdom likes to consider itself a nation of animal lovers and rarely misses an opportunity to involve animals in significant events. A few days before the big day, I passed a photo shoot for a mock dog coronation in East London. Last week, thousands of voters took their dogs to the polling booths to vote in local elections. Beth and Bluebell’s starring appearance reinforces the idea that the new king shares a fondness for animals. However, more importantly, companion animals have the ability to make the distant and impersonal feel familiar. Just as the corgis provided us with a glimpse of the queen’s private life, so Beth and Bluebell help to humanize the king. We can project our love of our own dogs onto people and pets we have never met.