Alexandra of Denmark married Queen Victoria’s son and heir, Albert Edward, on March 10, 1863. She was a noted dog lover marrying into a family of noted dog lovers. The resulting menagerie of canines which she accumulated as Princess of Wales was a diverse collection which rivalled even that of her royal mother-in-law. There were Basset Hounds, Wolfhounds, Dachshunds, Collies, Samoyeds, Fox Terriers, Pugs, Pekingese, and Japanese Spaniels – to name just a few. They were housed in luxurious kennels at Sandringham House, the Prince and Princess’s home in Norfolk.
In 1901, Sarah Tooley, a writer at the Lady’s Realm magazine, was granted a tour. By this time, Queen Victoria was dead. The Prince of Wales had ascended the throne as King Edward VII and Alexandra was now the Queen Consort. That June, having received permission from the new Queen to come and meet her pets, Tooley drove to the part of the Sandringham estate on which the kennels and pheasantry were located. There, she was met by Mr. Jackson, the head-keeper at Sandringham, and conducted on a tour which took two separate visits to complete.
The kennels at Sandringham House were under the supervision of a man named Mr. C. Brundson who, according to Tooley, had been the Queen’s kennelman for fifteen years. He managed more than fifty dogs and kept the kennels in “a great state of perfection.” As Tooley describes:
“Each kennel has an inner compartment as a bedroom, fitted with an iron bedstead and straw mattress. They are well ventilated, with good sanitary arrangements, and are whitewashed once a year. Leading from the bedroom is an open ‘sitting-room,’ supplied with straw and a constant supply of fresh water. Iron gates enclose each kennel from the central yard. Good grass runs are adjacent to the kennels.”
Upon first entering the kennels, Tooley met a “handsome Siberian sledge-dog” who was lodged with his friend, “a little fox-terrier.” From there, she saw:
“…two rough-coated collies and a lovely white Samoyed sledge-dog hailing from the Arctic regions.”
She was next introduced to two “famous” collies named Sandringham Nicety and Newmarket Tip, after which she stopped to admire “three lovely deerhound puppies.” Following that, Tooley met a St. Bernard with “a lovely face and head,” a wolfhound “sent from Russia by the Dowager-Empress,” and—in the very next kennel—Alix the “Russian dog,” the most famous of the Queen’s pets at Sandringham. As Tooley explains:
“‘Alix’ came to Sandringham six years ago, and is quite a champion prize-winner, there being a hundred first and special, seven champions, and six premiers to his credit. He has been painted by Miss Maud Earl, several times photographed with the Queen, and is the most widely known of the Sandringham pets. He is a tall, graceful dog with a white coat and a small head. He is friendly to strangers and has a high-bred and gracious manner. The Queen is very proud of his achievements, and constantly enters him in competitions.”
Leaving Alix’s kennel, Tooley was then shown a litter of Clumber Spaniel puppies and a number of Dachshunds and “Spitz dogs” of which she states “the Queen is very fond.” Her attention was next diverted by a large group of Basset Hounds, among which were prizewinners Saraceneska (aka Nesca), Vivian, Lockey, Sandringham Babel, and Sandringham Bobs. Next, there was a bloodhound, three “saucy fox-terriers,” a black poodle named Gyp belonging to Princess Victoria, and a Schipperke who had been “sent to Queen Alexandra by the King of the Belgians.”
The final dogs on view were the King’s French Bulldogs, a Fox Terrier named Swift, a “little black pug,” and the Prince of Wale’s dog, Heather, who—according to Tooley:
“…looked as though he did not approve of Colonial visits.”
Tooley was next shown to the dog hospital which she describes as:
“…a pleasant room, light and airy, with invalid kennels round one side; but happily there was only one patient, and he did not look very ill.”
In addition to a dog hospital, the kennels at Sandringham had an attached kitchen and larder. The larder contained “sacks of biscuits” and “the best Scotch oatmeal.” While in the kitchen—which was decorated with the portraits of past canine residents—fresh meals were prepared daily. On her tour, Tooley reports seeing:
“…two capacious coppers, in which oatmeal mash and broth made from bullocks’ and sheep’s heads were boiling, ready for dinner at four o’clock.”
Whenever she was at home, Queen Alexandra made a “systematic tour” of the Sandringham kennels at least once each week accompanied by Mr. Brundson. She always wore a “large white apron” and carried baskets filled with cut up bread to hand out as treats. As Tooley describes:
“The Queen opens the door of each kennel herself, and its occupants come rushing out at the sound of her voice; indeed, the previous barking has shown that they know who is approaching even before she speaks. The scene is one of tremendous animation when all the dogs have been liberated, and deerhounds, wolfhounds, terriers, Newfoundlands, Spitz’s, Bassets, and collies come jumping and barking around.”
Though the Queen was devoted to all her dogs, there were a few that she considered her “personal pets.” These pets were generally “small fancy dogs” that the queen could carry under one of her arms. At the time of the article, Queen Alexandra’s personal pets included two Japanese spaniels named Billy and Punchy. Tooley reports:
“[They] travel with her wherever she goes, sleep on silken cushions in her dressing-room, and one or other of them is invariably carried under her arm when she walks.”
Prior to Billy and Punchy, a small, brown and white spaniel named Facey was the Queen’s constant companion and favorite. Artist Luke Fildes painted the two of them together when Alexandra was still the Princess of Wales. This painting (seen at the top of the article) was greatly copied and, according to Tooley, could be seen in many of the homes around Sandringham, as well as “hanging in hospitals and institutions visited by the Queen.”
Dogs in residence at Sandringham could comfortably live out the entirety of their lives in the kennels. As Tooley reports:
“Old favourites live out their lives in peace, and when they die are buried in a little graveyard set apart near the kennels, and a tombstone is erected to their memory.”
Queen Alexandra herself died on November 20, 1925 at the respectable age of 80. To this day, she is remembered for her great love of animals.
This post originally appeared on MimiMatthews.com and is reprinted here with permission.
Top photo: Alexandra of Denmark, Princess of Wales, with her dogs at Sandringham, 1898. (Photo by T. Fall, Baker Street.)
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Mimi Matthews is the author of The Pug Who Bit Napoleon: Animal Tales of the 18th and 19th Centuries and A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and Beauty (Pen and Sword Books, July 2018). Her articles on nineteenth-century history have been published on various academic and history sites, including the Victorian Web and the Journal of Victorian Culture. When not writing historical non-fiction, Mimi authors exquisitely proper historical romance novels. Her debut Victorian romance The Lost Letter can be ordered at Amazon. To learn more, please visit www.MimiMatthews.com.