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‘Royal dogs’ exhibition
The Kennel Club, Clarges Street, London until July 14th

The Princess Royal casts her eye over the pastel of ‘Susan’, the foundation bitch for the Queen’s line of Corgis, at the official opening of the KC's latest art exhibition, ‘Royal Dogs’

It seems like only ‘yesterday’ that The Kennel Club opened their very own Art Gallery at Clarges Street and here they are holding their ninth exhibition, writes Paul Keevil. ‘Royal Dogs’ is a display of art and artifacts to celebrate the 80th birthday of Her Majesty The Queen, patron of The Kennel Club.

The exhibition was officially opened on Tuesday 16th May by Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal and, on the following day, May 17th, the KC held a private viewing and champagne reception for members of the General Committee and other selected guests.

The Princess Royal, (or Princess Anne as so many still think of her) was fascinated by the exhibition, indeed her ‘escorts’ had great trouble in dragging her away from the gallery, in order to chair a meeting in the Board Room of The Animal Health Trust, of which she is a keen supporter. Before she left the gallery, she was presented with a commemorative split pedigree book containing every dog ever registered at The Kennel Club by The Queen, with a request to pass it on the Her Majesty with the compliments of the KC.

But what of the exhibition itself? Well, it contains 14 paintings or works of art, a considerable number of photographs, and even a medal won by ‘Windsor Marco’, one of Queen Victoria’s favourite dogs, in 1891.

Naturally there are many Corgi exhibits and this is an exhibition not to be missed by breed enthusiasts. The Queen’s first ever Corgi ‘Dookie’ is represented by the original artwork by Lucy Dawson (1877-1958) for a Royal Christmas card. The pastel came on to the market about 10 years ago and was originally unsold by Phillips but is now owned by the Welsh Corgi League, together with an example of the card.

The two gems of the exhibition were as far as I was concerned two pastel studies by little known artist Marjorie Porter. These show the Queen’s Corgis ‘Susan’ and ‘Sugar’. ‘Susan’ was the Queen’s foundation bitch, indeed many of her dogs of today are directly descended from this bitch. ‘Sugar’ was out of ‘Susan’s first litter born in 1949 and was said to be a great favourite of Prince Charles. She was mated to Rozavel Rebellion and in December 1955 produced two puppies, ‘Whisky’ and ‘Sherry’, who were given to Princess Anne and Prince Charles as Christmas presents. These dogs were indeed for life and not just for Christmas and became life long companions for the young royals.

Marjorie Porter is listed as having exhibited between 1935-40, but both these portraits from the Royal Collection are dated 1957. No doubt the artist’s address of Fakenham, which is just a stone’s throw from the Royal residence of Sandringham, contributed to her getting these prestigious commissions.

The American Kennel Club lent a Maud Earl (1864-1943) painting titled ‘Silent Sorrow’, showing King Edward VII’s Fox Terrier, ‘Caesar’ (of Notts), bred by Kathleen, Duchess of Newcastle. Upon the death of the King, Caesar became inconsolable and refused to eat. He managed to find his way into the King’s bedroom, where Queen Alexandra found him, hidden under the bed, shaking.

Queen Alexandra (then the Queen Mother) cared for the dog and arranged for him to take part in the funeral procession, where he captured the hearts of the nation on mourning the death of his master. The painting dated 1910 shows Caesar, with his head mournfully rested on the king’s favourite chair, which is portrayed very subtly disappearing into the distance, being almost symbolic of the loss of the late King.

It is obvious to me that it would not have been possible to have staged such an exhibition without the close co-operation of ‘the Palace’. However as is usual in these matters, Royal protocol is such that co-operation, in what ever form it may take, must go unmentioned. Our Royal Family have been dog lovers for generations and our Queen has been breeding Corgis since 1949, making her one of this country’s most experienced Corgi breeders.

The fact that The Kennel Club and the Royal Household have enjoyed a cordial relationship over the years no doubt also helped procure the loan of so many items, not normally seen on public display. The American Kennel Club and The Welsh Corgi League also loaned items for this exhibition. The exhibition serves to show how very much dogs are valued not only by royalty but by dog lovers everywhere.

‘Royal Dogs’ runs till 14th July 2006 and is open Monday - Friday 9.30am - 4.30pm by appointment. Admission: £2.50 To view the current exhibition please contact: The Kennel Club Art Gallery, 1-5 Clarges Street, Piccadilly, London W1J 8AB.Tel: 020 7518 1009 E-mail: