‘I slaughter [a pet dog] is still plagued by him [Lord Melbourne] every evening – a thing he enjoys very much – and constantly begs for the glasses. I forgot to say that Karl gave me a lovely little Rowley who also lives in the house. The amount of dogs is really terrible! ‘ (Eds. AC Benson & Viscount Esher, The Letters of Queen Victoria, Vol. 1, 1837-1843, 204). The young Queen Victoria wrote to her fiancé Prince Albert on December 15, 1839.
Among this multitude of dogs, a dog that perhaps matched the breed of nine children who later surrounded them – much to her earlier fear of being a mother of the “une nombreuse famille” – these dogs were greatly loved and valued by Queen Victoria because of their camaraderie and their loyalty. The most important of these dogs was her beloved King Charles Spaniel Dash, which she received as a gift in 1833, a year after she started keeping her great diary.
As royal dogs, they were painted, photographed, and sculpted; Queen Victoria has carefully provided for her both life and death. They appear in her portraits and their names fill the Queen’s diaries and albums. I am curious to see if there is anything new to discover about the Queen’s relationship with this dog of her youth; for this dog was central to the Queen’s early life as Princess Victoria in Kensington. He left Kensington Palace with the Queen on her accession to the throne and stayed with her until he died, the year of her marriage to Prince Albert. When Queen Victoria was dying she asked about her beloved Spitz / Pomeranian dog Turi, when she moved she was almost too blind to see the dog properly. Dash had died a little over sixty years ago, but she still asked for a dog in the end.
The first proper mention of Dash is in Princess Victoria’s diary in 1833; She refers to Dash being the devoted dog of her mother, the Duchess of Kent, to whom it was gifted on January 14, 1833 by the auditor of her household, Sir John Conroy. It seems to have made a great impression on the young Victoria when she mentioned him in her diary the next day, because her youthful handwriting shows that she crossed out the word “pretty” and replaced it later in the sentence with the more splendid word “beautiful” Has. The centrality of Dash in Victoria’s life is underscored by the fact that at the time she was experiencing a lonely youth at Kensington Palace, with few but her governess Baroness Louise Lehzen as society, with an almost obsessive interest.
This relative isolation – a respected product of the so-called “Kensington System” advocated by Sir John Conroy – may not have been the total loneliness as her later memoirs later suggested, but it was undoubtedly a lonely existence with the Rough a hundred wooden dolls she made and these ‘friends’, the ‘black bugs’ of Kensington Palace. It is believed that Sir John Conroy gave Princess Victoria the oil painting Dash by the artist George Morley on her birthday in 1833, which now hangs in Kensington Palace. Morley painted Dash again in 1841, apparently a souvenir picture.
Dash therefore became an important, lively companion. His cheerful playfulness is reflected in the early portraits that have come down to us, such as that of Sir George Hayter, painted the year he entered the household in Kensington. The portrait was made for Leopold I, King of the Belgians, and shows Princess Victoria in a Regency evening dress with a rose in her hand. Dash is the spaniel at her feet with her gloves in her mouth, a theme that later recurs often on the dogs of Queen Victoria or Prince Albert, often painted next to the gloves of their royal mistress (or master). . Queen Victoria loved the picture so much that in 1865, shortly before his death, she requested a copy of the photo from King Leopold.
At Christmas 1833, Princess Victoria Dash presented his own presents, including a set of balls and two gingerbread cookies (Elizabeth Longford, Victoria RI, 46). His name then appears frequently in the magazine as “Dear Dashy” (Cecil Woodham-Smith, Queen Victoria: Her Life and Times, 91); and tellingly in capital letters, which in the case of young Victoria usually means a special affection: ‘DEAR SWEET LITTLE DASH’ (Christopher Hibbert, Queen Victoria, 43).
Princess Victoria made numerous pencil studies of Dash, including one in her Sittingbourne hotel, alongside some sketches she had made in Ramsgate of Zephyr, the Italian greyhound that belonged to Miss Victoire Conroy. Many examples seem to come from real life, such as the pencil study of Dash’s head that Victoria made in 1834: “From nature”. We can see from all of these sketches not only an appreciation for Victoria’s amazing talent, but also the fact that Dash must have been in her company all the time, wherever she went. On the way she even drew him with her carriage. We know this from a fragile sketch of five heads of Dash in the Royal Collection that Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Louise appears to have found in one of the Queen’s old textbooks because she commented on it as such. The drawing was made in the carriage when Princess Victoria of St. Leonard’s was traveling back to Kensington: ‘Dear Dashy was in our carriage and acting like a darling’ (Quoted in entry for RCIN 980014). Another early pen sketch shows that he was actually out and about with the princess as part of the royal party – in October 1833 it was fully sketched on board the Emerald during Victoria’s visit to the Isle of Wight in 1833 when she stayed there at Norris Castle . These sketches show Dash in various poses; Victoria’s affection for him is evident. Her diaries are filled with references to him; occasionally she went for walks with him on Hampstead Heath (Hibbert, 43).
Of course, King Charles Spaniels can be seen in some of the court paintings of the famous painter Sir Anthony Van Dyck from the family of Charles I. Queen Victoria once told Dean Stanley, Dean of Westminster, that she regarded Charles II – who is closely related to the eponymous race – as “one of the most attractive of her ancestors” (Antonia Fraser, King Charles II, Xiii).
In the year of her coronation, 1838, the Duchess of Kent presented the young queen with a whip with Dash’s head as the tip and the dog’s letters written in jewels at Christmas, among other things. Two years earlier she had commissioned a magnificent oil-on-panel painting from Dash for Princess Victoria and given it to her the day before her birthday. It had been made by the great animal painter Sir Edwin Landseer. The pink bow that he apparently wore around his neck is wonderfully beautiful. (Princess Victoria used to dress up Dash at Kensington Palace, like many spoiled and adored pets). It remains the most recognizable image of the dog when Dash died before the age of photography was properly established.
He can also be seen in Landseer’s group dog painting at Clarence House showing Dash with the greyhound Nero and the Scottish deer dog Hector and the parrot Lory; we could imagine these dogs in front of the fireplace in the Royal Dining Room at Clarence House, where the painting hangs today, as the tour guide told the current author on a recent group visit. The Queen thought it was “too beautiful”.
When Dash died on Christmas Eve, 1840, the Queen sadly noted the event in her diary and typically followed the entry with a personal reminder – something she constantly did and gave upon the deaths of people she knew, not to mention pets how long she had owned him. Prince Albert brought her the news. This time there were no capital letters, no ‘DASH’. Instead, at the beginning of the year the Queen had written in her diary entry for her wedding day – February 10, 1840 – “MY DEAREST DEAR DEAR Albert”, which showed the emotional shift (Hibbert, 123).
Dash was buried in Adelaide Cottage in Windsor Great Park. We know from the Queen’s diaries that Adelaide Cottage was a popular place to drive for Queen Victoria because she admired the grounds; she even made a watercolor sketch of a spruce tree there. She drove over to Adelaide Cottage before the end of December 1840, although she makes no mention of Dash’s grave, so he was probably not buried there yet. After all, he deserved a marble portrait; as her beloved Scottish collie that Noble later had in Balmoral.
His epitaph is typical of the Queen: “This is where DASH, Her Majesty Queen Victoria’s favorite spaniel, is at the age of 10. His stubbornness was without selfishness, his playfulness without malice, his loyalty without deceit. READERS, if you lived loved and died regretfully, benefit from the example of DASH ‘.