The Dogs of Alexandra of Denmark: A Tour of the Kennels at Sandringham

Portrait of Queen Alexandra, when Princess of Wales, with Facey by Luke Fildes, 1893.
Portrait of Queen Alexandra, when Princess of Wales, with Facey by Luke Fildes, 1893.

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.

Sandringham, Norfolk, 1879.(County Seats of the Noblemen and Gentlemen of Great Britain and Ireland by Francis Morris)
Sandringham, Norfolk, 1879.
(County Seats of the Noblemen and Gentlemen of Great Britain and Ireland by Francis Morris)

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.”

The Queen and Alix.(The Lady's Realm, 1901)
The Queen and Alix.
(The Lady’s Realm, 1901)

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.”

Alix, The Queen's Champion Prize-Winner.( The Lady's Realm, 1901)
Alix, The Queen’s Champion Prize-Winner.
( The Lady’s Realm, 1901)

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.”

The Dog Hospital at Sandringham.(The Lady's Realm, 1901)
The Dog Hospital at Sandringham.
(The Lady’s Realm, 1901)

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.”

Borzois at Sandringham Kennels, 1906.(The Dog Book)
Borzois at Sandringham Kennels, 1906.
(The Dog Book)

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.”

Alexandra of Denmark, Princess of Wales, with her dogs at Sandringham, 1898.(Photo by T. Fall, Baker Street.)
Alexandra of Denmark, Princess of Wales, with her dogs at Sandringham, 1898.
(Photo by T. Fall, Baker Street.)

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:

The Princess of Wales, later Queen Alexandra, with a small dog, 1890s.( Royal Collection Trust)
The Princess of Wales, later Queen Alexandra, with a small dog, 1890s.
( Royal Collection Trust)

“[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.

Alexandra of Denmark with her Pekingese, 1923.
Alexandra of Denmark with her Pekingese, 1923.

Thus concludes another of my Friday features on Animals in Literature and History.  If you are interested in adopting a dog or helping a dog in need, I encourage you to utilize the following links as resources:

The Humane Society of the United States (USA)

Battersea Dogs & Cats Home (UK)

**Authors Note: The article I have referenced from the Lady’s Realm magazine is not limited to Queen Alexandra’s dogs.  It also includes detailed descriptions of all of the other animals residing in the stables, pheasantry, dove house, and kennels at Sandringham House.  I encourage you all to read the article in its entirety.

Mimi Matthews is the author of The Pug Who Bit Napoleon: Animal Tales of the 18th and 19th Centuries (to be released by Pen and Sword Books in November 2017).  She researches and writes on all aspects of nineteenth century history—from animals, art, and etiquette to fashion, beauty, feminism, and law. 

Sources

Dutt, William Alfred.  The King’s homeland: Sandringham and north-west Norfolk.  London: Adam and Charles Black, 1904.

Lehman, Eugene.  Lives of England’s Reigning and Consort Queens.  Bloomington: AuthorHouse, 2011.

Tooley, Sarah A.  “Queen Alexandra’s Pets.”  The Lady’s Realm.  Vol. XI.  1901-1902.


Coming November 2017

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Animal Tales of the 18th and 19th Centuries

From elaborate Victorian cat funerals to a Regency era pony who took a ride in a hot air balloon, Mimi Matthews shares some of the quirkiest and most poignant animal tales of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Find out more…

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12 Comments on "The Dogs of Alexandra of Denmark: A Tour of the Kennels at Sandringham"

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Anine Burlingame
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Never thought I would envy royalty…this might be the time seeing all Alexandra’s pets! She died at 80 1925. The last picture is her at 78!? Wow! Thank you for another wonderful post!

Mimi Matthews
Guest

You’re very welcome, Anine :) Wouldn’t it be great to have all of those dogs? The problem with me is, I’d want to keep them all inside!

Lindsay Downs (@ldowns2966)
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As always a wonderful post. I’m overjoyed to read the Queen Consort took such an active role with her canine friends.

Mimi Matthews
Guest

Thanks so much, Lindsay :) She really did love animals! For that alone, I think she is worth remembering.

Vickie
Guest

I agree – what joy to have so many pets and so well cared for! However – for now I will be happy with our one special pet. Wonderful historical – thank you Mimi

Mimi Matthews
Guest

You’re very welcome :) I agree with you about one special pet. Even with three it’s sometimes hard to give them all the attention they deserve.

Iva P.
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A very enjoyable post, as always. Thank you, Mimi.

Mimi Matthews
Guest

You’re very welcome, Iva :) I’m glad you liked it!

Angelyn
Guest

She was so elegant and attractive, like the Empress Elizabeth of Austria “Sisi” — she excited a little bit of envy among the female in-laws– (I’m thinking of poor Vicky.)

Another perspective: Edwards’ and Pope-Hennessey’s biographies of Mary of Teck, later Queen Mary, are illuminating windows into the strange world of Alexandra and her obsession with collecting a great many things, from animals to knick-knacks.

Mimi Matthews
Guest

She does remind me a bit of Sisi! I hadn’t realized that she collected things other than animals. Thanks for the insight, Angelyn :)

authorangelabell
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I’ve never heard of someone owning so many dogs at once and housing them in such a grand facility, like thoroughbred horses kept in lavish stables. Absolutely amazing! Thanks for sharing! :-)

Mimi Matthews
Guest

You’re very welcome, Angela :) I’m glad you liked it!

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