≈ The February wind blows keenly, as we lean from the window of our railway carriage, and watch dismantled house-boats, drawn up on the river bank just outside Windsor, being prepared for the forthcoming season. Some Eton boys—it is evidently a holiday—stand looking on with lively interest. Several people get out of the train, walk into the quaint old-fashioned street, and disappear. We follow them, charter a hansom, and are driven along a picturesque road in the direction of the late Prince Consort’s Shaw Farm. This road is almost deserted, save for half-a-dozen cavalrymen who come riding down it, their brilliant red uniforms lighting up the dull air through which the sunlight vainly endeavours to struggle. Their horses are bespattered with mud; there is mud everywhere—a thick, glutinous mud; but when we enter the precincts of the Shaw Farm everything gives place to an ordered and dainty neatness which is thoroughly characteristic of the Royal domains.
≈ We are received by Mr. W. Tait, the Queen’s Land Steward at Windsor, whose handsome stalwart figure is so well known to all leading agriculturists, and conducted to a natty little office decorated with water-colour drawings of prize cattle, and various other reminiscences of past triumphs. Mr. Tait’s drawing-room, in common with those of his confrères at Windsor, is embellished by various signed portraits of Her Majesty and the Royal family.
≈ From here, we cross the road and enter a stable where two beautiful old grey carriage horses are being prepared by one of the farm hands for our inspection, to a continuous accompaniment of sibilant ostler language. They have evidently been running wild in the park for some time; each white coat is stained with mud, and burrs stick tenaciously to their long tails. An attendant at the farm is rubbing them down, talking to them, and making them generally presentable. He is evidently on good terms with his charges, for one playfully nibbles his broad back, whilst the other tries to steal his red pocket-handkerchief. “Flora” and “Alma” were presented to Her Majesty by the late King Victor Emanuel of Italy. They are about fourteen hands high, tremendously powerful, and beautifully shaped. One of them has also been used to draw the Queen’s chair about the grounds; but they are both now regarded as honoured pensioners, and do no work at all.
≈ The kindliness and affection with which Her Majesty speaks of favourite animals in her various writings may well assure us that in the midst of state and family cares, manifold though they be, her old pets, even after death, are not forgotten. Of this we have evidence later on.
≈ The next shed to that of the old greys is occupied by a magnificent chestnut charger over seventeen hands high, once the property of the late Emperor Frederic of Germany. In appearance, this charger is as fresh and vigorous as a horse of five. It was given by the Emperor to Prince Christian, who rode it for four years. The charger has a sprightly, though somewhat incongruous, companion in the shape of “Ninette,” a little white donkey which was purchased at Grasse by Her Majesty, and presented to the Princess Victoria of Connaught, for whose use it is now being broken in. Directly the donkey is taken out of the stable for educational purposes, the charger becomes restless and unhappy, races round the paddock attached to his loose box in evident distress, and refuses to be comforted until his beautiful little companion returns. Then he playfully nibbles her back, joyfully flings up his heels, and careers wildly round the paddock, neighing shrilly as he goes, his long tail floating in the breeze. What will happen when “Ninette” leaves her companion it is difficult to say. At present she takes little notice of this exuberant display of affection, beyond running beneath the charger’s belly, and playfully trying to plant her tiny heels in his lofty side. When they have been twice round the paddock, “Ninette” plodding gamely on, a long way in the rear, the couple halt at the shed entrance, and look at us with exuberant curiosity, the donkey’s long ears shooting backwards and forwards with great rapidity.
≈ After inspecting this somewhat incongruous couple, we are taken to another stable to see “Jenny,” a white donkey, twenty-five years old. “Jenny” belongs to the Queen, and was bred at Virginia Water. Her Majesty saw “Jenny” when she was a foal, had her brought to Windsor and trained, and there the docile old animal has remained ever since. She is pure white in colour, with large, light, expressive grey eyes. One peculiarity about her is an enormous flat back, soft and almost as wide as a moderate-sized feather bed. A handsome chestnut foal is temporarily quartered with her. This foal was bred from a mare belonging to the late Mr. John Brown, and promises to grow into a very beautiful animal.
≈ "Jenny,” although rather reserved, affably condescends to partake of a biscuit, pensively twitching her long ears after us as we depart along the road leading to the Royal dairy. As we leave the trimly built and picturesque outbuildings there is a brave burst of sunshine; chaffinches “chink-chink” in the trees around, producing a sharp, clear sound as if two pebbles were struck against each other; rooks sail majestically overhead, their sentinels, posted in the trees around, giving notice of our approach; and the pale petals of a rathe primrose gleam shyly out from a sheltering hedge. [Pg 246]The park is filled with Scotch cattle with beautiful heads and matted, shaggy hides. In the next paddock a handsome Jersey cow thrusts her head over the intervening rails and licks the shaggy frontlet of a small dun bull, who gives a gentle low of satisfaction, and endeavours to follow us as we pass through the gate in the direction of the Queen’s dairy. At this section of the farm, in the buildings, we find “Tewfik,” a very fine white Egyptian donkey, with large black eyes and tremendous ears.
≈ He is one of those enormous asses which are so greatly esteemed in the East for their powers of endurance. It is a curious fact that a donkey of this kind will do as much work as a horse, last twice the time on a long march, and never break down. “Tewfik” was purchased by Lord Wolseley in Cairo, and sent to England, gay with magnificent Oriental trappings, and clipped all over in most extraordinary patterns, resembling Greek architectural ornaments. These patterns are a source of great trouble to the unsophisticated traveller in the East. He learns one side of his donkey by heart, and never thinks of looking at the other; consequently, when he sees the hitherto unknown side of the animal, he is inclined to think that some wight has been playing a practical joke, and substituted a different beast for the one he has bestridden. “Tewfik” was much admired at the Jubilee Agricultural Show in Windsor Great Park, and seems really a very amiable, well-mannered, aristocratic animal. He is delighted to see us, and prefers sweet biscuits to plain. Indeed, it is with regret that he watches us depart. His long mobile ears shoot out from the stable door as he endeavours to follow us into the box of his neighbour, a dainty Shetland pony, some three feet six inches high, which is usually known as “The Skewbald.”
≈ This diminutive little lady welcomes us in the most charming manner, and is as frolicsome as a kitten, romping about and playing all sorts of tricks. Her mission in life, besides being everyone’s pet, is to draw a small two-wheeled cart for Her Majesty’s grandchildren. The dainty, trim, little brown-and-white beauty possesses enormous strength, and takes existence very philosophically. The first time she was put into harness she acted as if she had been accustomed to it all her life, and never required the slightest breaking in. There is another Shetland pony in one of the neighbouring paddocks, but she is dark brown in colour, and, with her long-flowing mane and tail, looks like a miniature carthorse. Like most of Her Majesty’s animals, she is fond of society, and objects to be separated from a large handsome grey donkey which was bought on one of the Continental journeys, and now occupies the same paddock as the Shetland. In order to take the pony’s portrait comfortably, it was found necessary to invite the donkey to be present as a spectator.
≈ The next pet to be inspected is an animal which most people would prefer to cultivate at a distance, being none other than the enormous bison named “Jack,” a magnificent specimen of his race, who was obtained in exchange from the Zoological Society. The Canadian grew savage, and had to be sent away. “Jack,” in spite of his immense strength, is of a very peaceful, almost timorous, disposition. Strictly speaking, he can hardly be called a pet, as the artist prudently takes his likeness from behind a high wall. All friendly overtures to this last of his race are vain. He remains pensively gazing at the opposite wall, a tear trickling down his broad nose. Even the joyful bellow of his next-door neighbour, a half-grown Jersey bull, fails to attract his attention, although the animal, as it recognises its keeper’s step, climbs half over the wall to be fondled.
≈ Here we must not pass without examination some most beautiful little Jersey calves with silky coats and great wondering eyes, which look as if the world was a charming mystery to them.
≈ In the next stall to the Jersey bull stands an eccentric-looking little animal called “Sanger,” a pony presented to Her Majesty by the well-known circus proprietor of that name. “Sanger” is now nine months old. This strange little animal’s breed is practically unknown, and his appearance most eccentric; indeed, his legs show a tendency to stride to all points of the compass. In colour he is cream; his eyes are grey, with pink lids; and he has white eyelashes like an albino. His manners are not demonstrative, but coldly courteous.
≈ Attention may also be called to some magnificent red Spanish cattle, whose noble heads and gigantic horns are in themselves a study for the artist.
≈ It should be mentioned here that when Her Majesty drives through the private road which leads from the Castle past the kennels and dairy to the Shaw Farm, she likes to see the animals as they come up to the railings, and is thus able to observe how former favourites bear the burden of their years. The Queen names most of them herself, and never forgets an old friend.
≈ Before going on to the kennels, by permission of the courteous manageress, we enter the beautiful Royal dairy, which was built under the direction of His Royal Highness the late Prince Consort in the twenty-first year of Her Majesty’s reign. It is more like an apartment in fairyland than a dairy. The walls and ceiling are composed of exquisitely shaded Minton tiles, the dairy itself being about forty-five feet long and thirty wide. Long marble tables run right round the sides and up the centre. On these tables are some 90 white earthenware pans, each of which contains about seven quarts of milk. The butter is sent to Osborne every day, and averages about twenty pounds weight in winter and forty in summer. A small supply for the Queen’s own breakfast table is also made in a special churn every morning.
≈ Around the walls of the dairy are medallions of the Royal family, with the monogram V.R. between. At each end of the dairy stands a beautiful fountain; there is also one at the side. All these fountains came from the Exhibition of 1851; the design is a stork supporting a lily leaf into which the water falls. The roof is supported by three pairs of arched pillars, and the windows are double, the inner set being stained with designs of Tudor roses, hawthorn, primroses, white marguerites, the rose, shamrock, thistle, and Scotch harebell. The outer windows are plain glass. Beyond the glass is another window of wire gauze, so minute that in hot weather both windows can be thrown open to admit the air, and yet all intrusive insects kept at a distance. The Royal herd generally consists of about fifty cows when they are all in milk, principally shorthorns and Jerseys, twenty-five of each. Last year there were fifty-four cows in milk, but the number usually averages about fifty.
≈ The recesses in the dairy walls are filled with lovely old Crown Derby and Worcester, together with a few Oriental china plates and dishes. There is also a dish bearing the inscription, “Chamberlain, Worcester, Manufacturer to His Royal Highness the Prince Regent.” Close to the dairy, stands an apartment devoted to churns and huge milk-cans. Each milk-can bears the following inscription on the top:—
≈ After exhausting the wonders of the Royal dairy, we pass out into the sunshine once more, but, before leaving the shrubbery, notice two little monuments to the memory of long-deceased favourites, the inscriptions on which are as follows:
Died February 20, 1862, Aged five years.
The favourite Scottish terrier of the Duchess of Kent, to whom he had been given in 1857 by the Queen and Prince Consort. On March 16, 1861, he was taken back, and from that time till he died, Oct. 26, 1864, remained the faithful dog of the Queen.
≈ Surely, two touching and blameless little records!
≈ Leaving these pets to their well-earned rest, we walk along the trimly-kept private road leading to the Royal kennels. Here, when Her Majesty drives along, she can see the Spanish oxen and other pets as they come up to the railings and peer curiously over, the long horns of the oxen especially making a formidable show which is entirely belied by their peaceful disposition.
≈ At the Royal kennels we are received by Mr. Hugh Brown, the manager, and his able assistant, Mr. Hill, and shown into the apartment which is sometimes occupied by Her Majesty when visiting the kennels. It is a quaint, medium-sized room, with old oak rafters and oak furniture, comfortable chairs and foot-rests predominating. The curtains are a warm, deep red, the carpet to match, and a couple of little oak tables occupy the centre of the room. But the unique feature about this apartment is the number of dog portraits on the walls.
≈ There are dogs of every race, shape and colour; dogs large and small; dogs lying down or standing up; dogs in oils; dogs in watercolours; all of them labelled with the animal’s name and the artist who painted it. One or two special favourites have a lock of their hair let into the woodwork of the frame.
≈ Outside, the tiled walk called the “Queen’s Verandah” is covered over as a protection against the weather. Her Majesty is accustomed to walk up and down here, and inspect the various occupants. There are several dogs in every compartment. Each front yard measures ten feet by twelve; the sleeping compartment is ten feet by ten. The wall in front stands nearly three feet high, and has a rail on the top. Each yard is paved with red and blue tiles. In the sleeping compartments, which are warmed by hot-water pipes, are benches raised about a foot from the ground. Facing the “Collie Court,” as it is called, is a large paddock which contains the bath—a curious aperture in the ground, with sloping sides, so that a dog can run down, swim through the middle, and walk up again on the other side. The sides of this bath are lined with little round stones. There is also an umbrella-shaped structure of wood, under which the dogs can lie and sun themselves after the bath. Near the road is a curious looking seat called “The Apron Piece,” with a railing in front. The Queen sometimes sits here and watches the gambols of the dogs when they are let loose in the paddock.
≈ There does not appear to be any hard and fast rule as to the housing of the dogs. It all depends how they agree with each other. For instance, in one compartment will be found a collie, Spitz, and dachshund; in the next, three Spitzes and a pug; then two Skye terriers, three pugs, one dachshund; then two lovely white collies; then one solitary collie whose coat is out of order, and who comes up with big, beseeching eyes, as if imploring us to put an end to her solitude. The most attractive sight is, of course, the twelve or thirteen beautiful collies in one big compartment. In all there are about fifty-five dogs, fifty-four of whom are in robust health, the hospital containing one whippet. A beautiful little black Pomeranian “Zeela” inhabits a huge cage in solitary state, and barks herself all over it at once. In the paddock outside her cage are four beautiful black and tan collie pups, all eager for a romp.
≈ Every dog in the Queen’s kennels is exercised twice a day, morning and afternoon. The little dogs generally go out first, and then give place to the big ones. Feeding time for the whole establishment is four o’clock in the afternoon, but during very cold weather each animal is given some dry biscuit every morning. The food is prepared in a kitchen reserved expressly for this purpose, and consists of soaked biscuits, vegetables, meat, bullock’s head, pluck, and sometimes a little beef. Oatmeal is also added to this olla podrida. The dogs are all in hard condition, and look the picture of health. It is difficult to tear oneself away from the collies, especially the two lovely white ones and the little buff-coated Pomeranians, with tightly curling tails and small, sharp ears.
≈ On one of the artist’s visits, “Beppo,” a white Pomeranian, was brought out to have his portrait taken. Dog-like, he at once pretended, when required to sit still, that it was an excessively difficult operation causing great physical discomfort. Talking did not interest him, shaking of keys and rolling of coppers had lost their charm; in fact, tail between legs, he voted existence a mistake. Just then, up strolled dear little “Rona,” and with bright intelligent eyes seemingly enquired into the matter. In a few seconds everything was put right again. The sun once more shone, and the portrait was taken. Surely, these little Skyes are the most lovable and intelligent of all dogs. To any one who has read “Rab and his Friends,” however, such a remark is unnecessary.
The late Prince Consort’s favourite dogs were dachshunds, a specimen of which invariably accompanied him on his walks. The Prince of Wales favours the odd-looking bassets, of which he has many fine specimens.
≈ It is related of “Sharp” that he was greatly attached to the late Mr. John Brown, whose room he jealously guarded. If, by chance, strangers entered during Mr. Brown’s absence they were not allowed to leave until his return, and under no circumstances must anything be taken from the room while “Sharp” was on guard. A housemaid, indeed, once picked up some little article with the intention of putting it on the table, and the dog, although he knew her well, refused to allow her to leave the room.
≈ In noticing the display of prize certificates won by the dogs, we hear of another instance of Her Majesty’s thoughtfulness for her pets. Although frequently exhibited for the pleasure of her subjects, they are never allowed to pass the night from home, being taken to and from the place of exhibition each day by their careful guardians, Messrs. Brown and Hill.
≈ After an inspection of the well-kept stud-book, we at last turn to leave the happy scene, a process viewed, evidently, with much relief by a funny little, black-faced pug, to whom our presence and proceedings throughout have seemingly caused the greatest astonishment. But we have still Her Majesty’s pets at the stables to look at before returning to town, so we walk blithely down Herne’s Walk toward the Castle, putting up a huge hare, who leisurely retreats as if feeling secure within the Royal precincts. As we go down the walk, we notice a comparatively juvenile-looking tree in marked contrast to the giants around. At its foot is the following inscription:—
There is an old tale goes that Herne the Hunter,
Some time a keeper here in Windsor Forest,
Doth all the winter time at still midnight
Walk round about an oak.
≈ Next door to the harness-room is a huge coach-house containing the Queen’s carriages, among them being a landau, sociable, driving landau, waggonette, and a driving phaeton with curtains, which was much used by the late Prince Consort. In one corner is a covered perambulator belonging to Her Majesty’s grandchildren, and close to it stands the vehicle which is generally known as “the Queen’s Chair,” although it is in reality a little four-wheeled carriage, with rubber tyres, and a low step, the interior lining and cushions being a plain dark blue in colour.
≈ In an adjoining paddock stands a nice, pleasant-looking grey donkey, who munches an apple philosophically while having his portrait drawn. He is a great favourite, the son of Egyptian “Tewfik,” and takes his share of garden work and in carrying the Queen’s grandchildren. The adjoining stable contains eighteen harness horses, most of them grey. The stables themselves are beautifully kept, one groom being generally allowed to every two horses. At the edge of each stall is an artistically plaited border of straw. Close by is the riding school, a handsome building sixty-three yards in length and eighteen yards wide. The roof is supported on handsome oak brackets; at one end is a balcony where it is said Her Majesty and the late Prince Consort were accustomed to sit and watch the horses being exercised. In this gallery are medallions of favourite horses, the frames containing locks of their hair. The riding school is lit with gas, and the lower part of the walls lined with kamptulicon, which never wears out, and prevents a horse being much injured should he by any chance kick or fall against it. The centre of the tan-covered floor is occupied by a mounting block.
≈ In a solitary loose box, warmly wrapped in rugs, her own natural coat being like very thick, soft, black plush, placidly stands “Jessie,” the Queen’s favourite old riding-mare. With her splendid coat, silky mane and tail, lofty crest, and soft mild eyes, she looks indeed worthy of her Royal mistress. “Jessie’s” pedigree is unknown to us, but she was bred near Balmoral. She is about fifteen hands three inches in height, black as a coal, and with peculiar white markings on forehead and back. She is now twenty-six or twenty-seven years old, and, until within the last twelve months, has carried Her Majesty for many years. The Queen is very fond of “Jessie,” who, although now, from old age, past work, is invariably sent to the Castle for inspection when Her Majesty is at Windsor.
≈ In another carriage-house is a vehicle replete with historical and pathetic interest. This is none other than the post-chaise in which Her Majesty and the late Prince Consort travelled all through Germany about seven years after their marriage. It is fitted up with a writing-case, and all sorts of conveniences, and hung on C springs.
≈ The cheerful tap-tap of a hammer, and a keen, pungent scent as of something burning, warn us that we are in the vicinity of the Royal smithy. A handsome grey carriage-horse is being shod, one hoof doubled up between the farrier’s legs, as that worthy, with quick taps, drives in a long nail, and makes the shoe fast.
≈ The Royal mews, which were built in 1841, cover a space of no less than four acres of ground, and, together with those at Buckingham Palace, are under the able supervision of Colonel Sir George Maude, K.C.B., R.A., &etc., who also purchases most of Her Majesty’s horses. It is no light testimonial to the care of their management when we hear that, although sometimes as many as one hundred horses are accommodated at Windsor, the veterinary surgeon’s account only amounts for the year to a most insignificant sum.
≈ We cannot take our leave, for the present, of the Royal pets without again returning our hearty thanks to all with whom we have been brought in contact, for their kindness, courtesy, and desire to assist us in our mission. To all loyal subjects who wish to see a model of a good Queen's home we can give no better advice than to go to Royal Windsor.
≈ (The Editors of The Idler return their most sincere thanks to General Sir Henry Ponsonby, G.C.B., &etc., & etc., for his kind correction and revision of the above article.
The Idler Magazine, Volume III, April 1893, by Various
No. 1.-THE QUEEN'S ANIMALS.
By G. B. Burgin and E. M. Jessop.
Illustrations by E. M. Jessop.