The Top Ten Tudor Dog Stories

The Top Ten Tudor Dog Stories

King Henry VII and his court. Courtesy of the British Library Manuscript Collection.

King Henry VII and his court. Courtesy of the British Library Manuscript Collection.

For centuries monarch and dog have strode side by side through history. Dogs were often incorporated into paintings of the monarchs. Hunting dogs were favorites, but many dogs of all shapes and sizes were kept as pets by the royals and their children. Today, the Queen has her corgis. Prince Charles has his Labradors. William and Kate have Lupo. Just so, dogs were very much a part of life at Tudor Court. We present ten little-known dog stories from Tudor times.

1.  It was not unusual for Robert Dudley to annoy Elizabeth I and to receive the rough side of her tongue as a result. On one occasion, when he was exhibiting a degree of pomposity she found objectionable, she told him that he was no more important than her placid little lap dog, Pericola, (a twist and a joke on the Latin word Periculum).  Like Pericola, when people saw Dudley they knew the Queen was somewhere nearby.

2. Elizabeth I was very fond of her dogs. She had a pair of miniature beagles, one of whom enjoyed being allowed to ride in her sleeves. In one of the most delightful portraits of her (the one called The Wanstead or Welbeck Portrait) a small, fluffy dog is sitting at her feet.

3. Queen Mary Tudor was also a dog lover. There are several small dogs in a portrait of Mary and King Phillip – there seems to be some disagreement about whether they are miniature spaniels or miniature Italian Greyhounds.

4. According to history, young Edward VI, showed no emotion when he signed his Uncle Thomas Seymour’s death warrant. This coldness may be the result that Seymour shot Edward’s favorite dog to death during Seymour’s botched kidnapping attempt of Edward. Payback can be merciless.

5. Could a small dog have derailed Henry VIII’s desire to divorce his wife? Cardinal Wolsey had a “whoops” moment during his audience with the Pope beseeching him to grant Henry’s divorce. His dog, Urion, bit the Pope on the toe. The Pope was not amused. There was no divorce from Rome.

6. Henry VIII lived in fear of his young son catching an illness and dying. Henry insisted his children’s surroundings be immaculately clean and scrubbed at least once a day. Henry, therefore, banned all dogs to the royal kennels, except ladies’ lap dogs “of whom they are exceedingly fond.

7. Henry VIII had large numbers of hunting dogs and dogs for retrieving ducks and geese. He would often send some of his dogs to other monarchs as a goodwill gesture. He also favored small spaniels as companion dogs. A number of dog collars (some in precious metal with jewels and others of velvet and soft kid) were found in his room after his death along with a quantity of dog leads.

8. Ardent Protestant reformer, Katherine Willoughby, was Charles Brandon’s last wife and a friend of Katherine Parr. She took great delight in dubbing her favorite dog, “Gardiner” after the conservative Bishop Stephen Gardiner. She dressed the dog in ecclesiastical garb to the vast amusement of her ladies-in-waiting.

9. Mary Queen of Scots had several lap dogs. Her favorite was a small white Skye terrier. After Mary’s executioner had finished his grisly work, this small blood soaked dog emerged from beneath his mistress’s skirts. It is alleged that despite much coddling by Mary’s remaining ladies, the poor creature pined away and died shortly thereafter.

10. Like most monarchs of the time, Henry VII kept a pack of large mastiffs (and other large fighting breeds) to be used in bear baiting and other blood sports. On one occasion, he had some of his dogs released into a lion cage, fully expecting the lion to make short work of the dogs. To the King’s fury, it was not the lion that prevailed, but the dogs. Henry ordered that the dogs be hanged for treason. His reasoning? The lion is the king of the beasts and the dogs being a lower order of beast had committed treason by killing their king.  The dogs were hanged. He also intended this to be a salutary lesson for any human who might be inclined to commit a similar treason.

 

Do you have a favorite royal dog story? Comment below to let us know.

 

 

 

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