Today is the anniversary of Queen Victoria's birth almost 200 years
ago in 1819. She is best remembered for ushering in the stiff and repressive
"Victorian Era," and for being the longest reigning monarch in British
history. She was also a tender and loving woman with a number of pets
she treasured dearly. Her love of animals even helped her emotionally
after the death of her husband, Prince Albert.
Victoria's childhood had been a lonely and repressive one due to the overbearing control of her mother. One of the few bright spots of her existence was the love and companionship of her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Dash. The dog was a gift in 1833 by Sir John Conroy, her mother's comptroller and rumored lover in an attempt to win her favor. The dog won her favor, but Conroy did not.
It was Albert playing with Dash that won her heart and led to their marriage in 1840. Dash passed away the same year. During the same years Victoria also had the acquaintance of Nero, a greyhound, and Hector, a large Mastiff. When Albert moved to England he brought a greyhound named Eos from Germany. The couple also owned a parrot named Lory.
Upon her accession to the throne in 1837, the Shah of Iran presented her with a pair of Tibetan goats from which a royal goat herd was established at Windsor Castle. Goats from this herd went on to become regimental mascots for such units as the Royal Welch Fusiliers.
King Victor Emmanuel was also known to have gifted her with a pair of Shetland ponies (Alma and Flora). She also had a Sardinian pony named Picco and a donkey named Jacquot.
As most royals before and since, Victoria was a horsewoman and would ride regularly. After the death of her beloved Albert she fell into a great depression and a prolonged period of mourning. A Scottish gillie by the name of John Brown at Balmoral Castle was employed to bring her out of her funk. The story goes that his tactic of choice was to prepare her horse daily at the time she had previously always gone for a ride. While Victoria never truly recovered from the loss of Albert, the horse helped bring her back around to a more normal life. A controversy remains to this day of just how much John Brown himself brought back her interest in life. This speculation resulted in the 1997 feature film Mrs. Brown.
Victoria had a lifelong passion for preventing cruelty to animals. She had the power to release prisoners throughout her realm, something that was often done during her jubilees. The one type of prisoner she ever refused to pardon were those convicted of cruelty to animals.
The biggest love of Victoria's life appears to be her dogs. From a diary entry on the day of her coronation as Queen of England that stated that she came home and gave Dash a bath, through various collies, terriers, greyhounds, and Pomeranians, and to her final breath she loved her dogs.
As she lay dying in January of 1901 at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, one of her last requests was to have Turri, her favorite Pomeranian, placed beside her on the bed. She was a dog lover to the last.