Article written/researched by Vivienne Peterson BA - First published Dec 2008 - Copyright Protected
left - Queen Victoria with her beloved Turi
As there was great public interest in every aspect of Queen Victoria’s life we are fortunate to have several first hand accounts of the dogs that shared her life. The Queen’s late-life interest in small to medium Spitz dogs, then thought of as Pomeranians, is well recorded. Articles appeared in British newspapers, the New York Times, magazines of the day and various canine periodicals.
During a holiday in Florence – late March to mid April of 1888 – the Queen acquired a foundation stock of Italian or Florentine Spitz dogs also known as Volpino Italiano.
It is important to remember when reading of the Queen’s interest in Pomeranians that the same dogs she favoured are no longer classified as Poms due to the quirks of modern Kennel Club breed designations. If she were alive today eyebrows would be raised at her quest to ‘interbreed’ Italian Volpino and small German Spitz dogs but as this was in line with many other breeders of the era nobody doubted her motifs. Here is some information gleaned from various sources about these dogs.
GENA or GINA – No. 32545 KC Stud Book 1892
Breeder, date of birth and pedigree stated as unknown – this was a very common occurrence in early records. She was lemon and white in colour.
Owner listed as – Her Majesty the Queen’s, Home Park, Windsor. It is reasonable to assume she was born in early 1888.
Gena was incorrectly entered in the Stud Book under ‘dogs’ but it is a matter of public record Gena was a bitch. Her name was also spelt Gena instead of Gina!
Gina was exhibited at the first Crufts and was diplomatically placed equal first with the experienced show dog Rob who later became the first white champion Rob of Rozelle.
Gina weighed 7.5lbs and was referred to in the New York Times as ‘one of the most famous dogs in the world’ and ‘an especial favorite with the Queen’. After noting she came from Italy she is also called a toy Pomeranian. In both the Scotsman (December 1891) and the Stock-keeper a kennel visit by George Krehl was recorded – Gina’s weight of 7.5lbs was noted along with her show wins of two first prizes in February 1891 (at Crufts) this being the first time she was ever exhibited.
Mr G Burgin wrote of ‘little tiny Gena’ that she ‘is one mass of white, silky wool and has the most charming manners’.
BEPPO – No. 35079 KC Stud Book of 1893
Breeder, date of birth and pedigree unknown – however, there is a charming photograph taken in 1888 by George Piner Cartland of Beppo and Lina in a little basket so we can assume he was born a little before March 1888.
Beppo was pure white in colour. He gained a 3rd place at Crufts 1892.
George Krehl wrote that Beppo was ‘wonderfully true to the correct Spitz type’. He added that Beppo was’ a very handsome white Spitz, with just one lemon patch by the eye’ and’ ‘he has a black nose, which none of the other have, theirs being brown, taking after their body colour’.
G. Burgin recorded his antics when the illustrator Jessop attempted to sketch him at the Home Park kennel – when they tried to get his attention by shaking keys his tail promptly went between his legs and it was not until his friend ‘Rona’ was brought in that he settled for his portrait - included on this page.
LINA – photographed in 1888 with Beppo as a puppy appears to have been unshown. She was bred to Marco and produced a litter of 2 on July 27th 1891. Lula and Mina were shown at Crufts in 1892 – Lula placing higher than Mina. Both offspring were fawn coloured.
LENDA – was recorded in the Scotsman as being 6 months younger than Gina, making her first public appearance at the Kennel Club show in April 1891 placing second to the Queen’s dog Marco. Lenda was a buff colour and had a white blaze ‘up her face’ and a ‘speck of white on her neck’. Lenda was thought to have ‘the best tail in shape and carriage’ of the Queen’s dogs. She had a very foxy head and her breeching or culottes ‘ the dense, long fluffy coat which stands out on the thighs’ was considered to be ‘ particularly full and handsome on Lenda’.
Lenda was bred to Marco and produced two puppies August 4th 1889. Nino was a ‘deeper tinge of brown’ and was noted to be ‘higher on leg than the others, not compact enough in build, nor is his expression so pleasing: still he attained third honours at the Kennel Club show’ (presumably in April 1891). His litter sister Fluffy had more success a winning first place in two classes. She was registered as lemon and white and is described as being ‘ a wee little thing, the smallest of the team’.
Fluffy’s small size was her downfall, when bred to CH Ruffle - left photo - (of Volpino x Toy German Spitz breeding), sadly both she and her puppies all died in whelping!
Lenda was also the dam of the red coloured Alfio (by Windsor Marco) born February 12th 1892. He was 1st at Crufts in a puppy class in 1894.
MARCO – no description of him is necessary in this article as he was a German Spitz – this fact was noted at the time and has since been re-confirmed by German breed experts. The Queen also owned (by 1893) ‘a beautiful little black’ called Zeela.
A general comment about the ‘type’ of the Queen’s ‘Poms’ was given after a kennel visit. ‘ They have a long thick coat that seems to stand out from the body, a tail which curls tightly over and lies close to the back, a foxy head, small erect ears, rather short legs, short back, and a generally square and thick set appearance, in spite of which they are as active as kittens’.
The Queen obtained her last favourite Turi in 1893 (photo at top of left of page). He is in numerous photographs with the Queen. Turi was the last of her pets to see their mistress alive. The Queen rallied for a short while on the day before her death and after reassurance she was a little better asked ‘then may I have Turi?’ She died on January 22nd 1901. The Duchess of Albany adopted Turi soon afterwards.
NOTE – My research has yet to reveal any evidence the Queen shared her stock with any other breeder of the day.