King Edward VII succeeded Queen Victoria to the British throne in 1900. He proved a wise and popular ruler with a knack of solving various political conundrums.
In 1902 his dog Jack choked to death while crunching a bone too big for him.
In 1898, in the kennels of Kathleen, Duchess of Newcastle, a litter of wire-haired fox terriers fathered by “Cackler of Notts” were born. One of these was Caesar.
Most of us know a dog is man’s best friend and sticks with him through the good and bad times without criticizing or complaining. King Edward VII was no exception.
Caesar would always get very excited to see the King and would jump up and down while the King exclaimed “Do you like your old master, then?”
He became like a son to the elderly King and thus got away with behaving rather badly.
Like many of his kind in less palatial households, the terrier considered other animals to be inferior and there to exist for his hunting pleasure. His activities got the King in a spot of bother on a few occasions. With a royal sense of entitlement he killed a rabbit or two belonging to Lord Redesdale’s daughters, and on another memorable occasion escaped while in Marienbad (now in the Czech Republic) and bolted after a group of peafowls, their feathers scattering in all directions as they fled from this little British upstart.
When he was naughty, the King would shake his walking stick at him while saying “naughty dog” in a firm voice.
A special footman, clearly a dog lover, was allocated to attend to his grooming, poop scooping and other day to day needs.
Caesar slept on an easy chair next to the King’s bed and also had a place to recline next to the King’s throne while he discussed weighty matters of state with assorted dignitaries.
Unlike her husband Queen Alexandra didn’t fall for Caesar’s charms at first. She considered his misdeeds very un-Royal and gave him the cold shoulder.
Though not strikingly handsome in appearance, Caesar was special and knew it. He wore a suitably blingy Faberge collar with the inscription “I am Caesar. I belong to the King.”
The King always ordered models of his favourite dogs and racehorses from this august firm. The model of Caesar was manufactured from chalcedony, rubies, enamel and gold and showed him wearing his collar. It only arrived after the King’s death. Dame Margaret Greville bought it and presented it to the Queen.
In 1910 the Queen left for Corfu to visit her brother, King George I of Greece. While there she received the distressing news that Edward had been taken seriously ill and rushed home, arriving on the 5 May. During his last hours she personally attended to his needs, and gave him oxygen from a cylinder in order to assist his breathing.
When the King passed away on 6 May, Caesar refused to eat and spent his time whining pitifully outside the king’s bedroom. He sneaked in where Queen Alexandra found him hiding under the royal bed, trembling. She completely changed her attitude to him. They had both lost someone dear to them and were thus able to lighten each others’ load. She got Caesar to start eating again.
Apart from the Queen, Caesar was officially the chief mourner and led the funeral procession. A kilted Highland soldier led the little fellow on his leash as they walked behind the coffin and ahead of nine kings and numerous other leaders from across the globe.
As the funeral procession would through the streets from Westminster and through central London thousands of people lined the route to pay their final respects and were touched to see the sad little dog as the star of the farewell march for the King.
The images of the canine funeral attendant captured the nation’s heartstrings. For the time being, the nation put aside its political differences and was united in grief.
The humourless Kaiser Wilhelm II, a nephew of Queen Alexandra, wasn’t impressed with having a dog walking ahead of the rest. He didn’t quite get the idea of the British fascination with dogs.
Queen Alexandra didn’t see eye to eye with him and supported her son George four years later when war was declared on the German Empire in 1914.
A children’s book came out starring Caesar as the apparent author and titled “Where’s Master?” The rather rigid Queen Mary (wife of George V who succeeded Edward as King) was very annoyed about this. But the book proved very popular and had nine reprints in its first year.
Maud Earl painted the little terrier in a painting entitled Silent Sorrow. A company also produced stuffed Caesar soft toys at this time. The idea of assorted merchandise based on popular figures is nothing new!
Alexandra was a very popular and modern Royal. She was a keen amateur photographer. She also liked being the subject of a pic. The photo below shows her (right) with her daughter Victoria, posing for one of the images in Queen Alexandra’s Christmas Gift Book, published in 1908 to raise money for charities: a lovely contrast to the formal, stuck-up portraits common among royalty at the time. (I can’t seem to find out the name of the dog shown in this image but this was before she came to like Caesar…):
(Had she been asked to pose for such a pic Queen Mary would have said “over our dead body!” – using the Royal plural…)
Alice Keppel, a long-time mistress of the King, enquired after Caesar’s well-being but Alexandra told her she was keeping him. He remained a member of the Royal household and continued to live with Alexandra when she left Buckingham Palace to stay in Marlborough House.
Queen Alexandra confided to a friend that she was making up to Caesar for her former dislike, and would shower him with treats and affection.
Caesar eventually passed away during an operation in April 1914.
The little terrier will never be forgotten as he symbolizes the faithfulness so often found in man’s best friend, and the sadness of a nation who lost a well loved monarch after a short and comparatively peaceful rule of ten years. He inspired the ruler of a rapidly changing nation on bad days. When all seemed hopeless he could look upon Caesar, reposing peacefully amid the arguments and strife, and take a calm decision.