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A true countrywoman

The Queen, who celebrates her 96th birthday today, is a true countrywoman at heart.

Queen Elizabeth in the field

"The lady in a headscarf": the Queen at the Cocker Spaniel Championships in 2008

The Queen once said that if she had not become Queen she would have liked to be a lady living in the country with lots of horses and dogs.

As we celebrate the Queen at 96, we have found ten reasons why the Queen is a true champion of country sports and the countryside.

A love of horses

When she was Lilibet and not yet destined to be our Queen she used to ride pretend horses around her bedroom. According to her governess, Marion Crawford, she would tie her dressing-gown cord to the posts of her bed and take her horses once or twice around Windsor Park before bed.

Fair weather rider

In an ITV documentary filmed to celebrate Her Majesty’s 90th birthday, the Queen is seen planning her weekly diary and carefully scheduling in time to ride on a Friday – weather permitting of course. “I am quite a fair weather rider – I don’t like getting cold and wet.”

Supporting gamekeepers

HM The Queen showed her support for the fieldsports community by making a donation a short while ago to the Gamekeepers’ Welfare Trust. The gift to the charity was revealed following the Trust’s annual general meeting, though the donated sum remains undisclosed.

Founded in 1992, the Trust was set up to support gamekeepers, stalkers and gillies and their families or widows, who require help during ill health or infirmity, by providing financial grants. The Queen’s donation helped to further this work.

In 2017 it was discovered that she had been walking one of her gamekeeper’s dogs weekly for two years, when he was bereaved. A Royal insider said at the time: “It was her way of saying thank you for being such loyal friends over the years and for looking after her dogs all that time.”

The humble headscarf is the crown of the countryside

The Queen never wears a hard hat when riding and out in the countryside but opts for a Hermés scarf in order to keep her hair in place for subsequent engagements.

Not a shy picker-up

On the first pheasant shoot of 2000, the Queen was watching (she doesn’t shoot) when a labrador brought her an injured bird, she took it from the dog’s mouth and killed it herself. The palace had to defend her actions, saying that her actions were not cruel and she was merely ending the bird’s suffering. She’s clearly not afraid to get stuck in!

Corgis in the field

Young Elizabeth would take the corgis out onto the grouse moors at Balmoral. They were really good at locating the birds but not so good at retrieving them, so the Queen would go in and retrieve them herself.

Her Majesty The Queen with gifts presented to her on the final day Dec 2007. Retriever Championship Windsor Great park.

The Queen with gifts presented to her on the final day Dec 2007 Retriever Championship Windsor Great Park.

Devotion to gundogs

You might think that the Queen is a corgi woman but she holds labradors very dearly in her heart too. Her grandfather founded the Sandringham strain of black labradors in 1911 but the kennels at Sandringham date back to Edward VII’s days in 1879. All puppies born at Sandringham are personally named by the Queen.

Grouse at Balmoral, partridge at Sandringham

The Queen’s gundogs travel to Balmoral with her for her long summer break in the Highlands. The Queen’s former headkeeper Bill Meldrum remembered how labradors and spaniels are put into lorries and driven through the night so that the Queen’s gundogs were available for grouse shoots. He said: “If I didn’t go to Balmoral with at least 22 dogs, I was in trouble!”

The Queen being presented with a cocker puppy at the cocker champ 2013

The Queen was presented with a cocker puppy by the Kennel Club at the Cocker Championships in 2013

Field trials champion

The Queen has hosted the Cocker Spaniel Championships at Sandringham. She has owned labrador retriever field trial winners and one cocker spaniel field trial winner. 

The photograph that Shooting Times photographer, Paul Quagliana took of her at the Championships in 2008 even featured in the back ground of her 2015 Christmas Day speech.

Excellent handler

Bill Meldrum described the Queen as “very keen and was a very good handler and picker-up.” Royal watchers believe that the Queen has such a good relationshop with dogs because she did not go to school as a child so the dogs were her playmates and companions growing up.