Few of us remember a time when Elizabeth II was not our Queen. Her Majesty’s extraordinary service was to every part of the country and Commonwealth but in the personal time she allowed herself, there can be no doubt that her heart lay in the countryside and with her many animals. By all accounts she was happiest in the contrasting landscapes of Windsor, Sandringham and Balmoral and her relationship with horses and dogs clearly gave her huge pleasure.
Racing was her most public love and few, if any, breeders and owners have had more impact on the sport than her. The Queen bred many great horses, and she also gave British racing a cachet that has continued to attract the most committed owners and the finest horses decade after decade.
Her Majesty’s relationship with horses did not, however, stop at the racecourse and she continued to ride almost until the end. She famously loved a corgi, although the breed has stubbornly resisted popularity despite her endorsement, unlike the Labradors and cocker spaniels she worked in the shooting field and in field trials. Perhaps less well known was her support for pigeon racing with her pigeons based in the Royal Lofts at Sandringham.
In her unparalleled 70 year reign Queen Elizabeth became the embodiment not just of monarchy but of the nation too. Her love of the countryside and relationship with animals has become part of our national self-image, and of the image the rest of the world has of her United Kingdom. Our sadness at her passing is only tempered by the celebration of the long and extraordinary life of a Queen and a countrywoman.