Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II; a true Monarch of the moors
Queen Elizabeth II was a countrywoman to her core, and the moorlands of both England and Scotland were somewhere she felt most relaxed and at home. She had a particular affinity with Lancashire and specifically the Forest of Bowland – a place she once remarked that she would have loved to retire to. The Trough of Bowland was sometimes even said to be her favourite place in the country.
From a young age she had an affinity with dogs, horses and country pursuits. If she had not become Queen due to a combination of unexpected consequences, it seems that she would most likely have lived the life of your ‘typical’ English countrywoman: surrounded by dogs and horses.
Queen Elizabeth II was immersed in shooting from childhood, and her father, grandfather and great-grandfather had all been keen shots. As a young girl she would particularly enjoy watching gun dogs work on shoot days, and even used to send her corgis to retrieve fallen birds on the Balmoral grouse moor. The dogs were famously good at locating the birds but, due to the shortness of their legs, often struggled to pick them up, meaning that their owner would have to step in and help.
She acquired two black Labradors, Snare and Sabre, in the 1960s and from here on was able to engage with her passion for working dogs, embarking on a programme of breeding her own gun dogs. Many of these went on to become Field Trial Champions, including FTCh Sandringham Sydney, three-time winner at the Game Fair. She also enjoyed working cockers and still owned one cocker when she died, a bitch named Lissy. In January 2022 Wolferton Drama – aka Lissy – won the 91st Kennel Club Cocker Spaniel Championship at the Field Trials Championships. Her former keeper Bill Meldrum has remembered how, when he was in his twenties, she asked him how he trained his dogs, expressing that it was her ambition to own a field trial champion.
When Her Majesty travelled up to Balmoral for the summer, she was always keen for her dogs to come with her and work the moors. “In August we would go to Balmoral for the grouse and I always looked forward to running the young dogs on the hill – a trainer always wants young dogs, it’s more exciting. Within the kennels we had purely picking-up dogs and I would keep about four or five field trialling dogs as well, which would go with me on the hill but they would only get special retrieves. If I didn’t go to Balmoral with at least 22 dogs, I was in trouble,” he told Shooting Times.
“The Queen was very keen and was a very good handler and picker-up. She wanted to do it right and when it was a shooting day she was treated the same as we were,” he explained.
The Queen recently showed her support for the fieldsports community by making a donation to the Gamekeepers’ Welfare Trust in 2018. The donated sum remains undisclosed, however it was telling that The Queen believed that this charity was worthy of her attention and a financial donation. 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.
Queen Elizabeth II devoted her life to her country; but it was the countryside, and particularly the moors of both Scotland and England, where she felt most at home. Those of us who live and work on the moors will always remember her this way, and it is both and honour and a privilege that we are able to share this love of the uplands with Her Majesty.