Corgis yap their approval as statue of Queen Elizabeth II unveiled

Sculptor Hywel Pratley with the statue
Sculptor Hywel Pratley with the statue - Andrew Fox/Andrew Fox

The first statue of Queen Elizabeth II since her death has been unveiled to the approving barks of nearly 50 corgis as crowds looked on.

The permanent memorial to Britain’s longest-reigning monarch - complete with her own immortalised dogs - has been hailed as a fitting tribute for the “mother of our nation”.

The eye-catching 7ft bronze statue went on display on what would have been the late monarch’s 98th birthday - with a group of her favourite dogs stealing the show.

It takes pride of place outside the library in the market town of Oakham, in Rutland, Britain’s smallest county.

It depicts a youthful Queen Elizabeth - who stood at just 5ft 4in - standing at 7ft in regal robes with three loyal corgi companions at her feet, one peeking out from the creases.

It serves as a permanent reminder of her 70-year reign and her enduring affection for the Pembroke Welsh breed.

Sculptor Hywel Pratley believes the memorial will become a hit not only with royal fans, but that it will attract social media users wanting a selfie beside the late monarch and her trio of corgis.

Corgis, the late Queen's favourite dogs, were featured at the event
Corgis, the late Queen's favourite dogs, were featured at the event - Andrew Fox/Andrew Fox

Speaking before the unveiling in front of a 400-person crowd and with a host of local dignitaries attending, he said: “The plinth is designed to be sat on and I can see the statue becoming popular with the Instagram generation, and why not?

“It will make a perfect backdrop for pictures and people will be able to reach up and pat a dog or if small enough even sit in its back!”

Mr Pratley, 51, who is half Welsh and lives in Chelmsford, Essex, told how he chose the addition of the corgis for a “bit of fun” and to ”tap into the late Queen’s humanity and address her friendliness.”

He explained he made the statue larger than life - 1.4 times bigger - because a “life size Queen Elizabeth is too small. She deserves more.”

The £125,000 statue was commissioned by Dr Sarah Furness, the Lord-Lieutenant of Rutland, following the Queen’s death in September 2022.

Addressing the crowds in the spring sunshine, she said: “We are witnessing a piece of history today with the first statue of Queen Elizabeth to be commissioned since her death and who gave us 70 years of exemplary service.

“Rutland may be a small county, but the response to this had been huge with contributions from local businesses and individuals of varying sizes.”

The permanent memorial to Britain's longest-reigning monarch has been hailed as a fitting tribute
The permanent memorial to Britain's longest-reigning monarch has been hailed as a fitting tribute - Andrew Fox/Andrew Fox

As she spoke, barks from 46 dogs from the Welsh Corgi League rang out loud and clear, and she said, smiling: “You can hear them!”

She added: “The statue is for everyone.”

Before his cancer battle had been known and made public, King Charles had originally been invited to unveil the statue. It is not known if Palace officials had agreed to the request.

Instead, the special honour fell to Alicia Kearns, the Tory MP for Rutland and Melton, before being blessed by Debbie Sellins, the Bishop of Peterborough.

One resident, Hilda Townsend, said: “It is just wonderful. We are the tiniest county, but the first to honour the late majesty in such a big way. It is a very fitting tribute.”

Her husband John added: “It is absolutely amazing and, as Rutlanders, makes us extremely proud.”

The unveiling of two of the three bronze corgis was given to two young children who had won a local schools’ art competition.

In an emotional speech, Alicia Kearns, 31, said: “It is an incredible statue of our beloved Queen who showed unwavering commitment.

“We hope we can reflect on her legacy of compassion, strength and leadership.

“The statue was no mean feat and is for all of Rutland and all of our country, and to come together in joy. Rutland leads and others will follow.”

Three corgis feature on the statue
Three corgis feature on the statue - Terry Harris/Terry Harris

The local MP revealed that King Charles would be visiting the statue, adding a gesture saying: “Horseshoes are to be delivered by His Majesty in due course.”

Crowds of local residents mingled with visitors from further afield, some waving Union Jack flags, with children sporting gold paper crowns on their heads.

She told spectators: “I am proud to play my very small part in helping to celebrate her reign,” pointing to the statue and saying: “She belongs to all of you.”

Following the unveiling, a lone bagpiper played a lament to the late Queen and one verse of the National Anthem was played, with crowds joining in.

Dozens of corgis - some wearing red, white and blue - then posed beside the new monument with their owners and officials before parading along the packed streets to Oakham Castle for a meet and greet session with the admiring public.

Among the corgi owners was Katrina Emptage from Lincoln with her two-year-old pet, Mable.

She said: “The statue is absolutely amazing and I’m delighted to be here to see it and be part of the corgi parade. It is very special.”

The corgis were invited in celebration of the late Queen’s life-long, deep affection for the breed after she fell in love with the dogs as a child.

She owned more than 30 over the years, many of which were direct descendants of the first, Susan, which was given to her as an 18th birthday present by her parents in 1944.

Speaking of his inspiration, Mr Pratley said: “I very quickly thought that I would like to have a corgi nestling in her robes by her feet because what a great symbol it is, artistically, of her being mother of a nation.”