The Duchess' Pet

Maltese toy dog in glass dome

Maltese terrier on a red oval velvet mount and wooden stand with four feet. Label on base: “John Leadbeater, Ornithologist to Her Majesty and the Royal Family”. Elizabeth Wellington’s signature features on the base.

In today’s world, most people choose to bury their pets when they sadly pass on.  But the Duchess of Wellington had vastly different ideas for her fluffy friends…

This ‘Maltese Toy’ dog in the glass dome was once a pet of the Duchess, Elizabeth Wellesley who lived at Burhill House in Hersham from 1887 until 1904.  She bred Maltese Terriers and this little one was her favourite.

Her coachman, riding a bicycle, accidentally ran over the dog and the Duchess had her beloved pet stuffed by Queen Victoria’s ornithologist, John Leadbeater, and displayed in this glass dome so that she could always remember him.

Taxidermy was a popular practice during the Victorian era, partly because in this way hunting trophies such as birds and small mammals could be displayed to show of a person’s status and skill.  Yet clearly, for the Duchess at Hersham, the practice provided a wholly different appeal, meaning that she could constantly be surrounded by her pets both in life and after their deaths.

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