The King’s companion
In 1910 the world was moved by a photograph of a little dog trotting faithfully behind his master’s coffin though the streets of London in the funeral procession of King Edward VII. Photography and his exploits made him one of the famous dogs of all time.
His name was Caesar, a Wire Fox Terrier, who did a great deal to popularise the breed at the turn of the century. Born in 1898 and bred by the Duchess of Newcastle, he was sired by her famous dog, Ch Cackler of Notts. Caesar was presented to the King by Lord Dudley in 1902 to take the place of Jack who died having choked himself while eating. Edward became attached to Caesar from the outset, the two being virtually inseparable up to the King’s death, even to the extent of flouting quarantine laws.
It was said that Caesar was a cross all servants of the Crown and those close to the King had to bear. Charles Hardinge, assistant under-secretary at the Foreign Office, who travelled with the King on tour, recalled in his memoirs how, every time he went into the King’s cabin, Caesar would go for his trouser leg, much to the King’s delight.
Violet, the daughter of Edward’s mistress, Alice Kepple, a guest during one of the King’s annual jaunts to Biarritz, admitted how she detested the dog which sat on her knee and, despite its regular ablutions, stank.
On one occasion Caesar escaped from the Royal party at Marienbad and chased some white peafowl; on another he killed two pet rabbits belonging to Lord Redesdale’s daughters, the Mitford girls and he had a habit of growling fiercely at the King’s chauffeur if he got too near the King. The King himself considered Caesar to be one of the major obstacles to the Entente Cordiale.
When Edward died Caesar was inconsolable and spent days whining pitifully outside the King’s bedroom. It was Queen Alexandra who coaxed him back to normal and encouraged him to eat again. On her instructions he was placed immediately behind the gun carriage in the funeral cortège, trotting alongside the late King’s charger, led by Maclean, the royal gillie and gun-loader.
Caesar died after an operation in April 1914 with Alexandra at his side. He was symbolically reunited with his master when his recumbent figure was carved at the King’s feet on his tomb in St George’s Chapel, Windsor.
Caesar was immortalised in paint by Maud Earl and others, the subject of books, carved by the Fabergé craftsmen in chalcedony wearing a gold and enamel collar and ruby eyes, reproduced in jewellery and remembered on a host of other objects. One of these is the subject of this week’s column, a soft toy. Like Caesar it is no ordinary toy but one made by the famous toy maker, Steiff.
When it comes to soft toys, Steiff reign supreme. The company was founded in 1880 by toymaker, Margarete Steiff. The first bears, for which Steiff is universally known, where designed by Margarete’s nephew, Richard Steiff. He would regularly visit Null’scher Zoo and spend much of his time studying and drawing the residents of the bear enclosure. From his sketches of individual bears he created his toy bears, all of which have their own character and individuality.
With this in mind, it is reasonable to assume that the dogs and other animals made around this time were designed on ones the designers had known. Caesar certainly was. Made circa 1910, the year of the King’s death when the world was ‘Caesar mad’, it would have been a sound commercial move.
This example is being sold by Nagel of Stuttgart in their Steiff and Antique and Vintage Toys sale on July 5 and carries an estimate of 1,200 Euros.