Dogs star in royal film

DAME Helen Mirren's performance as the Queen in her new film is taking the movie world by storm -but few people know her co-star Corgis hail from a small Suffolk village.

By John Howard

DAME Helen Mirren's performance as the Queen in her new film is taking the movie world by storm -but few people know her co-star Corgis hail from a small Suffolk village.

The Queen deals with the aftermath of Princess Diana's death in 1997 and is tipped to win Dame Helen an Oscar nomination for her performance.

At her side on screen are Anna, nine, Poppy, seven, and Poppy's puppies Megan, Alice and Oliver all now aged three.

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The talented canine co-stars belong to Liz Smith, a retired outside caterer from Little Blakenham, near Ipswich, who became known as “Corgi Liz” on set.

Mrs Smith, who like the Queen adores corgis, was approached to help with the film after her dogs were spotted at an obedience competition by an animal consultant for film and television.

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The 64-year-old and her husband, retired lorry driver Colin, 67, were absolutely thrilled at the chance and jumped at the opportunity.

Now their Corgis will be seen by millions of movie-goers in scenes including walking across a lawn with the Queen, in a kitchen, and by a lock as the royal family enjoy a picnic.

The filming, shot over two months towards the end of last year, was not without incident though and on one occasion one of Mrs Smith's Corgis jumped into the lock.

She said: “I really was shocked and surprised to be approached, my husband and I gasped in amazement.

“On one occasion though one of the Corgis, Alice, dived in to a lock, people threw lifebelts in, everyone was panicking, but she got herself out as quick as she went in.

“We had lots of laughs filming and everyone called me Corgi Liz. Seeing my corgis on the screen brought tears to my eyes, they are my pets after all.

“I am very proud of them, they did exactly what we wanted of them. I went to a premiere and I saw them six times during the film, although you could blink and miss them on a couple of occasion.

“We spent two weeks in Scotland, filmed as near to Balmoral as we could get, and odd days in London too, in National Trust properties.

“It's the first time that they have ever been in a film, although they are now also now appearing in a new BBC six-part drama “The Amazing Mrs Pritchard.”

After filming Dame Helen gave the dogs a kiss and asked for her picture to be taken with the furry support team, so she could hang the picture at her home.

The film dramatises behind-the-scenes events involving the royal family and the newly-elected UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, played by Michael Sheen.

It suggests that there was a difference of opinion between the Queen and Prime Minister about how to react to Diana's death, in a crisis that threatened the position of the monarchy.

Stephen Frears' epic also suggests the Queen considered abdication as she struggled to cope with the public grief.

Dame Helen has said the film's “magical script” attracted her to the role, but added she would be “devastated if the Queen feels that I've betrayed her in my portrayal of her”.

Dame Helen has already won an Emmy award for her role as Queen Elizabeth I in a Channel 4 mini-series.


The Queen has owned more than 30 Corgis during her reign, starting with Susan who was a present for her 18th birthday in 1944.

A good proportion of these have been direct descendants from Susan.

One of the Queen's Corgis had to be put down after being savaged by an English bull terrier owned by Princess Anne.

The Queen also introduced a new breed of dog known as the “dorgi” when one of her Corgis was mated with a dachshund named Pipkin, which belonged to Princess Margaret.

Her Majesty currently has five corgis - Monty, Willow, Holly, Emma and Linnet.

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