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  • Writer's pictureVictoria Regina

The story of Looty - Queen Victoria’s pets

Looty Signed and dated 1861 © Royal Collection Trust / HM King Charles III

Victoria, the British empire and much more wasn’t all great if you dig deeper. The name “ looty “ is a poignant name given the circumstances.

Do you know the story of “ Looty “ ?

8th October, 1860…The Second Opium war, Summer Palace.

For the Qing dynasty Yuanmingyuan, the 'garden of perfect brightness', wasn't just a palace — it was a city. All told, its grounds stretched the size of 650 football fields. Its marble palaces, temples, and towers were adorned with jade, bronze and precious stones. Peacocks strolled the gardens.

But the Opium Wars of the mid-1800s would see that paradise reduced to rubble. Wars over who controlled the flow of lucrative opium, who had to pay whom for tariffs and trade, and who really held sovereignty over China.

There are different accounts of how the British got their hands on Looty and a handful of other Pekingese.

The story is that in the palace there were found these little dogs that nobody really saw before because they were a very secret, personal part of the emperor's empresses and the eunuchs of the palace and so on. They become imperial loot. They become these treasures that formerly belonged to the emperor. Hence the decision to call this one dog that's gifted to Queen Victoria, Looty.

Looty was found by Captain John Hart Dunne of the 99th Regiment after the Summer Palace near Beijing (Peking, as it was then known) had been looted on 8 October 1860 during the Second Opium War. On his return to England Dunne presented her to Queen Victoria for 'the Royal Collection of dogs'. She was one of the first Pekingese dogs in Britain and her name makes rather ironic reference to her origins and acquisition. Looty was considered 'the smallest and by far the most beautiful little animal that has appeared in this country'. F.W. Keyl was commissioned to paint a portrait of Looty in 1861

British Captain John Hart Dunne wrote his view of the event in his journal: “I have been able to retain a good many trifles that I bought in the French camp, also a pretty little dog, a real Chinese sleeve dog. It has silver bells round its neck. People say, it is the most perfect little beauty they have ever seen.”

Looty the Pekingese 1865 © Royal Collection Trust / HM King Charles III

Two of the five dogs who were claimed by Admiral John Hay eventually found their way to Goodwood Castle where they became the property of the Duke of Gordon. Two others were given to the Duchess of Richmond. The fifth dog, that “little beauty,” of whom Dunne wrote, was presented to Queen Victoria who christened the dog “Looty.”

“Looty” lived at Buckingham Palace where she was somewhat lonesome until she overcame her initial shock, and then she went on to live a sumptuous life of luxury at Windsor Palace until her death in 1872.

Shared from Young Queen Victoria and Albert on Facebook. 7th May 2022 -

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