First Queen Elizabeth II statue since her death to be unveiled with delegation of corgis

Hywel Pratley with his 7ft sculpture of Queen Elizabeth II
Hywel Pratley with his 7ft sculpture of Queen Elizabeth II - Geoff Pugh for the Telegraph

By Victoria Ward, Deputy Royal Editor

Up to 50 corgis will descend on the market town of Oakham on Sunday as the first statue of Queen Elizabeth II commissioned since her death is unveiled on what would have been her 98th birthday.

The late Queen has been immortalised alongside depictions of three of her corgis, one depicted peeking out from beneath her flowing state robes.

The 7ft sculpture will be unveiled in Rutland, Britain’s smallest county, where in a fitting tribute the star guests will be the four-legged members of the Welsh Corgi League.

After the unveiling, the dogs will be paraded from the statue as a lone bagpiper plays a lament.

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.

In April 2018, she was left devastated by the death of Willow, her final corgi descended from Susan. Her two remaining dogs were dorgis – a cross between the Corgi and the dachshund – named Candy and Vulcan.

The Queen is said to have stopped breeding them in 2015 because she did not want to leave any behind.

However, she was delighted when given two new puppies, Muick and Fergus, by Prince Andrew in early 2021, shortly before the Duke of Edinburgh’s death.

Muick died but was replaced with Sandy, both of whom have now been taken on by Sarah, the Duchess of York.

The statue depicts a young Queen circa the 1950s or early 1960s.

It was commissioned by Dr Sarah Furness, the Lord-Lieutenant of Rutland, following the Queen’s death in September 2022, after she was “inundated” with letters from local people who felt the loss like a “personal bereavement”.

Hywel Pratley, the sculptor, began preparing maquettes of a standing figure of the late Queen in January last year, before a miniature version was unveiled at Oakham Castle two months later.

Donations quickly flooded in, the vast majority from individuals, which organisers said demonstrated the strong community support for the project, and the required £125,000 was quickly raised.

Mounted on local Ancaster limestone, the bronze statue was cast at the local Le Blanc foundry in Melton Mowbray and installed with the help of a local construction company, Smithers Purslow.

It will be unveiled by Alicia Kearns, the MP for Rutland and Melton, before it is blessed by Debbie Sellins, the Bishop of Peterborough.

A bagpiper will then play a lament to the late Queen – Sleep, Dearie, Sleep – a rendition of which was performed at Westminster Abbey at the end of her funeral service in September 2022.

At the event, Mr Prately will also speak about the creative process.

After the unveiling, the lone piper will lead the corgi parade to Oakham Castle while playing the lament A Salute to the Royal Fendersmith.

A selection of the dogs will then take part in a “meet and greet” at the castle, which is known for its display of royal horseshoes.

The statue’s central location, outside the library in the town, was chosen to encourage engagement and to ensure it acts as a point of interest, bringing economic as well as social benefits to the area.

It was made using local materials and local businesses wherever possible to minimise environmental impact and costs.

This statue is likely to be the first of many memorials to be erected in memory of the late Queen.

Lord Janvrin, her former private secretary, is the chairman of the Queen Elizabeth Memorial Committee, which is responsible for devising plans for a permanent memorial and legacy programme in her honour.

Key figures from across British public life were appointed to join Lord Janvrin on the panel, including Baroness Amos and the anti-bullying campaigner Alex Holmes, the deputy chief executive of the Diana Award.