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Interview with Eliza Knight

A Welsh Corgi, white and light brown, who appears to be smiling, sits at the feet of a woman in a rose pink, pleated skirt; cover of Eliza Knight's The Queen's Faithful Companion

Mention dogs in relation to Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain, and people will know you mean Welsh Corgis. What could be more natural than to focus a novel on those corgis—most notably Susan, an eighteenth-birthday gift to the future queen and progenitor of all the dogs that followed? In this latest author interview with Eliza Knight—whose delightful new novel, The Queen’s Faithful Companion, came out with William Morrow on June 11, 2024—we explore what inspired her to tell Susan’s story. Read on to find out more.

You make no secret in your author’s note about your love of dogs. But what drew you to focus a novel specifically on Queen Elizabeth and her corgis?

It’s true, I love dogs so much, and in fact, both of my dogs lay at my feet while I work. They are my constant faithful companions, and sometimes my critics *laughs*. The Queen and her corgis have always fascinated me, especially recently when I saw a video she did with James Bond (Daniel Craig) and her corgis at Buckingham Palace, and it’s a story I wanted to explore. When I started looking into her past relationship with corgis and the Windsor Corgi line, I discovered that on her eighteenth birthday, her father had gifted her with Susan, the corgi who became the matriarch of fourteen generations. That’s when I knew I’d found a story worth telling.

Introduce us, please, to Elizabeth at eighteen. What does it mean to her, then, to have a corgi of her own?

When Elizabeth turned eighteen, England had been at war (WWII) for several years already, and she was at a significant changing point in her life. She was being given more responsibilities within the context of being a royal and presumptive heir, but also she was the first British royal female to join the military and serve active duty. She’d grown up with family dogs, including the infamous Dookie (short for Duke), as well as a number of other canines. But before then, all of the dogs had been family dogs or hunting dogs. To have a dog of her own, especially picked for her by her father, was incredibly special. The bond they formed over the most formidable years of her life, was unquestionably life-changing, so much so that she insisted Susan accompany her on her honeymoon and had her hidden in the wedding carriage.

Prince Philip is already on the scene, but his place in Elizabeth’s life is far from assured. How does she feel about him, and what stands in their way?

Elizabeth met and fell for Prince Philip when she was thirteen. At the time I think her parents, and maybe even herself, thought of it as more of a teenage crush. But her admiration for Philip only grew, until she realized that he was the one. However, at the time, they faced quite a lot of opposition not only from her parents but from Parliament, from whom as a royal heir she needed permission to marry, and there was even the threat of the people not being agreeable to the union. The reasons had to do with Philip’s upbringing, royal status, and nationality.

One of the truly charming elements of the novel for me is the inclusion of Susan’s perspective on all that occurs. Why did you want to express her view of life, and how did you get into her perspective?

Thank you! For the writing of the novel, I originally had the Queen’s point of view, and her Keeper of the Corgis (Hanna Penwyck)—a real job. But I quickly realized that what I needed was the voice of Susan. Susan is so important to the story because she shows us the queen from her eyes, humanizing her, but also gives us the dog-eyed view of life in the palace—of love and friendship, and also a bit of levity. I wanted this book to be heartwarming and endearing, and I think Susan gives it that. At the heart of it, The Queen’s Faithful Companion is about the love between a dog and their beloved person.

Hanna Penwyck, as you note, is a fictional character—although based on two real people who fulfilled her responsibilities. What do we need to know about her?

For one thing, I think we all need to talk about what a cool job it would be to take care of the royal corgis! But also a stressful one, having to deal with the staff, and people possibly not understanding the royal treatment of Susan and the other family corgis. They are more than dogs, they are family members. Hanna is a unique character in that we get to see the queen from her perspective, a servant but also a confidante in the end, who shows us a more intimate side of the queen from a human perspective rather than from our beloved Susan’s. In real life, Bill, a Keeper of the Queen’s Corgis, when he passed away, left behind a corgi. I believe that the queen took the dog to care for it or re-home it. Additionally, she attended his funeral, which was not something she did. There are simply too many servants for her to attend every service, but this keeper held a special place in her heart, and it is with that in mind I made Hanna someone very important and close to her.

Susan loves Elizabeth and Hanna, but she’s not so sure about Philip. What can you tell us about their relationship?

I had a lot of fun with that! In numerous biographies and royal commentary, it was mentioned that Prince Philip tolerated the dogs but was perhaps not the biggest fan of how much attention they received. And I can only imagine how a newlywed who was already a little jealous, perhaps, of all the corgi attention might have felt to find the dog buried beneath blankets in the wedding carriage! But I think that Philip very much loved his wife, her quirks, and supported her love of her dogs.

Can you tell us a bit about Susan’s legacy? I know it sounds odd to describe a dog as having a legacy, but she gave rise to fourteen generations, which seems like quite an amazing legacy to me.

She absolutely has a legacy, isn’t it so fun and cute? What made the Windsor Corgi line so special was that the queen did not breed them for money. None were ever sold, but given away as gifts. And I think, and I could be wrong, but what I’ve surmised is that Susan meant so much to the queen, not only because of their close bond but because she represented a precious gift her father had given her. In Susan, her father’s memory was alive. And in breeding fourteen generations of Windsor Corgis, she kept their memories alive and with her always. I think the Queen was a sentimental person, and that shows in her love of the dogs. But also when she stopped breeding them. Because she said she didn’t want to leave any of them behind when she passed. We know, may she rest in peace, that she did leave behind two corgis, but that they were adopted by a family member to raise.

This novel came out earlier this week. Are you already working on another book?

Yes, I’m so excited for this book to release out into the world and for readers to fall in love with corgis and Susan, and to enjoy the bonds between the Queen and her favorite dog of all time. I am currently working on another book—in fact I expect edits any day from my editor! It’s currently untitled—but it does bring another fun (fictional) dog to life, a Great Dane. This book will take place in New York City in the 1960s. Stay tuned!

Thank you so much for answering my questions!

Grayscale photo of aoman with light hair, a braid over one shoulder, looking at the camera; head shot of Eliza Knight

Eliza Knight is the author of nine historical novels, as well as many historical romances. Writing as Michelle Brandon, her first contemporary women’s fiction novel will release in 2025. Eliza is the creator of the popular historical blog History Undressed and host of the History, Books and Wine podcast. The Queen’s Faithful Companion is her latest book. Find out more about her and her books at

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