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After f ive series, The Crown’s corgis (owned by a Boomtown Rat) take their f inal bow-wow

By Sarah Oliver

CLAIRE FOY called them the real stars of the show, while Imelda Staunton was so enamoured she insisted on a meet and greet at Elstree Studios before she assumed the role of Queen Elizabeth.

Now, as the sixth series of The Crown comes to a close, corgis Lily and Prince, who have been in the show for five of those series, longer than most of its human cast, are stepping back from Royal duties.

The two Pembroke corgis have portrayed all of Queen Elizabeth’s beloved dogs, from the beginning of the second series, set in 1956, to the sixth and final one, which culminates in the events of 2005.

Claire Foy, Olivia Colman and Imelda Staunton have all played the Queen. And like the other ‘principals’, Lily and Prince had their own Winnebago on set, complete with dressing room riders (cheese treats and a comfy bed) and a hair and make-up routine that consisted of having their paw tips washed.

Unlike the other principals, however, they have been known to romp off with Royal props, such as sofa cushions, and when they are caught on camera gazing lovingly at the monarch it’s because their owner, former Boomtown Rats guitarist Gerry Cott, is standing out of shot, waving their favourite ball.

Such is their impact that, after the second series of the Netflix blockbuster was shown in 2017, interest in corgis soared by 22 per cent.

Owners Gerry and his wife Cathy, both 71, from Surrey, have been training animals for Hollywood movies and British TV shows such as Killing Eve and Gangs Of London for 40 years.

But Lily, named after Queen Elizabeth’s nickname Lilibet, and Prince, were their family pets, born six months apart and distantly related. Prince, now seven, arrived as an eightweek-old puppy from his Welsh breeders as a companion for the couple’s older dog, a West Highland terrier called Raz. Lily followed six months later. By then the makers of The Crown had approached the couple and Prince and Lily got their big break. Gerry trained them not by taking them to a stately home but to a shopping mall: the hurly-burly of shoppers and staff perfectly mimicked the bustle of a busy set.

The dogs were intended to be emblematic of the Queen’s private life. Gerry, who co-founded The Boomtown Rats with Bob Geldof and played with the band until 1981, says: ‘You often see them when the monarch is having a melancholic moment. She has a glass of scotch in her hand and one of the corgis comes and sits next to her.

‘One scene that sticks in my mind was when she was mourning the loss of the Royal Yacht Britannia.

Prince and Lily could see the Queen, played by Imelda Staunton, was pensive, morose almost, and they went across to console her. It was poignant because it was a natural reaction to her brilliant acting.’

Since filming ended, Prince has returned to live with the Cotts, while Lily has gone to live with a family friend who is also a dog handler as she forges a second career in dog agility.

Gerry says: ‘I don’t think they miss Royal life. They’re not wannabes, they’re just happy healthy dogs enjoying corgi-land.’

The final six episodes of The Crown are available from Thursday on Netflix.

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