Monday, November 21, 2011

The Edgcumbes: Devoted Animal Lovers

Perhaps we are all guilty, at one time or another, for doting on our beloved pets.  Some families even have a strong history of doting on their pets.  The Cavendishes were quite well-known for their breeding of dog-lovers, one being the 5th Duke of Devonshire who much preferred his dogs' company to that of people!

Richard, the first Baron Edgcrumbe was one of the many 18th century men who included his dog in his formal portrait.  That was pretty normal.  However, when the dog died and Richard's world edgcrumbled before him, he did something a little abnormal.  He had his dog's bones mounted and displayed.  I'm sure Lady Edgcumbe loved that!  Rumor has it that he would even talk to the bones and when they were finally moved into the family pet cemetery the dog's ghost would scratch on the door to be let in.

Sir Richard's daughter-in-law was another pet fanatic.  But it wasn't a dog that she set her affections on, it was her pet pig, Cupid.  Lady Edgcumbe and her pig could be seen strolling London, attending to daily business around the house, as well as taking meals together.  Cupid was one of the family.  Sadly, once again, an Edgcumbe was brought face to face with the death of a beloved animal.  But was Emma going to mount poor Cupid's bones in the drawing room? Why of course not! Instead she is said to have buried Cupid below a memorial.  Supposedly Cupid was even buried in a gold casket, but I'm not as keen to believe that.  The king and queen were even said to have visited the memorial on a trip to the Edgcumbe estate.

Now we have no idea where this pig momento mori even is.  But we do have something more lasting, the printed word.  To comfort (or perhaps mock) the countess in her grief, a poet commemorated Cupid in verse;
Oh dry those tears so round and big
Nor waste in sight your precious wind
Death only takes a little pig
Your Lord and Son are still behind.

For more on the search for Cupid's tomb, click here.


  1. That goes a long way to explain the village that knitted sweaters for naked chickens.

  2. you have such a charming place here, it was such a pleasure reading your posts :) Congrats.