Petz - Mr Gladstone's devoted little black Pomeranian
Faithful unto death 1886 - 1898
Written and researched by Vivienne Peterson Copyright Protected April 2013
In his day Petz was as famous as Queen Victoria’s Marco and yet has long since been forgotten by breed fanciers. Here is his extraordinary little story.
Petz was born in Bad Schwalbach, Germany in 1886. This is a small spa town on the east bank of the river Rhine near Koblenz (Victorian name Coblentz) and about 12 miles north of Mainz in a region famous for its small Mannheimer Zwergspitze, called Pomeranians by the British. He was sold to Herr Bersior of the Pension Stadt, Coblentz and it was in his hotel that two of Mr Gladstone’s relatives first met Petz in the early summer of 1888. The Leeds Mercury reported in February 1892 that Petz ‘entirely devoted himself to the two visitors’ in return for their attentions; and when it was time for them to leave ‘by a friendly arrangement’ with Herr Bersior the little dog came home with them and settled down to life at Hawarden in Flintshire Wales.
The Right Honourable William Ewart Gladstone lived at (New) Hawarden with his wife Catherine and their family. He entered politics in 1831, age 22, and was Prime Minister on four occasions the last time being 1892 – 1894. His wife, the daughter of Sir Stephen Glynne, was born at Hawarden. Their daughter Mary Drew and grand-daughter Dorothy lived in the nearby parsonage. Hawarden is a beautiful stately home in scenic wooded countryside near the ruins of the ancient Hawarden Castle.
Petz was an instant favourite of the Gladstones but he took a special liking for old Mr Gladstone and immediately assumed the role of his constant devoted companion and ‘bodyguard’. Mary Drew once wrote that Petz was his favourite Pomeranian dog -‘immortalised by a poem in Punch magazine, who lay every morning on the mat at his dressing- room door waiting for him to start.’ He soon earned the nick-name Petz the Great.
Later in the day if his master was reading in the library with little Petz by his feet the dog slept ‘with the sort of slumber in which both ears and one eye are kept open for the detection of disturbing influence which may be threatening’. The Strand Magazine reported Petz often reposed by the fireplace in the drawing room when Mr Gladstone was reading in his library and no one dared to disturb him except Petz - ‘when he considered the horses must be kept waiting no longer, pushed his little cold nose against the master’s hand, and suggested an immediate adjournment of the sitting’. Petz also liked having the top of his head rubbed often pushing his head into Mr Gladstone’s hand when he was sitting at a table or reading in his chair. Mr Gladstone’s theory was that Petz’s brain was ‘on the alert all day and that he loves to be soothed in this way as a kind of antidote.’
Although Mr Gladstone was in his eighties he was relatively fit enjoying long walks, chopping wood on his property and attending church every morning when in residence at Hawarden. His faithful follower Petz enjoyed his afternoon walks around the grounds of Hawarden.
A Pall Mall Gazette article explained Petz liked these walks ‘because the chances are that he will get more stick throwing’ – Petz had a passion for retrieving sticks thrown by his master. Here’s a favourite story of Mr Gladstone’s, reported in 1892. One day he was felling a tree with Petz as his only companion, the little dog kept picking up chips and bringing them to Mr Gladstone to throw so he could fetch them, however, his master did not respond and kept on working. At last in sheer frustration Petz picked up a large chip and dropped it on Mr Gladstone’s boot while looking up at his face, at last Mr Gladstone gave in, stopped work and played fetch with his very triumphant dog.
Until 1892 Petz would accompany Mr Gladstone to nearby Buckley church every morning for the early service. Regardless of the weather they would walk nearly a mile uphill to church, then walk back home for breakfast. Mr Gladstone’s daughter Mary was married to Rev. Harry Drew the minister of the church. She first became aware her father’s strength was failing about this time when he said to her “I am afraid I must ask you to keep Petz from coming to church with me … you see, I have to throw sticks for him to pick up, and stooping every other minute to get one and then throw it is too hard work on the hill.” Thereafter Mr Gladstone changed to attending the Evensong service leaving Petz at home.
Mary Drew acquired a ‘wife’ for Petz named Fussy – she was also a black Pomeranian bred in Germany. Author Richard Cook mentions the Prince and Princess of Wales and their daughter Princess Victoria visiting Hawarden May 1897 and the Princess taking a great interest in Petz and two black Pomeranian puppies ‘carried in a basket, one of which the Princess accepted as a gift’.
A son of Petz, called Petz II and also Petz of Hawarden, was bought by Sir George Newnes from Mary Drew and became quite famous in his own right. Petz and Fussy with two of their puppies were photographed with young Dorothy Drew for the Ladies Kennel Journal.
The Prince of Wales (future King Edward VII) was interested in the breed as early as the mid 1870’s. By 1885 he acquired Tottie from Germany and then brought home, from Bad Homburg, a 4lb black Pomeranian named Blackie as a gift for his daughter Princess Victoria. Note on map above that Homburg is just to the east of Bad Schwalbach.
Late in 1897 Mr Gladstone was advised to winter in Cannes for the sake of his failing health. After this he stayed in Bournemouth for a short while Petz was entrusted to the care of Mary Drew at the nearby Buckley vicarage. The Westminster Gazette reported Petz was happy and in good health, however, soon his ‘happy, playful spirit departed’. Several times he ran away and was found at Hawarden, he refused to be comforted and eventually Petz became listless, depressed and refused food. Some accounts say he died just before Mr Gladstone returned home but the New York Times said otherwise giving this account of their sad reunion on March 27th - Mr Gladstone called for him but his little dog did not respond, he then walked over to Petz’s basket and his devoted little friend wagged his tail to greet him gave Mr Gladstone one ‘long, appealing look from his deep brown eyes and rolled over, dead’.
Regardless of which account is accurate Mr Gladstone was totally heartbroken and it was widely reported he now faced death ‘and was thankful when informed that he had no chance of recovery’. The death of his constant companion was a severe blow to him and his family. Mr Gladstone died seven weeks later on May 19th 1898.
Mr Gladstone (1809-1898) had a full state funeral, with the future King Edward VII and George V among the pallbearers, and was buried at Westminster Abbey but little Petz was quietly buried among the wild hyacinths of the mossy Hawarden pet cemetery with little Dorothy Drew as his chief mourner.
There he still lies alongside Toby who died in 1881, Sheila (1886) and Peggy (1884). They all have simple granite headstones and this is inscribed on Petz’s memorial –
Petz. Born at Schwalbach, 1886; died at Hawarden, March 27th, 1898. Mr Gladstone’s favourite dog. Faithful unto death.
If you are interested in more information about Mr Gladstone’s life and times you may enjoy reading ‘The Grand Old Man’ by Richard Cook.
Here is an extract from 'The Life of Sir George Newnes' (1851-1910) by Hulda Friedricks – published in 1911. This provides further details about Petz and his son Petz of Hawarden who lived with Sir George and his wife. Sir George was a publisher, editor and founder of ‘Tit Bits’, ‘The Strand Magazine’ and ‘Country Life’.
“The master would not even pretend to observe the rule, but when the Airedale or Pom or Samoyed sitting by his side began to wag a friendly tail, or utter the sigh of greed or gluttony into which an intelligent dog knows how to put such worlds of longing and weary resignation, he would satisfy the supplicant's highest hopes without delay. "We don't allow them to be fed at table," he would say to a visitor whom he knew to share their love of animals, and with a glance of understanding at Lady Newnes," but we'll make an exception just to please you."
When Petz I was in his prime, he had a son who was endowed with nearly all the father's distinguished qualities. But there being many other pets and Petzes at Hawarden Castle, Mrs. Drew decreed that Petz II must go out into the world, and that he should be sold for the benefit of a certain charitable institution in the parish where Canon and Mrs. Drew were then working. Mrs. Drew had told me this, explaining, however, that the dog would only be sold to friends, or friends of friends, who would be sure to give him a good home. Knowing that Sir George Newnes's admiration for Mr. Gladstone, if nothing else, would incline him towards the offspring of the faithful Petz, and hoping that my account of the ravishing beauty and super-canine wits of Petz II would do the rest, I told him of the dog. " How much does Mrs. Drew want for him ? " he asked, and a few days later there arrived at Wildcroft a lively, fluffy pup, pitch- black, the image of its famous sire. Sir George was away from home, but the little creature went into his room at once, and settled there, the love of bookish places being perhaps part of his heritage, and made friends forthwith with Mr. Plank, the private secretary. Then Sir George returned, and Petz II would henceforth love and obey no one else, though he was friendly enough, in an offhand way, with the rest of the household.
At first this utmost devotion was charming and pretty; complimentary too, in the highest degree, for, as every animal lover knows, the immediate attachment of a dog to one who is a stranger to him, is far more complimentary than that which is proverbially known as the sincerest form of flattery. When the master came out of his room, in the morning, there stood Petz on the threshold, ready to accompany him downstairs; when he sat down to breakfast, Petz also was there; did he go for a stroll on the Heath, Petz's black nose pushed through the side-gate just in time before the gate closed; whenever the carriage was at the door, Petz sat in his seat before any one could say him nay, and it is impossible to say how often he was stolen and brought back for a reward, for if his master went out and left him behind, Petz would somehow manage to get away, and go hunting far and wide, in search of him.
This was sometimes troublesome, but it was not the worst result of Petz's devotion. There were days when Sir George was in a very restless mood, and when he could only think while moving about. At such times he would walk for hours to and fro, from his study into the library, and thence into the hall; then out into the grounds, across the lawn, all round the paths, pacing in all many miles, till the problem which he had been turning over in his mind, had been solved. And all the time, hour after hour, the little dog was at his master's heel, taking every turn, now into the house, now out again, till he began to pant and droop, and till his tiny feet were tired and sore.
In his absorption the master might not notice these signals of distress, but when he did, and put the dog indoors, the lamentations bursting from poor Petz were such that his imprisonment became unendurable to others as well as to himself. Then he would be released, rush out and go to heel again, and flag and pant and follow on and on, till the sight was so pitiful that, in order to give the dog a rest, Sir George had to curb his own restlessness, and sit still for an hour or two, while Petz went peacefully to sleep with one eye and both ears open.