Historic legacy of royal pony

  • A Shetland pony, believed to have belonged to Queen Victoria 100 years ago, has turned up in the home of a Bradford family

    Jimmy, a 12.2hh Shetland pony who dates back more than 100 years and now graces the family dining room of a house in Alton Grove, Heaton, Bradford, has been traced back to its original owner Queen Victoria.

    The skewbald pony, which has been stuffed, still has his own mane, tail and shoes, was inherited by Thelma Mirza when her father Dr Cyril Francis died.

    “He belonged to my grandmother Catherine Florence Francis, who used drive him in a wicker phaeton (a light, open four-wheel carriage). Fortunately he had just been clipped when he died otherwise the moths would have had him by now.

    “Legend has it that my grandmother was a friend of one of Queen Victoria’s ladies in waiting who gave Jimmy to her.”

    A keen horsewoman herself, Thelma used to ride to hounds with the South Herefordshire and North Herefordshire hunts alongside her father who was a doctor in Hereford and used to do his rounds in a horse-drawn carriage. He bred Hackneys in his spare time.

    “I lived in Pakistan for 16 years and while there with my husband, Moin and two children, was privileged to be offered one of the president’s bodyguard horses which was half Waler (Australian stock horse) and half Thoroughbred. These horses are retired at 15 and then put down so they don’t end up in the gutter. I used to ride every day and luckily the horse died before we left or I would have had to have it put down.”

    According to experts, it was not unusual for Victorians to stuff their favourite pets and many items of royal memorabilia can be seen in the Natural History Museum in London.

    The museum has been offered Jimmy, but only wanted the head, so the family has now decided to keep him.

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