As MacDonogh tells it, these poor, neglected princely children would find succour away from their dysfunctional families with their beloved pugs, chins and corgis--and the pets reaped the rewards, getting their own beds, clothes, glittering collars and bizarre accessories. Why, one is tempted to ask, did Charles II's sister Henrietta-Anne think that her dog needed earrings? MacDonogh has marshalled a staggering array of anecdotes and paintings and the result is a beautifully rich and generously-illustrated body of evidence. It's an all- embracing survey, spanning six centuries and the entire Continent--and as such, rarely allows for particularly in-depth analysis.
Some will argue that the portraits record generic convention rather than genuine affection for animals; others might cavil that the royals only seem to be more besotted with their pets because they get painted more often than your average dog-owner. Jammed in amidst the jollity, there's a disturbing section on how Renaissance royals viewed their "dwarves" and black servants as quasi-animals, that cries out for some serious thought. But if you can get past the title--and someone somewhere is very proud of that one-- Reigning Cats and Dogs is an intriguing and diverting read for those precious minutes before the dogs need walking again. --Alan Stewart