By Emily Fox
One of Britain's most beautiful and well-known stags has been horrifically and tragically shot dead by poachers.
The magnificent 16-year-old red dear, known as The Monarch because of its majestic nature and beauty was gunned down in the New Forest by poachers who were thought to be after its antlers.
The heartless poachers fired at the enormous beast with a rifle, hitting its head but they failed to immediately kill the astounding creature.
Mortally wounded, The Monarch, which stood at 8ft tall, ran in agony for the protection of the forest and a nearby lake.
Its body was later found floating in the lake where it is thought to have drowned.
The poaching of deer has become a real issue across the UK as the impressive antlers can often reach in excess of £1,000.
The Monarch's death comes just three years after another giant red stag known as the Emperor of Exmoor was shot dead by a hunter.
The Monarch was king of the herd in the New Forest, fighting and chasing off young pretenders to his crown at the annual 'rut' where stags lock antlers, bellowing and snorting, to win the right to mate with the does.
He was so well-known in the area that gift shops even stocked souvenirs with pictures of him on mugs and clocks.
Dorothy Ireland, the chairman of the Wessex branch of the British Deer Society, said: "Poachers pose an enormous threat to deer in Britain - they have no feeling for the animal they have either injured or shot.
"Deer will travel quite a way if injured only to suffer a long painful death, just like the stag at Burley in the New Forest.
"Sadly poaching in on the increase and the barbaric killing of The Monarch, a beautiful and majestic animal, is just the latest case.
"The British Deer Society condemns any form of poaching of deer."
Owner of the herd, Dan Tanner spoke of his sadness at the loss of The Monarch.
He said: "It is very sad but unfortunately it is not that unusual. Poaching is a real problem.
"The Monarch was about 16 years old and was a fine specimen of an animal. He was shot by a poacher but the bullet wasn't a heavy enough calibre to stop him.
"He ran to a ran which he tried to swim through but he drowned there. The poachers never got their hands on him.
"Because The Monarch had such a fine set of antlers he would have been very attractive to poachers. They would have wanted his head as a trophy.
"His death is a great loss and waste of life."
Jamie Cordrey, from anti-poaching group The Deer Initiative, said poachers still pose a threat to Britain's deer population.
He added: "Deer poaching is an age-old problem in Britain and it is still around today.
"It is very unpredictable and very hard to police. You never know when poachers are going to strike next."
A spokesman for Hampshire police said: "Police are investigating after a landowner reported a stag from his estate had been shot. The stag was found on Sunday, February 16.
"It is believed that the red stag, the biggest on the estate, was shot between Friday, February 14 and Sunday, February 16."