Description & History

The ancestors of the King Charles and the Cavalier King Charles, probably originated in China or Japan.

Both breeds are similar in colouring but differ in size and head conformation. The King Charles is the smaller of the two, with a shorter muzzle and lower placed ears.

Toy spaniels were well established at various courts in Europe as sporting dogs and pets before being brought to England in the sixteenth century.

Although they reached the height of their popularity in the reign of Charles II, they were however great favourites at the courts of both Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots, where they were used mostly as comforters.

When Mary Queen of Scots returned to Scotland from France in 1561, she brought with her a number of sporting dogs. Shortly before her execution in the Great Hall at Fotheringay in 1587, one little dog, probably a favourite, slipped under Mary's skirts and was not discovered by the executioner until after her death.

Charles I, who was rarely seen without his toy spaniels, shared his great love for the breed with his children, Charles II, Henrietta of Orleans and James II. It was Charles II who gave his name to the dogs (Cavaliers). His sister, Henrietta, brought to England a red and white variety which she introduced to the English Court.

Toy spaniels became favourites with the nobility due to the popolarity of Charles II. They were seen on many country estates where they were used for their sporting ability. The first Duke of Marlborough is believed to have further developed some of the larger sporting spaniels and from this originated the strain known today as Blenheim.

During the eighteenth century this breed was still being used for woodcock shoots, but gradually their numbers decreased. Also cross-breeding caused them to lose their sporting instincts.

The Pug, which William of Orange brought to England on his accession to the throne, is thought to be one of the breeds crossed with the toy spaniel to produce the King Charles of today.

In the 1800's the King Charles was the more popular of the two breeds. Its conformation was gradually changing, becoming smaller with change of head shape. Gradually the breed took on the appearance of the present day dogs.

The King Charles was a great favourite during the early part of the Edwardian era. Unfortunately its popularity waned, but it regained favour in the 1920's.

The Toy Spaniel Club was formed in 1885 and separation of the two breeds was granted by the British Kennel Club in 1945.

Rosamund Walters.

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