Mrs Alicia Pennington, an English breeder of international renown who underwent a lot of research before writing her book entitled « Royal Toy Spaniels », which was published in 1989, tells us that Royal Toy Spaniels were favourites throughout centuries in Royal Courts in England and in Europe.

It is a fact that English aristocrats used to breed two types of spaniels: one was fairly big, for hunting and the other was a smaller type for pleasure and company: such dogs were called carpet spaniels. They were toy spaniels with a docked tail, spotted with tan or black on a white coat, their muzzles being either short or sharp. Indeed, selection in those days was approximate. In 1613, a captain in the English Navy came back from Japan with toy spaniels; he had been presented with by the Emperor, of the same type as the Japanese Spaniels we can find nowadays. An amazing similarity in size, shape and colour existed between these dogs and those living at the English Court.

King Charles II, who was regularly followed by a hound of his small favourites, gave his name and his royal title to his beloved toy spaniels in the 1600s. King Charles dogs were the only dogs to be admitted in Parliament and royal theatres. King Charles’s sister, Henrietta Maria also brought back toy spaniels from the French Court. They were of continental type and similar to nowadays “phalènes”. Among the dogs she brought back was a small black and tan male, the Pyrame” with attached metacarpus.
King James II loved these small dogs so much and gave them so much importance that he ordered them to be saved before anything else during a ship wreck along the Scottish coast.

The Duke of Marlborough used to favour a red and white variety of dogs. Legend has it that his wife who was impatient to learn about the result of Blenheim battle where her husband was in charge, kept stroking the head of her small ruby and white bitch which was expecting a litter of puppies. When the victory was proclaimed, that bitch gave birth to 5 puppies which bore on top of their heads the mark of the Duchess’s thumb. Such a mark has since then been known as the “spot” and the red and white King Charles Spaniel was given the name of Blenheim.

Titz Ralph, a noble knight also brought back from Italy a breed of small beautiful and clever small spaniels. People thought those dogs had medical virtues such as curing stomach aches when they were lying on the sick person’s belly. In 1739 Horace Walpole, a great admirer of toy spaniels, lost his beloved King Charles, Tony. It was replaced by other Kings among which was Rosetta, a small ruby and black bitch which saved his life by warning him of a chimney fire.
Other historians of this breed say that after she had been beheaded a King Charles puppy was found hiding under Mary Stuart’s lace petticoats.
In those days, Toy Spaniels never failed to be favourites among Kings, princes and noble people. In 1859,” The Field”, a newspaper, described King Charles Spaniels in the following way: “It’s an enchanting animal lost among other dogs”. Charles I and Charles II of England, Elizabeth I, the Stuarts, the first Duke of Marlborough, Henrietta of England, and the Duchess of Orleans gave them their favour.

A great many paintings show us how present and beloved Toy Spaniels were among the Great.

After James II, the last and short-lived Stuart king, who only reigned for 3 years, the craze for Toy Spaniels faded and it gave way to a taste for the pug dog which William of Orange, who succeeded James II, preferred.

Some people think that in those days crossings between pug-dogs and Spaniels were made, which resulted in flattening in a spectacular way the spaniel’s face and gave them the head which characterises them nowadays: a round dome-shaped skull, a short up-turned nose, big large liquid eyes. In fact, a succession of crossings between the various spaniels which have already been mentioned and some Japanese spaniels called “Chin” and maybe indeed a small proportion of pug-dogs as well as a careful selection are more likely to have produced the kind of dog we know nowadays. Those breeds coexisted till the end of the XIX th century and even the beginning of the XXth century when pug dogs supplanted King Charles dogs in the hearts of the English Upper Class.

Article publishing in "Vos chiens magazine" - Décembre 1999 - Writing in collaboration with Sylvie Desserne .






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