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The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has a history rich with beautiful stories of palace living and great devotion. Although we can’t give you the entire history of the cavalier, as it would take a book to do so, we have given a few highlights.

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This painting was done in two days by Sir Edwin Landseer in the year of 1845. It is called "The Cavalier Pets".

 

Cavaliers have been seen in royalty paintings dating back as early as the mid 1500’s. However, it is believed that the Cavalier was among the royal circles perhaps a century before the reign of King Charles II… with whom the breed has gained their name. Of course, they did not have their name yet… being more known as the royal spaniel, but for ease of writing, we will refer to them as the Cavalier.

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Portrait of Queen Charlotte by Thomas Gainsborough in the year of 1781. Queen Charlotte is the mother of three princesses in the painting "The Royal Princesses".

 

Besides being a companion to royalty and well loved by them, the cavalier’s real job in the palace wasn’t the most luxurious one. They were foot and body warmers and flea magnets…. yes, the royal spaniel had the job of catching fleas so their royal subjects wouldn’t. This did not degrade them in the eyes of their royal owners however. They loved them deeply and in return the Cavalier gave its deep devotion. There are many stories of this devotion throughout history. Here is just one of the many true stories of the Cavalier. Recorded in 1587, Queen Elizabeth I of England, signed a warrant of the beheading of her Catholic Cousin, Mary Stuart, Queen of the Scots. Mary owned and loved her own Cavalier or more appropriately, her Cavalier loved her… History records tell the official account of this event:

“ Then one of the executioners, pulling off her garters, espied her little dog which was crept under her cloths, which could not be gotten forth but by force, yet afterwards would not depart from the dead corpse, but came and lay between her head and shoulders, which being imbued with her blood, was carried away and washed.”

 

Two days later, this little devoted cavalier died. Yes, their little hearts can break too. This is only one of many accounts of their great devotion and love throughout history.

 

“We have many loves,

but the Cavalier has yet one….

And when that one is no longer,

Their whole heart breaks and they pass on.” Poem by T. Martin

 

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Queen Victoria as a youth. Painted with her Cavalier Dash, that she received as a gift from her widowed mother. Dash was so loved by Queen Victoria that she buried him personally. Today his stone stands in the Adelaide Cottage gardens. Painted by Sir Edwin Landseer. "Beauty's Bath"

 

Why the name, King Charles Spaniel? The short version is King Charles I had a love for the spaniel but it wasn’t until years later, after his death and his son King Charles II ruled, did they gain their name. King Charles II loved his spaniels much like his father but took the love a little further. King Charles II had many Cavaliers… sometimes 18 at a time, and much to the dismay of the other royal figures in the kingdom, Charles had the dogs with him everywhere he went. They were even allowed to sleep in his bed and whelp puppies in his royal chambers. They were well spoiled, being fed the same royal meat as him and given the same medical attention as Charles himself. They were adorned and lavished with fine silks, velvet and gold. They were royalty themselves. Until King Charles II last breath, his beloved Cavaliers were by his side. In 1903 the spaniel received its name King Charles Spaniel.

 

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The Royal Princesses, Children of George III, painted by John Singleton Copley in the year of 1785.

 

This is just the beginning of their history in Europe but let’s jump ahead to their history here in America. Really from the earliest times in America, the little spaniel has roamed the homes of the wealthiest in America. They are seen in many early American paintings. But the first recorded Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in the United States was imported in 1946. Not long after a Cavalier club was formed and then after the breed became established here in America in 1995 The American Kennel Club (AKC) officially recognized Cavalier King Charles Spaniels as a breed.

 

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The Pageant of the Nation by Jean Leone Gerome Ferris, 1696. This is amazing evidence of Cavaliers in early America. This painting is of Captain Kidd in the New York Harbor.

 

For a great read of the cavalier history and just about everything you would like to learn about the cavalier, we recommend Barbara Garnett-Wilsons book called “The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel In Fact and Fancy”
(Click here for a link to a site where you can purchase the book.)

 

duke

Painting of the 9th Duke of Marlborough and his family, by John Singer Sargent, 1905.