One of the most famous Cavalier King Charles was owned by Mary Queen of Scots who was beheaded in 1587 with a black and white toy spaniel under her skirts. Her beloved companion reputedly refused to leave her side and died from grief a few days after her death. Mary’s trusted pet was probably an earlier forerunner of the Cavalier King Charles.
King Charles I was devoted to his toy spaniel Rogue, who accompanied the king to his execution in 1649.
King Charles II was known as the ‘Cavalier King.’ Charles is credited with having a number of little spaniels about him wherever he went, to the point where members of the court complained about the dogs. In Charles’ time, it was proclaimed that no public building could be designated as “off limits” to a spaniel, including Parliament.
James II, brother of Charles II, was equally infatuated with toy spaniels. During a severe storm at sea, James is reputed to have shouted “Save the dogs and the Duke of Monmouth [the king’s son]!”
John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough raised toy “Malborough Spaniels” at Blenheim Castle, giving rise to the term “Blenheim” used today for the chestnut and white Cavalier Spaniel puppies.
The Duchess of Marlborough is credited with imprinting the characteristic ‘lozenge’ or thumbprint mark on the top of the Blenheim Spaniel’s head. As the story goes, she rubbed a pregnant spaniel’s head with her thumb out of worry for her husband while he was in France, leading his troups to victory against Louis XIV at the battle of Blenheim.
Dash was the name of Queen Victoria’s beloved Tricolor Cavalier. Dash’s tombstone is inscribed with the following message written by the Queen herself:
“Here lies Dash, the favorite spaniel of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, by whose command this memorial was erected.
He died on the 20thDecember 1840 in his ninth year.
His attachment was without selfishness, his playfulness without malice, his fidelity without deceit.
Reader, if you would live beloved and die regretted, profit by the example of Dash.”
Pairs of Cavalier King Charles Spaniel pottery figurines, today known as Staffordshire Dogs, have been popular decorative ornaments since the 1700s. Though the potters in the Staffordshire district in England also showcased other breeds on occasion, the classic Staffordshire dog was based on the royal fascination with the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Most prized in matching seated pairs of dogs that face each other, the figurines were handpainted in a variety of colors and designs, and have sometimes been produced as vases, pitchers, lamps and other objects.