The coronation of Charles III and his wife, Camilla, as King and Queen of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth is scheduled to take place on Saturday 6th May 2023, at Westminster Abbey. To celebrate, we thought we would explore the fascinating history of His Majesty's fluffy namesake - the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel!
In the 1600s, the English Toy Spaniel (also known as the King Charles Spaniel) was developed in England from a combination of small spaniels as well as toy breeds from Asia. As the breed evolved over the centuries, the English Toy Spaniel began to have a noticeably different look than its ancestors with longer muzzles. In 1945, a wealthy fancier incentivised breeders to create a dog that resembled the original King Charles Spaniel by offering prize money. This resulted in the official recognition of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel by the Kennel Club in England. It has since become a very popular breed in England and North America.
John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough, was a great admirer of the red and white King Charles type spaniels during the beginning of the 18th century. He documented that these dogs were able to keep up with a horse that was trotting. As a tribute to his victory at the Battle of Blenheim, the duke named his estate Blenheim. Due to this, the red and white King Charles Spaniel was popularly called the Blenheim, which evolved into the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has an interesting political history. This much-loved breed gets its name from King Charles II, King of Great Britain. His father was supported by the Cavaliers during the English Civil Wars, and Charles kept using the name for political purposes after he ascended to the throne. It is well documented that Charles was very fond of his spaniels, taking them with him everywhere he went. This fondness wasn't exclusive to Charles II, in fact U.S. President Ronald Reagan gave his wife Nancy a Cavalier called Rex in December 1985. Before long, Rex was chosen to switch on the Christmas lights at the White House. Cavaliers were also amongst the pets of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as well as being the dog of choice for Queen Victoria.
It is widely speculated that Charles II issued a proclamation that Cavalier King Charles Spaniels had the right to enter any building in the UK, regardless of any "no dogs allowed" policies. This urban legend is sometimes specifically linked to the Houses of Parliament. However, The UK Parliament website states: "Contrary to popular rumour, there is no Act of Parliament referring to King Charles spaniels being allowed anywhere in the Palace of Westminster. We are often asked this question and have thoroughly researched it."