IT IS QUITE incredible the role ‘coincidence’ plays in the work of the canine journalist. Last week I stumbled upon an old Victorian plate that depicted three King Charles Spaniels, two of the ‘new’ type and one of the old. I had planned to feature it in this week’s blog and ask readers some questions about it.
And then, opening up this week’s DOG WORLD and reading Simon Parsons’ column I noticed that Matt Stander (of Dog News fame) has taken exception to the Wardle painting of a King Charles that was featured on the front cover of the latest Kennel Gazette, as he feels it ‘implies that the Kennel Club endorses a flat-headed King Charles’.
Now I know Matt, having worked for his publication for a few years, and I know he is very passionate about the breed – a passion I can well understand as I fell under their spell at the age of 14 when I visited the beautiful home of doyenne of the breed, Alicia Pennington, (when taking my Miniature Wire Dachshund there to be mated) and was entranced by the immaculately groomed, healthy, happy Spaniels I saw playing and running all around.
Now I don’t believe the KC was advocating anything with its cover star, but the choice of picture (which in my opinion isn’t one of Wardle’s best) is a bit strange, as there are countless beautiful paintings featuring this regal breed that would have been far more eye catching and fitting. They are the perfect choice for artists as their faces are so very expressive. I’ve painted King Charles several times and indeed have produced a couple of cartoons featuring the breed for Matt Stander!
Now back to my query. I had always assumed that the Cavalier King Charles first appeared after the wealthy American, Mr Roswell Eldridge, offered up a challenge and a £25 prize at Crufts 1926 for:
‘Blenheim Spaniels of the Old Type, as shown in pictures of Charles II’s time, long face, no stop, flat skull not inclined to be domed, with a spot in the centre of skull. The first prizes in classes 947 and 948 are given by Roswell Eldridge Esq, of New York, and will be continued for five years. Prizes go to the nearest to type required.’
Mrs Amice Pitt (daughter of Sir Everett Millais) took up the challenge and of course, the rest is history and the charming little Cavalier was born.
However, as I mentioned earlier, I came across this portrait of three ‘Toy Spaniels’ – in The Dogs of the British Islands by Stonehenge. The dogs depicted are listed as Mr J W Berrie’s modern Blenheim ‘The Earl’. Mr Julius’s old Blenheim ‘Spot’ and Mr Forder’s King Charles, ‘Young Jumbo’.
My copy dates from 1882, 44 years before Mr Eldridge’s challenge, yet Mr Julius’ old Blenheim ‘Spot’ looks exactly like a modern day Cavalier.
Apparently, Spot descended from the Woodstock strain, and exhibited the old fashioned shape of head and face to perfection.
And this type of Spaniel was still to be found at Blenheim as late as 1914, when a visitor wrote that the ‘dogs were small and very pretty, with small heads, long noses and flat skulls, beautifully proportioned with lovely coats, very long ears and profuse feathering. They were sporting little tykes, and would tackle a rat with the slightest compunction.’
If any reader has additional information on Spot or the Woodstock (Blenheim Palace) Toy Spaniels do let me know.