Since at least the Renaissance, toy Spaniels have been a privilege of the aristocracy in Europe. A black and tan kind of miniature spaniel that was subsequently named in the latter’s honor was notably beloved by two 17th-century British rulers, the tragic King Charles I and his son Charles II. Samuel Pepys, a well-known diarist of the Restoration era, said that Charles II appeared more interested in breeding Spaniels than in governing Britain.
Early in the 19th century, British nobles continued to have a strong preference for toy Spaniels. During this time, the Marlborough family, who produced a line of red-and-whites at Blenheim Palace, was one of their more affluent supporters. The breed was mixed with Asian toys later in the century, most likely Pugs and Japanese Chins, under the reign of Queen Victoria, and as a result, it developed what is currently known in America as the English Toy Spaniel (or, in the United Kingdom, King Charles Spaniel). Compared to toy spaniels from Charles’s era, this one featured a flatter face and a domed head. The typical toy spaniel of the Restoration was quickly rendered virtually extinct due to the dominance of this breed, but it was not forgotten.
The old-style toy spaniel immortalized in family pictures hanging in the formal halls of English manors was a topic of debate among enthusiasts in the 1920s. The prospect of prize money spurred breeders to recreate the ancient style. A wealthy American named Roswell Eldridge offered a financial reward to British breeders who could produce “Bleinheim Spaniels of the Old World type.” Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are the name given to these canines. The monarchist group that backed the Stuarts during the civil war that lost Charles I his life is referenced in the moniker Cavalier.
The breed stands out for its four distinctive color patterns: Blenheim (chestnut markings on a white background), Tricolor (black markings on a white background), Black and Tan (black with tan markings), and Ruby (a rich red). Each of these color patterns was, at various points in time, linked to a specific noble family.