Cavaliers as Companions
August / September 2021
Edited by Dennis & Tina Homes


What then is the connection between Blenheim Palace and Cavaliers apart from the name? General John Churchill was a great soldier who had led a number of successful campaigns, and in reward for his gallant service to the crown King William granted him the Earldom of Marlborough in 1689. Churchill was also a keen huntsman and dog breeder. At that time the most popular hunting gun dogs were Cocking Gun Spaniels, (predecessors of the Cocker), and Springing Spaniels, (early Springers). John Churchill much preferred to hunt with small chestnut and white spaniels that were descended from the toy spaniels that were favoured by the nobility in various parts of Europe. He developed a line that were not just lap dogs but hardy small retrieving spaniels that could work well in the field. These small spaniels were mainly used to retrieve woodcock.

In 1701 the war of Spanish Succession took place and Churchill was prominent in leading a number of campaigns. But his greatest success came at the battle of Blenheim. Blenheim (or Blindheim) is in Germany and is situated near the Danube between Ulm and Donauworth and this bloody battle took place on 18th March 1704. It is believed that he always had a small spaniel with him, even when he went into battle. The story goes that while the battle was raging his anxious wife was back home holding a small pregnant bitch for comfort. She kept pressing the bitch’s head with her thumb and when the litter of puppies were born they all had lozenge marks on their heads and this is where the Blenheim spot came from. Quite a nice story but we can take that with a pinch of salt! Anyway, upon his victorious return Queen Anne granted Churchill the title Duke of Marlborough and gave him a massive estate in Oxfordshire, together with a grand palace that she had built for him. This became Blenheim Palace.

Sarah Churchill, the first Duchess of Marlborough and wife of the first Duke had previously been the Lady-in-waiting for Queen Anne. The Queen was the daughter of James II of England and VII of Scotland who was the younger brother of Charles II and was also an owner and great lover of small toy spaniels. This tradition was carried on by Queen Anne who also kept small spaniels which were all descended from those owned by Charles II. Although I’ve not read of any documented evidence, I truly believe that Sarah Churchill got her spaniels from Queen Ann.

For over two hundred years the various Dukes of Marlborough kept these spaniels on the estate and their love of hunting spanned the generations. The third Duke of Marlborough had a hunting Lodge built in Langley Park, Buckinghamshire which is Langley Park House. This grand house was built between 1755 and 1758 and is a considerable distance from Blenheim Palace but shows how far the Duke’s hunting trips would take him.

Detail from a painting by Closterman of the 1st Duke of Marlborough and his family with a small spaniel in the foreground
Detail from a painting by Closterman of the 1st Duke of Marlborough and his family with a small spaniel in the foreground

The family of the 4th Duke of Marlborough painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds, showing two spaniels and a whippet.
The family of the 4th Duke of Marlborough painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds, showing two spaniels and a whippet.

As time went by these small spaniels became firmly associated with the Marlborough family and the Blenheim estate. The more hardy and robust ones were worked in the field while the smaller ones became "lady’s carpet spaniels". Because the breeding of small chestnut and white spaniels were firmly established there, they became known as both Marlborough Spaniels and Blenheim Spaniels, although in some quarters they still went by the name of Italian Spaniels.

When William of Orange succeeded James II to the throne of England he kept Pugs, which were the national dog of Holland. Short faced dogs then soon started to gain favour among the ladies of the higher classes and slowly their popularity began to emerge. During the Victorian era short faced toy dogs such as Japanese Chins and Pugs became extremely popular and some cross breeding went on to give the toy spaniel a much shorter face.

Family of the 9th Duke of Marlborough and Consuelo with two spaniels
A painting by John Singer Sargent of the family of the 9th Duke of Marlborough and Consuelo with two spaniels. Standing between the Duke and Consuelo is their eldest son John Spencer-Churchill who would become the 10th Duke of Marlborough. On the far right with a dog on his lap is Lord Ivor Charles Spencer-Churchill

During the 19th century two members of the Churchill family married rich American heiresses. In many ways this probably saved the palace from financial ruin as the estate had drawn up huge debts and some of their art treasures had already been sold off. Lord Randolph Churchill married Jennie Jerome, the daughter of a very rich New Yorker. They had a son who would eventually become Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill. In 1896 the 9th Duke of Marlborough married the rich American, Consuelo Vanderbilt. She came with a dowry worth $2.5 million which enabled the somewhat crumbling palace to be restored to its full glory. Sadly, this marriage did not last. They separated in 1906 and divorced in 1921. The Duke then married Consuelo’s friend, Gladys Deacon, who was also an American and noted to be somewhat eccentric. She decided to resume the breeding of the Marlborough Spaniels in a really big way, but with rather too much enthusiasm. She believed that the rearing of puppies should be done in a most near-to-nature way as possible and one of her endeavours was to take up an ancient floor in one of the grand palace rooms and allow the bitches to whelp below the floor boards. This marriage did not last and the couple separated in 1931.

A photo from 1898 showing dog handlers with some of the Blenheim Palace Spaniels owned by the ninth Duke.
A photo from 1898 showing dog handlers with some of the Blenheim Palace Spaniels owned by the ninth Duke.

Spaniels at Blenheim Palace in the 1920s
Spaniels at Blenheim Palace in the 1920s

Bessie Jennings of Plantation Cavaliers was very instrumental in establishing the Cavalier breed alongside Amice Pitt. She came from Scotland and was brought up with dogs and often thought about breeding them. Her mother-in-law kept King Charles Spaniels prior to WWI. In 1926 she was living in Hertfordshire and her husband was doing business with a gentleman who told him that he had recently bought a small toy spaniel from the Duchess of Marlborough (Gladys Deacon) at Blenheim Palace but his wife didn’t like it and she wanted to get rid of it. Mr Jennings decided to buy it from him and gave it to his wife Bessie. The puppy was Blenheim Palace Poppet (BP Billy x BP Trixie) and when it grew into an adult Mrs Jennings decided to breed her. She heard about Amice Pitt who at that time lived in a village close to Leighton Buzzard which wasn’t too far away so she took Poppet there to be mated to one of Amice’s dogs. The resultant litter was just two puppies which she wasn’t particularly keen on, but when mated the next time she produced a litter of five and this was the start of the Plantation line. Bessie Jennings soon became quite involved in the newly formed Cavalier world and in 1933 bred Plantation Robert who was to become an important early stud dog. During World War II when the breeding of all breeds of dog was severely restricted due to food rationing, Bessie Jennings had one of the few Cavalier kennels that kept the breed going with sufficient numbers.

Blenheim Palace Poppet
Blenheim Palace Poppet

After Gladys Deacon left Blenheim Palace it appeared that the long line of Marlborough spaniels on the Blenheim estate were gone for good. However, the connection with the Marlborough dynasty and the Blenheim spaniel was briefly reunited in the mid-fifties. In 1947 Lord Ivor Spencer- Churchill, the younger brother of the 10th Duke married Elizabeth Cunningham. She then took the title of Lady Ivor Spencer-Churchill. She did in fact breed the first Cavalier to be shown in Canada after the bred was recognised there in 1957. This was Deanhill Panda, a Blenheim dog owned by Mrs C. Cunningham. Deanhill Cavaliers were also exported to several other countries.


Waiting for Master

Just seven years ago we helped organize an art exhibition at the Kennel Club’s Art Gallery called "English Toy Spaniels – the Cavalier and King Charles Spaniel in Art". We had around two hundred exhibits, mainly paintings but also sculpture, jewellery and figurines all depicting toy spaniels. Some of the exhibits were around 200 years old but this particular painting was a recent commission and was only finished just prior to the opening of the exhibition. Seven years ago, 2014, was the centenary of the outbreak of World War I and there were lots of commemorations going on at the time including all those ceramic poppies at the Tower of London. This was a very poignant work of art and was painted by Diane Campbell Watson, a contemporary artist who comes from a family of artists. Her great uncle, John Howlett, owned a King Charles Spaniel. Like many men of his generation, he went off to war joining the 12th Suffolk Regiment. Sadly, he was reported missing in action on 25th March 1918. His King Charles Spaniel would often sit by his master’s hat and brolly hoping he would soon be back to walk him. You can see images of soldiers marching in the painting and poppies. The background is a vivid red representing blood spilt on the battlefield. A very profound painting.


"My dog appears to have dandruff, there’s lots of white scurf in his coat." We’ve heard this countless times from pet owners and the usual cause is an infestation of the Cheyletiella mite. Occasionally scurf can be caused by a very dry skin or even by shampoo not being thoroughly rinsed out of the coat after a bath, but in the vast majority of cases it is Cheyletiella. The Cheyletiella mite, (sometimes referred to as rabbit fur mite), is a small parasite just visible to the naked eye. There are few symptoms in dogs but heavy infestation can cause itching, skin scaling and hair loss. The mites, their eggs and the scurf they produce, have been called ‘walking dandruff’ and is most frequently seen on the back and sides of the dog.

The mite spends its entire life cycle on the dog laying eggs, which then form into larvae, then nymph and then adult. Their eggs are laid glued to the hair shafts. They are spread by direct contact with an infected individual or infested bedding. It is non-burrowing and will feed on the keratin layer or sebaceous secretions on the epidermis. They most often inhabit the dorsal coat, (area along the backbone or spine). The mite’s lifecycle lasts on average anything from twenty to thirty-five days on the host and thereby allowing for the environmental spread.

There are three known species which affect various hosts: C. yasguri usually affects dogs; C. blakei usually infests cats, and C. parasitovorax affects rabbits. Skin scales are carried through the hair coat by the mites, so the dandruff appears to be moving along the back of the animal, hence the common name ‘walking dandruff’.

Most affected dogs respond quite well to treatment, although it can sometimes take a while to completely cure the infestation. Your vet may prescribe a pyrethrin based shampoo. Frontline spray has also been proved to be good in killing off the mites. After bathing with an insecticidal shampoo it can also be quite effective if the dog is rinsed in a benzyl benzoate mixture prescribed for dogs and diluted as per the recommendations. Great care should be taken not to allow this to go anywhere near the dog’s face. Always first consult your vet.

The dog’s bedding area should also be treated and you should also be aware that they can temporarily infest humans causing a mild skin irritation and some itching and in some severe cases some open lesions may occur.

This July has seen some extremely high temperatures in many parts of the UK. Although days out with your dog can be great fun, it is wise to take a few precautions when the weather turns warm. One of the main hazards that dogs can face during a hot spell is heatstroke. The average temperature of a dog is 102.5°F compared with 98.6° for a human; they can therefore become overheated far quicker than us. During a heatwave it is probably best to take dogs out for a walk during early morning or during the evening when the heat is less intense. Things to look out for are hyperventilation, excessive thirst, heavy panting, pale gums, weakness and staggering movement. If left unattended the dog could easily suffer a seizure or collapse.

If he does appear to be suffering from heat stroke you should cool him down with cool (but not very cold) water. Apply the water with a towel around his underside and legs. Do not start pouring cold water all over his body as this could cause a cardiac arrest. Wrap him in a cool, wet towel and give him small sips of cool water. Gently try to get him moving to enable his whole body to start to cool and then get him to a vet as soon as possible.


Dog Poems Dog Poems
Publisher: Profile Books Ltd.
ISBN: 9781788163651

From Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Alexander Pope and Ogden Nash, dogs have always provided rich pickings for the poetically inclined. This wide-ranging collection features verse old and new, established and little-known, placing canines at the forefront of literary culture. Since prehistory, dogs have served as man's best friend, giving us loyalty, assistance and boundless inspiration. Dogs offer comfort and amusement to their owners; they provide solace when we're sad, entertaining antics when we’re bored and affection every day. To poets in particular, these beloved creatures are the most bountiful muses, reflecting back at us our most heartfelt tenderness and often rewarding us with unconditional love we scarcely deserve. Dog Poems offers a collection of verses in celebration of our most faithful companions by some of the greatest poets of all time.

Dogs In PoetryDogs in Poetry
Publisher: Tempus Publishing
ISBN: 9780752443904

Another delightful book of poetry about dogs in a very similar vein as the one above.

At times a puppy can look so cute and innocent, but then something erupts and then wow! "They’re the Devil in Disguise!"



The North East of England Toydog Society are organising a fun companion dog show and garden party on August 22nd. All breeds are welcome and it will be held at: High Goosepool Farm, Middleton St George, Darlington DL2 1TQ,

1.00pm – 5.00pm

Puppies must be at least 3 months old vaccinated and microchipped.
They have surprise judges for all the Pedigree, Non–Pedigree and Fun Classes.
Booking in from 12 o’clock and judging commences at 1.00pm

Entry is £1 per class to be paid on the day.

As well as all the pedigree and non-pedigree classes there will also be the following fun classes:

Puppy walk (3–6 months puppies fully vaccinated)
Fancy Dress
Best six legs
Most handsome dog
Prettiest bitch
Sausage race
Best Trick

There will be prizes for 1st 2nd 3rd in each class.

Afternoon tea and cold drinks from 3pm.


Double Trouble!!!!
Double Trouble!!!!


"Handle every situation like a dog. If you can’t eat it or play with it, just pee on it and walk away."

For further online Cavalier news and stories don’t forget to read some truly inspirational articles by logging on to the Pawz and Pray page at


If you have any questions about owning a Cavalier then click on the envelope to email Dennis and Tina who will only be too pleased to try and help you.

However please remember that we are not Vets or Lawyers so questions on these topics should be addressed to the professionals for advice.

Questions and answers that are of interest to other owners may be published on this page.

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