The true origin of the King Charles English Toy Spaniel is lost in obscurity. The first written reference to the breed in England was 1570 and it looked very different with the muzzle pointed. It was during the reign of the two Charles's from 1625 to 1685 that the spaniel came into prominence. Charles II gave his name to his beloved toy spaniels; indeed the poor man seemed to be in constant trouble "for playing with his dogs all the while..." King James II, Charles' brother, obviously got his priorities right -- when shipwrecked off the Scottish coast in 1613 and compelled to abandon ship James ordered the crew: "Save the dogs," and as an afterthought, "and Colonel Churchill." (This Churchill later became Duke of Marlborough.) By issuing a Royal Proclamation King Charles commanded that all Toy Spaniels be granted entry everywhere in the British Empire -- shops, cafes, pubs, offices, etc. This decree is still in force!
Cross-breeding with the pug, Japanese chin and bull-dog allowed the development of the "apple" round head and flat face. Their small size and gentle loyal nature endeared these loving creatures to the English and French and allowed the breed to enjoy immense popularity during the Edwardian reign. The entire breed was almost lost in the Second World War being kept alive on a very small scale by one or two breeders -- it is from these lines that today's dogs have descended. Gaiety, sweetness of temper and undying devotion to their owners are the hall-marks of these enchanting little dogs. With their handsome appearance and lovable dispositions, this aristocratic little breed has charmed its way through history.
By the early nineteenth century the breed had evolved; to the present-day King Charles as we know it. By natural selection the face was shortened over a period of time. All four colors were established: the King Charles (black & tan); the Ruby (rich chestnut red); the Blenheim (has a ground of pearly white with bright rich chestnut or ruby-red markings distributed in large patches) and the Prince Charles (tri-color has tan with markings in black instead of red on a pearly white ground).
The Royal Courts and Ducal houses all had their own strains of toy spaniels. The King Charles was one of the favorite subjects of the Victorian artists, and the sixteenth century Italian artists also used toy spaniels to embellish their work.
In 1885 a small band of devotees got together to form the Toy Spaniel Club. A squabble ensued over the official name of the club and an appeal was made by powerful friends to the King himself. His Majesty Edward VII let it be known to the Kennel Club that he wished the Toy Spaniel Club in future to be known by its historic name of the King Charles Spaniel Club. The Kennel Club naturally bowed to his royal wish and the name was officially adopted.