Toy spaniels were a favourite pet lap dog in Europe, with each family having its favourite. Charles II of England, Scotland and Ireland (1630 – 1685) was very fond of this type of dog, which is why the dogs of today carry his name, although there is no evidence that today's breed descended from his particular dogs. With the expansion of trade in the 17th and 18th centuries, Pugs and other dogs arrived from other parts of the world and became popular pets; this led to breeding with the spaniel lap dogs. The ancestry of the pug is seen in the shorter muzzle of the King Charles SpanielsAccording to, Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia had a King Charles Spaniel named Jemmy. The dog is said to have been killed with his owners in the Russian revolution.

In a 19th century book on British dogs, it is described how during the breed as was then was sometimes called "Melitei", which could imply that th
ey came from Malta. However, the book thoroughly rubbishes any such claim and explains that the name did not stick.

In 1903, The Kennel Club attempted to amalgamate the King James (black and tan), Prince Charles (tricolour), Blenheims and Ruby spaniels into a single breed called the Toy Spaniel. The Toy Spaniel Club which oversaw those separate breeds strongly objected, and the argument was only resolved following the intervention of King Edward VII who made it clear that he preferred the name "King Charles Spaniel

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