Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Of Spaniels and Ladies’ Puppys

by Grace Elliot

The history linking England’s monarchs to spaniel breeds goes back centuries. In the 16th century Henry VIII decreed that only “some small spanyells for the ladies” would be allowed at court, and the spaniels were described as “smalle ladyes puppees”.

Perhaps the king most associated with dogs was Charles II. He owned so many spaniels that his Gentleman of the Bedchamber, the Earl of Ailesbury [sic], used them as a metaphor for currying-favour, describing certain courtiers as: “Pliant as a spaniel dog.” The dogs Charles prefered are today known as King Charles Spaniels – a name which was never applied to them in their day. These dogs were much beloved of King Charles I – and folk lore has it that every dog across the land wept at Charles I’s execution.

A subtly different strain of spaniel was favoured by Charles II – and became known as the ‘Cavalier’ King Charles Spaniel – a term synonymously linked to the Royalist cause and therefore potentially dangerous to own during the Civil War. With the eventual restoration of the monarch in 1660, in celebration the new king was said to award Cavalier spaniels the freedom of every inn in the land, that they were not to be denied access to any public place and they alone were allowed the freedom to roam the royal parks!

Indeed Samuel Pepys accompanied Charles aboard the Naseby, in 1660, on his return to England. He records the presence of a dog: “That the King loved, which sh*t in the boat, which made us laugh and me think that a King and all that belong to him are but just as others are.”

In the 18th century and the Hanovarians now on the throne, spaniels were well established as part of court life, and regularly featured in portraits of royal children. Indeed, in the early 19th century the Prince Regent commissioned a portrait of his father, George III, with a spaniel at his feet and a statue of Charles II in the background. By 1841 it was estimated that five thousand spaniels were kept as pets in London alone, but it was to be over a hundred years later, in 1945 that the breed was first officially recognised as Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

In the early 18th century, the Duke of Marlborough, John Churchill, kept red and white coloured King Charles spaniels, which he records as trotting alongside his horse. His estate was named Blenheim, after the Battle of Blenheim, and as a patron of the red and white spaniel, this colour variety of King Charles and Cavalier King Charles became called Blenheim.

My latest novel, Verity’s Lie, is a regency romance. In this excerpt our hero, Lord Ryevale, uses his mother’s spaniel as an excuse to seek the company of the woman, Verity Verrinder, who he has fallen in love with. If Verity only offered friendship, then that's what he would take. Ryevale repeated this, mantra-like, hoping if he said it enough he'd come to believe it. If when walking his mother's dog he choose a route in the hope of bumping into Verity, this too was in the name of friendship.

"It was a beautiful afternoon; the sky powder blue and flecked with mare's tail clouds. Every now and again, through the trees, he glimpsed the glittering sea. The air smelled salty, fresh against his warm face; he had already walked the length of Lady Constance's walled gardens, and Jasper had enjoyed a dig in the rose borders. He even visited the kitchen gardens and the stables but with no sign of Verity. Then he remembered a chance comment she'd made about the light on the sea and took the path down to the Grange's jetty to seek her there.
"Here, Jasper," Ryevale whistled for the dog. His tail high as a flagpole and casually wagging as he trotted, the spaniel followed his master down the rolling lawn and along the twisting path cut into the hillside.
"As they wound their way down, far below a flutter of raspberry pink caught his eye. Instantly, his mood lifted, and he found himself whistling. After brisk five minute stroll, he could clearly see Verity perched on a fallen tree with a sketch book on her lap. It seemed Jasper also shared his affection for the errant miss as he gave an excited yip and ran ahead to greet her. Not wishing to appear too eager, Ryevale slowed to an amble, while in truth, these meetings had become the highlight of each day.
"Verity set aside her sketch and bent over, fussing the dog's ears.
"Ho there. Sorry to interrupt. Jasper is such a tearaway."
"Verity shaded her eyes and smiled. "Really? He seems entirely biddable to me." The dog rolled over and displayed his belly for a tickle, enforcing her impression.
"Ryevale shrugged good-humouredly. "I've been found out. But seriously, may we join you?"
"Of course. Actually, I was feeling a little frustrated—I never was much good at landscapes."
"Well, if you prefer portraits, I'm happy to offer my services as a model."
"Verity cuffed his arm. 'I don't think there's paper big enough to fit your head.'
"'Ouch! That hurt.' Ryevale pulled a face, and Verity giggled in response.
"'I love it when you smile.'
"Sorry, I forgot. Just friends...but friends express pleasure when the other appear happy."
"'I suppose.'" She tweaked her mouth to one side, and a dimple formed in her cheek.
"Quite hypnotic. Ryevale found he was staring and placed his palm to his forehead. 'See how you affect me? I'm quite feverish.'
"Her eyes widened in alarm. 'Are you?' Oh bliss, her innocent concern sweeter than honey.
"'No, of course not. A little warm from the walk, but nothing more.'
"Jasper yawned and settled down on the path, resting his chin on his paws.
"'You've tired the dog out.'
"'So it seems. Best we'll rest here a while, if that's all right with you.'
"Why was it that this quirky looking female, with ink-blue eyes and wavy hair, could make his day with one word?"


Grace Elliot leads a double life as a veterinarian by day and author of historical romance by night. Grace lives near London and is passionate about history, romance and cats! She is housekeeping staff to five cats, two sons, one husband and a bearded dragon (not necessarily listed in order of importance).

Verity’s Lie is Grace’s fourth novel.

Verity’s Lie - Synopsis:

Charles Huntley, Lord Ryevale, infamous rogue…and government agent: In unsettled times, with England at war with France, Ryevale is assigned to covertly protect a politician’s daughter, Miss Verity Verrinder. To keep Verity under his watchful eye, Ryevale plots a campaign of seduction that no woman can resist– except it seems, Miss Verrinder. In order to gain her trust Ryevale enters Verity’s world of charity meetings and bookshops…where the unexpected happens and he falls in love with his charge. When Lord Ryevale turns his bone-melting charms on her, Verity questions his lordship’s motivation. But with her controlling father abroad, Verity wishes to explore London and reluctantly accepts Ryevale’s companionship. As the compelling attraction between them strengthens, Verity is shattered to learn her instincts are correct after all – and Ryevale is not what he seems. So if Lord Ryevale can lie, so can she… with disastrous consequences.

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1 comment:

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