Cavaliers on Screen
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have been subjects in art for centuries, but as the breed is becoming more popular, they are beginning to grace the 20th century movie and television art forms.
Through history royals, nobles, and wealthy merchants have commissioned the finest artists of their time to immortalize their images, often including their families and beloved pets.
As early as the 14th century, frescos included the small dog. An Elegant Lady Holding a Small Dog (c. 1318) by Buonamico Buffalmacco features a woman embracing a small spaniel.
In the 15th century, artists portrayed the spaniel on stained glass windows and tapestries. One of details in the stained glass windows in the Church of Notre-Dame-des-Marais, in La Ferte-Bernard, France, depicts a toy spaniel (c. 1490).
In the world-renowned tapestry, The Offering of the Heart (c. 1410), the little spaniel wove his way into the piece (and surely into the hearts of his owners), where he is pictured jumping toward his mistress, who appears to hold a treat in her hand (an incentive for all dogs).
From the 16th century forward, the beloved Cavalier is rendered in numerous paintings like Venus of Urbino (c. 1538) by Titian, where a small, white and tan spaniel is curled up, asleep, at the feet of the lounging Venus.
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was even etched on a rare jigsaw puzzle. The stipple engraving on wood, La Pelerine: Puzzle de Josephine (c.1804), captures the little dog at the feet of his mistress.
While the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is still an inspiration to artists, now, in the magical age of movies and television, the toy spaniel is now a member of the cast.
Below is a list of movies and television shows in which the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel makes an appearance. Anyone who loves these darling dogs will be thrilled that they are now taking their rightful place among Hollywood royalty.
Director: Roland Joffé
Writers: Jeanne Labrune (writer) and Tom Stoppard (English adaptation)
Tagline: Some men are too noble to live among aristocracy.
Plot: In 1671, the Prince de Conde invites King Louis XIV, the Sun King, to his country chateau in Chantilly. The Prince de Conde has many debts, and with war brewing against Holland, hopes that the king will appoint him the commission as general which includes a large sum of money.
In charge of all of the festivities is the prince’s Master Steward, Francois Vatel. Vatel was born into a humble family, but through his extraordinary talent, devotion to perfection, and above all his honor, he eventually became the Master Steward for the Prince de Conde.
While the king and his court are visiting the Château de Chantilly, Vatel becomes attracted to the king’s newest mistress, Anne de Montausier, who also happens to be the lady-in-waiting to the queen.
Madame de Montausier recognizes in Vatel a noble disposition and genuine heart, which far outshines anyone she has met at court.
Will either of them escape the casual and deliberate cruelty of court politics?
Gerard Depardieu - Francois Vatel
Uma Thurman - Anne de Montausier
Tim Roth - Marquis de Lausun
Julian Glover - Prince de Conde
Julian Sands - Louis XIV, the Sun King
The Appearance of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in the film:
- The toy spaniel makes an appearance in the scene where the king and his court travel in a procession of carriages on route to the country château of the Prince de Conde. The little red and white dog sits on the lap of Queen Marie Theresa, the wife of King Louis XIV, while the king travels in his own carriage along with his two mistresses.
- One scene later as the queen mounts the staircase leading to her suite of rooms at the Château de Chantilly, her lady-in-waiting dutifully follows while carrying the royal spaniel on an elegant, plush pillow.
- In the scene where a performance is given for the king and his court, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has his rightful place on the lap of the queen while King Louis XIV prefers another breed of lap dog.
Interesting Facts About Francois Vatel:
Francois Vatel (1631, Paris – April 24, 1671) was the inventor of the famous Chantilly Crème, a sweet, vanilla flavored whipped cream.
He created it for the 2,000 person banquet hosted in honor of Louis XIV, the Sun King, by the Prince de Conde in April 1671 at the Chateau de Chantilly. The delicious concoction was named Crème Chantilly.
Vatel, a consummate perfectionist, was rumored to be so distraught when the fish for the banquet did not arrive on time that he committed suicide by stabbing himself with a sword. His death was treated as a national tragedy.
Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003)
Director: Peter Webber
Writers: Tracy Chevalier (novel), Olivia Hetreed (screenplay)
Tagline: Discover the mystery behind the legend.
Plot: In the 17th century, the Dutch master painter, Johannes Vermeer created a painting titled Girl with a Pearl Earring. Little is known about the girl in the painting, and it is assumed that she lived in the household as a maid or servant, yet there is no historical evidence.
In the film, Griet is a maid in the house, and is expected to clean Vermeer’s studio, among her many other tasks.
Vermeer supports his family through painting portraits of his wealthy patron, Van Ruijen, and it is essential that he does not lose his favor.
After meeting Griet, Van Ruijen commissions a portrait of her with the intent of having her submit to his lustful desires before the painting is finished. The painting is created in secret as Vermeer’s wife, a jealous and spiteful woman, would fire Griet if she were to find out that the girl is the subject of her husband’s painting.
Griet must balance her household tasks, avoid Van Ruijen’s grasp, ensure that Vermeer’s wife does not find out, and protect herself against the cruel gossip whirling through the sphere of domestic servants, hired hands, and market vendors.
Colin Firth – Johannes Vermeer
Scarlett Johansson – Griet
Tom Wilkinson – Pieter Van Ruijven
The Appearance of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in the film:
- The toy spaniel makes a brief appearance in the scene when Griet initially arrives at the Vermeer household. The head maid, Tanneke, shows her around the kitchen, dictating to Griet the extent of her new tasks. In the kitchen, a lovely, little, red and white Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is standing on the table, and Tanneke lifts the dog up and puts her on the floor.
Interesting Facts About Johannes Vermeer:
Johannes Vermeer (baptized in Delft on October 21, 1632 – December 15, 1675) was a Baroque Dutch painter specializing in exquisite, domestic interior scenes that focused around middle class life.
He was moderately successful, but never acquired large sums of wealth, partially due to the fact that he worked very slowly, and produced relatively few paintings.
When he died he left his wife and children in debt.
The Libertine (2004)
Director: Laurence Dunmore
Writers: Stephen Jeffreys (screenplay), Stephen Jeffreys (play)
Tagline: He didn't resist temptation. He pursued it.
Plot: When Charles II returns to the English throne in 1660, theater, the visual arts, science, and sexual exploration flourish. Later, when in the midst of economic and political troubles, the king decides that his friend, John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, should return to London from exile.
The Earl of Rochester is a cynical poet who is morally corrupt, a drunkard, and a sexual libertine.
The king asks him to write a play for the French ambassador in an attempt to ease the tension between the two countries.
In the playhouse, the earl meets the aspiring actress Elizabeth Barry, and smitten by her beauty and budding talent decides to make her a star. He teaches her the subtleties of each monolog, and the emotions that weave their way through them.
Eventually he falls in love with her, and she becomes his mistress.
The play he created for the French ambassador ignites a fury with the king, as the premise of the piece is an overly active sexual king, who prefers his libertine ways to that of governing his kingdom.
The earl falls into disgrace with the king and the court.
As Elisabeth Barry rises to the highest ranks in the theatre, the earl plunges deeper and deeper into despair. After casting him off, Elizabeth reluctantly meets the earl backstage at the theatre, where she tells him that she bore his child, and never wants to see him, and will never be in debt to him again.
Distraught, he returns to his country estate, and his wife who loves him dearly.
His is deteriorating, dying of syphilis and alcoholism. As his body erodes he converts from a libertine to a religious man.
In the end he summons the strength, and the courage to address the parliament in order to defend the king. The parliament has set into motion a bill that will ban the succession of the king’s brother to the throne because he is a Catholic.
The Earl of Rochester, covered in white pasty makeup, and a golden nose strapped to his face, delivers a speech both poignant and comical, to sway the votes in the favor of the king.
His speech won the crowd and the bill was defeated by 40 votes.
Johnny Depp – John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester
John Malkovich – King Charles II
The Appearance of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in the film:
- In the second scene, King Charles II walks through an expansive garden with his advisors followed by five or six Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. As the scene progresses the entourage moves through a grand hall in the palace, while the little spaniels run after and around the king.
- Far into the movie, King Charles II sits in a room with his advisors signing documents. Behind the king the little dogs run in and out of the frame. As the scene ends, the king concludes his business with his advisors while one of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniels curls its little body and defecates on the marble floor.
Interesting Facts About John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester:
John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester (April 1, 1647 – July 26, 1680) was an English libertine, a writer, a poet, and a friend of King Charles II.
He married an heiress, Elizabeth Malet, and had many mistresses, which included the actress Elizabeth Barry.
He was a patron of the arts and the toast of the Restoration court.
In 1674, he wrote a satire which criticized the king for neglecting his kingdom in favor of his obsession with sex. The king briefly exiled the earl from court, and he spent his time at his country estate. He returned to his seat in the House of Lords after a 7 week absence.
The earl once again fell into disgrace after a late night brawl where one of his companions was killed. The earl fled the scene.
After the incident, the earl impersonated a physician named Doctor Bendo. In this persona, he claimed to be able to treat infertility and other gynecological disorders. His ‘treatments’ were often successful, however it was rumored that he used his own sperm to impregnate his patients.
Also, on occasion when it would be improper for a male doctor to examine a female patient, he would assume a new role of the matronly Mrs. Bendo, presumably to inspect young women privately without arousing any suspicion.
At age 33, the earl died from syphilis, gonorrhea and other venereal diseases, as well as the consuming effects of alcoholism.
Interesting Facts About King Charles II of England:
Charles II of England (May 29, 1630 – February 6, 1685), was known as the Cavalier King, in reference to his first parliament which was called the Cavalier Parliament.
He adored the toy spaniels, and he was known for allowing the little dogs to follow him everywhere.
In 1925 the Kennel Club named this breed Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in honor of the famous king. As a result they are the only dogs permitted within the halls of the English Parliament, all public buildings, and allowed to run off-leash in Hyde Park.
Charles II was known as the Merrie Monarch, in reference to both his liveliness and the hedonism of his court. Under his rule, life returned to normality after over a decade of governance by Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans.
Catherine of Braganza, Charles’s II wife, bore him no children, but he acknowledged over 12 illegitimate children by a series of mistresses.
Charles II was the first monarch in England to grant theatre licenses permitting women to play female roles on the stage, as previously they were played by boys. Restoration literature and plays celebrated a restored court, which included libertines.
Sex and the City (Season 6, Episode 90)
Charlotte York, a proper Upper East Side socialite, and one of the four main characters on the show, adopted Elizabeth Taylor - not the famous actress, but an adorable Blenheim Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. After the episode aired the adoption rate for the breed surged and has continued to remain high.
My Opinion and Theory:
The choice for Charlotte adopting a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was obvious to me as the breed reflected Charlotte’s character. The Cavalier is refined, noble, playful, and can be a bit naughty. The dog is also a perfect city dog, as it is small enough to fit in most any apartment, but hardy enough to endure the challenges of the city.
I do not know exactly why the Cavalier King Charles breed was chosen, but I have a theory.
When Lulu, my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, was around 2 years old we strolled through the streets of New York’s SoHo, and her favorite stop was the Patricia Field store on West Broadway.
The staff encouraged us to visit, and while I shopped for wonderful treasures, Lulu thought the whole store was filled with toys for her. The staff loved Lulu and always remembered her when we walked down the stairs and through the doors.
I believe there are no coincidences. The fact that Patricia Field was the stylist for the show, and the fact that Lulu and I visited her store, and that the staff fell in love with Lulu, maybe influenced the breed selection. Or maybe it is just my way of embellishing my life, and being the proud mother of a delightful and friendly Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
For some time after the SATC episode aired, people would stop me on the street and say “Is that Elizabeth Taylor?” I would laugh and say, “No . . . this is Lulu Belle Marie Felicity, probably a royal cousin to Ms. Taylor.”
The Tudors - The Final Season (Season 4, Episode 2)
During Episode 2 in the final season of The Tudors, Henry VIII begins to feel his age during the Christmas celebration. He excuses himself from the festivities and retires to his bedchamber.
The next day he sits with his new queen, Catherine Howard, and the queen he divorced, Anne of Cleves. He gives Queen Catherine a gift, and then announces that he has another gift for her.
The doors of the chamber open, and a servant holds two tricolor Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. Henry gives the puppies to the queen, who asks Henry if she could share his generosity and give one of the puppies to Anne of Cleves.
He smiles, consents, and all is well . . . for now.