Early Modern History and Tiny Dogs

Hello internets. You may have noticed that your friendly local Gentleman Administrator has been missing for a while (well most of April) and for that I must apologise. This blog largely relies on me finding moments to pursue the flighty strumpet that is history and recently I have lacked that basic commodity: time. So, the muse has been absent and for that I apologise profusely and ask, nay beg, your humble forgiveness, grovel, grovel &c. &c.. It’s times like this that make me so impressed with those disciplined and inspired folk who manage working full-time and studying part-time, I bow to you who achieve this and seek to do better. Having said that, the chances are that my post will continue to be sporadic as in these times of financial dire straits the world of Higher Education requires us administrators to apply the old elbow grease to keep our frail and unloved institutions going. It appears that boom and bust applies equally to a model of higher education that had been relying on lashings of temporary government funded expansion. Administrators, it seems, are the first to go so lets hope they see the value in that rare beast the gentleman administrator.


So enough navel gazing from me, though I do have a wonderful navel, and on with something vaguely early modern as demonstrated by this picture:

The subject of the portrait is the sister of Charles II, Henriette-Anne, otherwise known as Minette. Some of the most heartfelt and interesting of the surviving letters of the King are addressed to his sister who he clearly loved very dearly, I’ve blogged on this subject before: here.

What I want to briefly mention is not the real subject but the star of the picture, yep, Tiny Dog:

The Restoration period really brought to the fore that now ever-popular accoutrement for the rich and famous the tiny little lap dog, in this case the toy spaniel. We even have a breed of dog that gained its name from the popularity it held at Charles’ court, the King Charles Spaniel. The toy spaniel’s popularity can be seen from their presence in portraits of Minette and other key figures of the day. She was prominent in the french royal court which was the fashion epicentre of the time,  Tiny Dog’s appearance cements its place as fashion piece of the hour:

Tiny Dog and Minette - The height of Fashion

I’ve come across these two pictures a number of times in reading about the period and personally, the little bastard dog creeps me out. Just look at his tiny black eyes, creepy. Anyway, the lap dog craze was cemented by Charles’ love of the dog and it is said that they accompanied him on most jaunts. Samuel Pepys regails us with this absolute gem from May 1660:

About noon (though the brigantine that Beale made was there ready to carry him) yet he would go in my Lord’s barge with the two Dukes. Our Captain steered, and my Lord went along bare with him. I went, and Mr. Mansell, and one of the King’s footmen, with a dog that the King loved,1 (which [dirted] the boat, which made us laugh, and me think that a King and all that belong to him are but just as others are)

from Pepys Diary, 25 May 1660

I bet the little rascal did it deliberately. The popularity of lapdogs, like our sinister friend Tiny Dog, both then and now demonstrates that the fundamental desires of the rich and famous have changed very little over the centuries. These dogs provide unconditional attention and love as well as serving as a neat little Gucci handbag alternative, or even a Gucci handbag accessory. The breed of dog might change but the rich do not *shudder*:


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