A HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH TOY SPANIEL

Passionate about the breed, in December 1932 Gladys Marlborough became the Patron of the King Charles Spaniel Club in the United Kingdom. The club was established in 1885 and has recently celebrated its 125th anniversary. Gladys may have been a bit overzealous in her passion for her toy spaniels, but she truly loved and adored her dogs. Upon the unexpected death of her beloved “Snowflake” following a Caesarian section, on August 9, 1931, Gladys mourned in her journal: “My Snuzzles! The pain, the agony of it all…never, never will I forget you or lose the pain of your death, my Snow, little dear Snu!” We can certainly sympathize with these emotions, even in our modern times of advanced veterinary care.

Unsympathetically, an anonymous, unverifiable report of Gladys's tenure as the Duchess of Marlborough asserts: "[Blenheim Palace] was destroyed by Gladys and her 50 King Charles Spaniels. She
gave them complete run of the place and even cut dog flaps in all of the mahogany doors. The dogs were not housebroken and destroyed priceless carpets and furniture. She even turned the Great Hall of Blenheim and a few other rooms into giant dog kennels. Blenheim reeked of dogs, which is quite an accomplishment when you consider the size of Blenheim and the size of a King Charles Spaniel. By the time the Duke died [June 30, 1934], Gladys was left to wandering around Blenheim alone, pinned into the 1st Duchess of Marlborough's [Sarah Churchill, lived 1660 to 1744] court dresses amid her sea of untrained spaniels".

One reason this may be a fabricated story, at least partially, is that Gladys left Blenheim Palace, not entirely by choice, by June of 1933, well before the Duke's death. Living comfortably in London, the embittered Duke had turned off the utilities at Blenheim Palace and furloughed the staff. Gladys held out for a time, cooking her dinners on a portable stove smuggled to her by friends. It most certainly was not a happy ending to their story.
Gladys went on to outlive the Duke by over forty years. After renting Town Farm in Mixbury, in 1938 she purchased Grange Farm and spent her last decades living reclusively in the small village of Chacombe, near Banbury. She was happy to stay behind the stone walls of her garden in a house piled with clutter. She lived quietly as "Mrs. Spencer" with her canine companions and was not recognized as the former beautiful duchess when seen on rare outings, always wearing shabby coats, floppy hats, and heavy boots, regardless of the weather. She was frequently observed walking her dogs long after nightfall, carrying a lantern.