The royal grant

During the first decades after Confederation, questions relating to the arms of Canada had not received the attention they deserved. The Royal arms of the United Kingdom were then freely used to identify the offices of the Government of Canada.

Shortly after Confederation, a Great Seal was required and a design was approved by a royal warrant dated May 26, 1868 . This design displayed, quarterly, the arms of the original four provinces of the new federation: Ontario , Quebec , Nova Scotia and New Brunswick . It was never used as the Great Seal, but was gradually adopted as the arms of Canada (for a reason unexplained by history, another Great Seal was adopted for Canada representing Queen Victoria and the throne of her coronation; this Great Seal is however altered at the beginning of each reign, so as to show the effigy of the new Sovereign).

When other provinces joined Confederation, the attempt to add the arms of the new provinces to this federal composite design resulted in a crowded and confused appearance. For this reason, the Canadian Government submitted a request to the Sovereign for a grant of arms. This request was approved and the arms assigned to Canada were appointed and declared in the proclamation (text on next page) of His Majesty King George V dated November 21, 1921 . This action was proceeded with on the basis of an Order of the Governor General in Council (P.C. 1921-1496) dated April 30, 1921 .

Proclamation of 1921

“By the King – A Proclamation

Declaring His Majestys Pleasure concerning the Ensigns Armorial of the Dominion of Canada

George R.I.

WHEREAS We have received a request from the Governor General in Council of Our Dominion of Canada that the Arms or Ensigns Armorial herein after described should be assigned to Our said Dominion.

We do hereby, by and with the advice of Our Privy Council, and in exercise of the powers conferred by the first Article of the Union with Ireland Act, 1800, appoint and declare that the Arms or Ensigns Armorial of the Dominion of Canada shall be Tierced in fesse the first and second divisions containing the quarterly coat following, namely, 1 st Gules three lions passant guardant in pale or, 2 nd , Or a lion rampant within a double tressure flory-counter-flory gules, 3 rd , Azure a harp or stringed argent, 4 th , Azure, three fleurs-de-lis or, and the third division Argent three maple leaves conjoined on one stem proper. And upon a Royal helmet mantled argent doubled gules the Crest, that is to say, On a wreath of the colours argent and gules a lion passant guardant or imperially crowned proper and holding in the dexter paw a maple leaf gules. And for Supporters On the dexter a lion rampant or holding a lance argent, point or, flying therefrom to the dexter the Union Flag, and on the sinister A unicorn argent armed crined and unguled or, gorged with a coronet composed of crosses-patée and fleurs-de-lis a chain affixed thereto reflexed of the last, and holding a like lance flying therefrom to the sinister a banner azure charged with three fleurs-de-lis or; the whole ensigned with the Imperial Crown proper and below the shield upon a wreath composed of roses, thistles, shamrocks and lillies a scroll azure inscribed with the motto A mari usque ad mare, and Our Will and Pleasure further is that the Arms or Ensigns Armorial aforesaid shall be used henceforth, as far as conveniently may be, on all occasions wherein the said Arms or Ensigns Armorial of the Dominion of Canada ought to be used.

Given at Our Court at Buckingham Palace , this twenty-first day of November, in the year of Our Lord One thousand nine hundred and twenty-one, and in the twelfth year of Our Reign.


The proclamation

The royal proclamation makes special reference to the request by the Government of Canada and states that the grant of arms or flags is made on the advice of the Privy Council and by the powers conferred by the first Article of the British statute “The Union of Ireland Act, 1800”. Passed in the reign of King George III, it empowered the Crown to grant, by proclamation, arms and flags to the United Kingdom and its dependencies.

A special committee was mandated by the Governor General in 1919 to study the question on the arms of Canada . It was composed of:

  • Thomas Mulvey, K.C., Under Secretary of State, Chairman;
  • Sir Joseph Pope, K.C.M.G., C.V.O., I.S.O, (Under Secretary of State for External Affairs);
  • A.G. Doughty, C.M.G., Litt. D., Dominion Archivist;
  • Major-General W.G. Gwatkin, C.B., C.M.G., (Department of Militia and Defence).

The present design of the arms of Canada was drawn by Mrs. Cathy Bursey-Sabourin, Fraser Herald at the Canadian Heraldic Authority, office of the Governor General of Canada , and faithfully depicts the arms described in the words of the Royal Proclamation dated November 21, 1921 . The present design was approved in 1994 and shows a ribbon behind the shield with the motto of the Order of Canada . This version replaces a former design drawn by Mr. Alan Beddoe.