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Governor General of Canada

Last modified: 2003-04-26 by phil nelson
Keywords: canada | governor general | lion | maple leaf | leaf: maple | crown |
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[Governor General flag - 1981 to 1998]
by Zach Harden and Graham Bartram

See also:

Governor General

The Canadian newspaper National Post reported on Monday, August 16, 1999, that a revised flag has been introduced for Canada's Governor-General. The revision is to the lion emblem in the flag. Governor-General Romeo LeBlanc did not like the attitude of the lion used previously. The lion, previously regardant and poking its tongue at observers, is now deprived of its claws and has its tongue politely hidden in its mouth. The change has been introduced gradually and quietly, but the new flag is already fluttering at the Governor-General's web site.

Elena Cherney: "Governor general orders viceregal lion's tongue cut," National Post, 16 August 1999

Jan Oskar Engene - August 19, 1999

After reading about this in the paper the other day, I took a look at the souvenir coffee mug I bought at Rideau Hall in June 1998. It has the new crest--how unobservant of me not to notice the change! It seems the redrawn crest has been in use for more than a year, but was never noticed by most of the public nor by any of the media. It appears it made it into the news now because His Excellency made an off-the-cuff remark about it during a cermony marking the Acadian National Day, when he noticed the program had the old drawing on it.
Dean Tiegs - 19 August, 1999

Former Flags


[Flag of the Governor General of Canada]
by Jan Oskar Engene


[Governor General flag - 1981 to 1998]
by Zach Harden and Graham Bartram

Governor General's flag at sea 1981-98
[Governor General flag - 1981 to 1998]
by Zach Harden and Graham Bartram

Concerning the governor-general's flag, does the crest consist of the lion only? I have a couple of pictures of the Canadian arms showing the lion surmounted by a crown. Also, as the lion is now distinctively Canadian, I presume that the scroll with CANADA inscription has been deleted.

ISTR seeing a blazon of the Canadian arms on the Government of Canada web site and that seemed to indicate that the crown is not part of the crest but an augmentation of the whole arms, so if the purpose was to replace the British crest with the Canadian, the crown need not appear.
Roy Stilling - 30 April 1997

The lion on the Arms has a crown on its head AND is surmounted by another bigger crown.

On the Governor General's flag, there is only the lion with the little crown on his head. His red tongue is out (lampasse de gueules in French) and his claws are red (arme de gueules). It is a "lion passant" (sideways), of course, like the English lion.

The red maple leaf he is holding in his right paw has yellow (what's the word for "nervures" in English?) lines in the middle. The cloth he is standing on is white-red-white-red-white-red. The field is dark blue.

There is nothing else on the flag, no scroll or anything.
Jean-Luc Baronian - 1 May 1997

I think there's some confusion here. As far as I know the governor-general's flag hasn't changed. For as long as I've been around it's been blue with the Canadian royal crest and a CANADA scroll. I think the confusion might be over what a "crest" technically is: it's the part of the coat of arms that sits on the helmet, above the shield. The similarity between the Canadian royal crest and the UK royal crest may also be contributing. The Canadian royal crest, since 1921, has been a standing gold lion wearing a crown a holding a red maple leaf with gold veins in its right forepaw.

I've seen an illustration in two books (sorry, can't remember which ones right now) that showed a three-legged lion (the paw with the leaf is missing), but this illustration is wrong.
Dean Tiegs - 1 May 1997


[Flag of the Governor General of Canada 1931-1981]
by Tom Gregg

Smith's FTTAAATW (1975) shows the Canadian governor general's flag with the British Royal Crest (crowned lion standing on a crown, i.e. the crest of the Royal Arms) over a scroll inscribed CANADA. At that time, according to Smith, all the governor generals' flags were basically the same -- they featured the Royal Crest over a scroll with the name of the country -- though some had proportions other than 1:2 and Fiji had its name inscribed on a whale's tooth instead of on a scroll.

It seems to me that if the crest of the Canadian arms (crowned lion holding a maple leaf) had been used all along, there would have been no need for the scroll.
Tom Gregg - 1 May 1997

I know that the precedent had a yellow scroll with the inscription CANADA, but I don't remember if it was the Canadian or British Crest.

Dean makes me realize that I might be wrong on the date of the change (I did say I think it occured in the 80s). It was probably more recent then that :

In the 1995 edition of Symbols of Canada, the newer flag is pictured, but I now recall seeing the old one in a 1989 or 1991 edition that the Montreal Library still has...

I'll have to go and verify this over there... unless someone can help before I do...
Jean-Luc Baronian - 2 May 1997

The following is a brief synopsis on the flag of the Governor General of Canada.

  • 1869 - The authorization for "governors of all ranks" to have a British Union flag defaced with the arms or badge of the colony.
  • 1870 - The Canadian privy council submitted a design with the arms of the Dominion surrounded by a garland of maple leaves. As Canada had no arms, this badge consisted of the four provinces that constituted Canada at Confederation. The original design of the garland and crown came from a design that had been introduced on Canadian coins in 1858. The Governor General's flag alone bore a St. Edward's crown with the badge of Canada, the Lieutenant Governors' flags bore the provincial badges without a crown.

    Alistair Fraser in his web-book on The Flags of Canada notes that after there were flags approved for the Governor General, Lt. Governors, the Canadian Illustrated News (1871) decided to depict all 7 approved flags of Canada. The problem: they were all wrong. The Governor General's flag was shown centered on a white ensign. Manufacturers made flags according to the illustrations in Canadian Illustrated News and when the Earl of Dufferin, third Governor General, visited Montreal in 1878 the flag at the reception was the erroneous defaced white ensign.

  • 1901 - The crown is changed to a Tudor crown after Edward VII becomes King.
  • 1922 - The badge on the Governor General's standard changes due to the grant of arms to Canada.
  • 1928 - a new flag for the Governor-General is proposed.
  • 1931 - The 1928 proposal becomes official on Feburary 25. The flag bears the crest from the royal arms on a blue field, below a scroll bearing the word "Canada" (all caps). The lion mounted on a Tudor crown.
  • 1953-54 - Queen Elizabeth asks that the St. Edward's crown be used in Governor General flags and the flag is changed.
  • 1981 - The crest of the arms of Canada becomes the central emblem of the Governor General's flag.
  • 1998 - The lion on the Governor General flag loses his tongue and claws.
Phil Nelson, 4 December 1999, 6 December 1999

An essential feature of these flags, when first introduced, was that they were solely for use on ships, boats and other vessels. Canadian Governors General and Lt. Governors seem to have started using them on land in the 1890's, but colonial governors were not authorised to fly their defaced Union Jacks on land until 1943.

The 1931 flag symbolized the change in the relationship between Britain and Canada, brought about by the Balfour Declaration of 1926. The defaced UJ indicated that the Governor-General represented the British Government. The Royal Crest Flag showed that he was no longer part of the British Government, but purely the personal representative of the Sovereign in Canada.
David Prothero, 8 December 1999

On 31 July 1869 was iissued "a Memorial from the Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty", part of which read, "We further submit that Governors of your Majesty's Dominions in Foreign parts and Governors of all ranks and denominations administering the Governments of British Colonies and Dependencies be authorised to fly the Union Jack, with the Arms or Badge of the Colony emblazoned in the centre thereof."

On 7 Aug 1869 came the Order in Council in which, "Her Majesty .... was pleased ... to approve of what is therein [the Admiralty Memo] proposed. And [various persons] are to give the necessary directions therein accordingly."

And on 28 Feb 1870 the Canadian Privy Council submitted their design for the flag of the Governor-General of Canada.

This flag was approved by Lord Kimberley, Secretary of State for the Colonies on 16 July 1870.
David Prothero, 7 January 2001