The Canadian Coat Of Arms

The design seen above of the Arms of Canada was drawn by Mrs. Cathy Bursey-Sabourin, Fraser Herald at the Canadian Heraldic Society, office of the Governor General. It depicts the arms described in the Royal Proclamation of 1921. A newer design was approved in 1994 adding a ribbon behind the shield with the motto of the Order of Canada.

The Proclamation of 1921

"By the King - A Proclamation

Declaring His Majesty's 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 exchange of the powers conferred by the first Article of the Union with Ireland Act, 1800, appoint and declare that the Arms of Ensigns Armorial of the Dominion of Canada shall be Tierced in fesse the first and second divisions containing the quarterly coat following, namely, 1st Gules three lions passant guardant in pale or, 2nd, Or a lion rampant within a double treasure flory-counter-flory gules, 3rd, Azure a harp or stringed argent, 4th, 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 Domion 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.

God Save the King"

The Shield

The three lions in the first quarter represent the ties to England, they could possibly date back to King Richard I, "The Lion-Hearted", who carried with him, during the Crusades, a shield with three gold lions on a red background. The second quarter contains the Royal Lion of Scotland, in it we can see a red lion rearing up on it's left foot, contained in a red double border with fleurs-de-lis on the corners and centre outside of the border, this emblem was used by Alexander III who created the independent nation of Scotland. The golden harp with white strings is the Royal Irish Harp of Tara, Henry VIII, after his victory in Ireland had the Pope send the harp of Tara to England where he had it's likeness emblazoned on his royal shield, it remains the symbol of Ireland. On July 24, 1534, Jaques Cartier landed at Gaspe, erected a cross and claimed Canada for France, this symbol of the Royal Fleurs-de-lis of France was engraved in that cross and represents the first heraldic symbol raised in Canada. The three maple leaves are a genuinely Canadian symbol and were put into the shield to ensure that the Coat of Arms was unmistakably Canadian.

The Crest

The crest sits atop the royal helmet on the Coat of Arms. It is used to mark Canada's sovereignty and consists of a Lion standing on a ring of red and white silk, wearing the royal crown and holding a maple leaf in its right paw. The lion symbolizes valour and courage.

The Helm and Mantling

The helm or helmet sits atop the shield. It displays the crest as well as denotes the rank of the person bearing the arms.The mantle was originally used to protect the wearers head and shoulders from the sun, but since Medieval times it has become more of an accessory to the crest and shield. The Arms of Canada show a royal helmet draped with a red and white mantle, which denote the colours of Canada.

The Supporters

The supporters are often shown in a ferocious manner "rampant". The history behind the lion and unicorn may come from when James VI of Scotland became James I of England in 1603. He was the first Monarch to have the lion (England) and the unicorn (Scotland) on his royal shields. The supporters on the Canadian Coat of Arms show a lion on the shield's right holding a silver lance topped with gold, flying the Royal Union flag, and on the shield's left is a unicorn with a gold horn, mane, and hoofs. Around the unicorn's neck is a gold, chained crown of crosses and fleurs-de-lis. The flag flying from the unicorn's lance is that of royalist France, showing three gold fleurs-de-lis on a blue background. Each banner on the lances represents the two founding nations that established Canada's first governing bodies and customs.

The Motto

The motto, "A Mari usque ad Mare" is based on Psalm 72:8, "He shall have dominion from sea to sea and from the river unto the ends of the earth." It was first used in 1906 in the new Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan, carved onto the head of their mace. Sir Joseph Pope, Undersecretary of State first proposed the motto, being impressed by it's meaning. Later, on April 21, 1921, the Order in Council proposed the motto for the new coat of arms, and it was finally confirmed by Royal Proclamation on November 21, 1921.

The Four Floral Emblems

The floral emblems of Canada's founding nations are represented at the bottom of the coat of arms, namely, the English Rose, Scottish Thistle, Irish Shamrock, and French Fleurs-de-Lis.

The Imperial Crown

This crown which sits atop the Royal Arms of Canada represents the presence of a Monarch as Canada's Head of State. This specific crown is Saint Edward's crown, it has been used in the coronations of Kings and Queens in Westminster Abbey for centuries.

The Ribbon

Following the advice of the Prime Minister of Canada, HRH Queen Elizabeth II approved the addition of a ribbon to the Royal Arms. The motto is that of the Order of Canada, "Desiderantes Meliorem Patriam" (They desire a better country). The augmentation of the ribbon was suggested by Mr. Bruce Hicks, of Ottawa, and was approved on July 12, 1994.