Heraldry has been defined by the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada as the “…study, design, regulation and use of armorial bearings, commonly known as coats of arms.” The first example of heraldry in Canada occurred at Gaspé, on July 24, 1534, when Jacques Cartier raised a cross that bore the arms of Francis I, King of France.
More than 450 years later, on June 4, 1988, Canada’s Governor General was made head of the Canadian Heraldic Authority and was given the power to grant armorial bearings in Canada. The Authority’s mandate is to issue coats of arms, flags and badges to Canadians and to Canadian entities. Before 1988, Canadians wishing to obtain armorial bearings had to petition the College of Arms in London, England, or the Court of the Lord Lyon in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Learn more about heraldry from the following reference works:
- A Canadian Heraldic Primer, written by Kevin Greaves and illustrated by Bruce Patterson and Gordon Macpherson (AMICUS 22962127)
- Beddoe’s Canadian Heraldry, by Alan Beddoe (AMICUS 11514059)
- Granting and Registering Armorial Bearings in Canada: Coats of Arms, Flags and Badges – Procedure Guide, by the Canadian Heraldic Authority (AMICUS 25541152)
- Heraldry in Canada (AMICUS 120587)
- Flagscan (AMICUS 6865457)
Library and Archives Canada holds the following fonds that pertain to this fascinating tradition:
- The Royal Heraldry Society of Canada fonds, 1966–2001, which consists of textual records, photographs, art, and moving images that document the programs and activities of the Society (MIKAN 206959)
- Alan B. Beddoe fonds, 1869–1979 (MIKAN 104827): Mr. Beddoe became the first president of the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada when it was founded in 1966.
Interested in knowing more about Canada’s emblems and symbols?
To learn more about Canada’s emblems and symbols, such as the beaver, the fleur-de-lys and the maple leaf, consult the Canadian Identity pages of the Canadian Heritage website.