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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. It was then that Jacques Cartier raised a cross that bore the arms of Francis I, King of France, depicting three gold Fleur de Lis on a blue background.

Before 1988, Canadians wanting to obtain their coat of arms were required to petition either the College of Arms in London, England or the Court of the Lord Lyon in Edinburgh, Scotland. On June 4, 1988, Canada's Governor General became the Canadian Heraldic Authority with the power to grant armorial bearings in Canada.

A popular misconception is that a coat of arms is designated or assigned to a specific clan, family or surname. In actuality there is no such thing. A coat of arms is granted to an individual and not a family or family name. A coat of arms can also be granted to corporate bodies (schools, societies, associations, institutions) as well as cities and towns.

The Canadian Heraldic Authority is accessible to all Canadians and corporate entities and is able to issue coats of arms, flags and badges. The Authority's mandate includes such other activities as the approval of military flags and the provision of information on correct heraldic practices. Although specific criteria for the granting of armorial petitions have not been published, the individual's or institution's good standing and contributions to society are usually taken into consideration.

Research at Library and Archives Canada

Heraldic Society of Canada, 1940 - 2002

The Heraldry Society of Canada was founded in Ottawa in 1966 and incorporated by federal charter to represent Canadians with an interest in heraldry. In 2003, the society received royal assent to use the name "The Royal Heraldry Society of Canada". The fonds consists of textual records, photographs, art, and moving images that document the programs and activities of the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada. It includes records of the Board of Directors and Executive Committee; records on the financial direction and management of the society and on its constitution and by-laws; publications and records on the Society's activities.

Alan B. Beddoe fonds, 1869 - 1979 (MG 30 D252)

Alan Beddoe (1893 - 1975), was an artist and heraldry expert. He supervised the illumination of the Canadian Books of Remembrance, was Heraldic Adviser to the Royal Canadian Navy, designed badges for over 180 naval vessels during the Second World War and designed coats of arms for many Canadian municipalities and institutions. Beddoe was also involved in the preliminary study for the new Canadian flag and was the first president of the Heraldry Society of Canada.

Research in Published Sources


Heraldry in Canada


A Canadian Heraldic Primer by Dr. Kevin Greaves.

An Heraldic Alphabet by John Brooke-Little.

Armorial du Canada français by E.Z. Massicotte and Regis Roy.

Armorial Heritage in Canada of Continental European Families by Hans Dietrich Birk.

Armory and Lineages of Canada by Herbert George Todd.

Canada: Symbols of Sovereignty by C. Swan.

Canadian Heraldry by Alan Beddoe.

Heralds and Ancestors by Sir Anthony Wagner.

Simple Heraldry by Iain Moncreiffe and Don Pottinger.

The Art of Heraldry: Origins, Symbols, Designs by Peter Gwynn-Jones.

The Symbols of Heraldry Explained.

Search for books on heraldry in AMICUS, using authors, titles or subject terms such as:

  • Coats of Arms
  • Flags
  • Heraldry

Research Online

The Canadian Heraldic Authority

Granting Armorial Bearings in Canada

The Public Register of Arms, Flags and Badges of Canada

The Royal Heraldry Society of Canada

The Symbols of Canada