Buy State Flags from Allstate FlagsBuy US flags from Five Star Flags
This page is part of © FOTW Flags Of The World website

Canada - history of the flag (1957-1965)

Last modified: 2005-09-02 by phil nelson
Keywords: canada | red ensign: canada | history: red ensign: canada |
Links: FOTW homepage | search | disclaimer and copyright | write us | mirrors

Official flag, 1957-1965
[Canada - 1957] image by Herman de Wael

See also:

The Red Ensign

Chronology of the Canadian Blue and Red Ensigns

original text by Dean Tiegs - 21 December 1997, additions inserted at appropriate places.

Some information from "The Flags of Canada - chapter IV - the Canadian Ensigns" by Alistair B. Fraser.

08 October 1957

Coat of Arms
[Canada - Coat of Arms 1957] image by Timothy Boronczyk, 18 May 1998

The maple leaves at the base of the Canadian royal arms change from green to red. The 1921 proclamation specified that the leaves be "proper," i.e., in their natural colour, but this was ambiguous because maple leaves can be green, yellow, or red. Artists had previously drawn them green, but on this date the secretary of state announced that they should henceforth be red.
Dean Tiegs, 21 December 1997

The formal heraldic description of the Maple Leaves is: "Argent, three maple leaves, conjoined on one stem proper". The heraldic term "proper", of course, can be read as "any naturally occurring colour of the object", which in the case of a maple leaf, can be red, green, or yellow, (depending upon the species depicted and the time of year). The original submission to the College of Arms, London, asked for green maple leaves, hence this is how the authorities subsequently interpreted "proper", once the grant was made.

However, there was some discontent, among certain segments of Canadian society, (no doubt an insignificant minority, given the few people who actually concern themselves with such matters, (comme nous), over the choice of green as the interpretation of "proper". This seemed to stem (pardon the pun) from the fact that at about the same time HM King George V formally declared red and white to be Canada's official colours; hence, some people argued that the 3 maple leaves in the shield, (meant, of course, to represent Canada, along with the Dominion's 4 founding nations -- England, Scotland, Ireland, and France), should therefore be red on white, (or argent/gules). The influence of this opinion seemed to grow as time marched on, since subsequent renditions of the maple leaf, (when meant to represent Canada), tended to be presented in red vice green: e.g.., the c. 1940 Canadian Army Battle Flag; as well as numerous Royal Canadian Navy and Air Force wartime badges, as well as the Canadian Army Flag formally adopted in 1947.

Finally, on 8 Oct 1957, the Canadian government formally announced changes to the design of the Red Ensign's, (and Canadian Coat of Arms') shield, to wit:

  • a) the proper maple leaves were henceforth to be red; and
  • b) (at the Queen's pleasure) the "female" Irish harp was replaced with the traditional Celtic version of the harp.

Glen Robert-Grant Hodgins, 18 May 1998

Fraser lists one other change to the arms and flag : the border around the Scottish rampant Lion is erroneously changed from a double one to a single one.
Herman De Wael, 23 October 1998

history continues