Friday, October 23, 2009

Heraldic Tabard for the Chief Herald of Canada

On May 4, 2009, Her Excellency the Governor General announced that a tabard, a traditional garment, would be created, to be worn on special occassions by the Chief Herald of Canada.

English heralds wearing tabards in a procession to St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle for the annual service of the Order of the garter in 2006
This announcement is the direct result of a decision of the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada, made through the execution of its board of directors, to cover the costs related to the creation of the tabard, up to an agreed amount.

The creation of a tabard for the Chief Herald is the fulfillment of a wish held by the officers of the Canadian Heraldic Authority, the members of the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada, and others in the heraldic community, ever since the creation of the CHA in 1988. Such a garment will add a sense of splendour and dignity to the official heraldic ceremonies, marking the importance of the Chief Herald's role in assigning and proclaiming heraldic emblems.

The design concept of the garment was also approved by the Governor General, and it will remain confidential until it has been unveiled. The design was created by the Chief Herald of Canada and Fraser Herald.

The President of the RHSC will receive periodic updates from the Chief Herald of Canada.

For those who wish to donate to the "Tabard Fund" of the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada, please email our Society's secretary, John B. Wilkes.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

43rd Annual General Meeting...

The 43rd Annual General Meeting of the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada was held on the October 2-4th, 2009 weekend in Toronto. On this occassion, as Toronto was the host, the AGM was held in the historical St. George's Hall located in the university district of Toronto and home to the Arts and Letters Club of Toronto.

The map of the University of Toronto campus rendered by Alexander Scott Carter, located in Hart House, UofT.
Photo by David Steeves
The Friday afternoon had the Board of Directors and Executive who met for the last time of their mandate. Following the meeting, an informal dinner at the favoured Upper Canada styled Barberian's Steak House located across the street from the Arts and Letters Club. The Beley Lecture presented Dr. Clark, Professor of Sociology from the University of Western Ontario and provided an interesting paper on the creation, development and use of honours mostly throughout Europe from the 12th century through to the modern day "Order of Canada".

A group of AGM attendees in the Great Hall at Hart House, with the arms painted by Alexander Scott Carter in the background.
Saturday's AGM showed confidence in the members of the Executive, having David M. Cvet as President, Capt. David Rumball as 1st Vice-President, Mr. Carl Larsen as 2nd Vice-President and Treasurer Mr. Ian Steingaszner, all in their second term, except for Ian, who is in his third term.

A guided tour of Hart House and Soldier's Tower was made available to a number of attendees of the AGM. This was followed with a Gala Dinner and lecture back at the Great Hall of the Arts and Letters Club. The keynote speaker was Ms. Catherine Spence, who delivered a fascinating lecture and presentation on the works of Alexander Scott Carter.

The evening included the presentation of the Letters Patent, presented to Mr. Hawksridge and family by St. Laurent Herald, Mr. Bruce Patterson, and Assinoboine Herald, Mr. Darrel Kennedy.

For a complete report with photos, written by Toronto Branch President, David Steeves, click 43rd AGM in Review.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Heraldry Instruction by the Laurentian Branch

The Society's Laurentian Branch is offering free heraldry courses to its members and friends at the Macdonald-Stewart Foundation, in the old Forget Mansion on Sherbrooke Street West.
The class meets every second Tuesday from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. in the Queen's Room. Participants with computers are sent seven free Google books on the subject of heraldry, and are encouraged to buy Steven Slater's book on heraldry as their primary textbook. Copies of The Heraldic Primer are used as well in the first two introductory lessons.

A heraldry class, L-R: Robert Frank, Regine Frank, Noel Nunes, Diana Wall, Claude Bourret, Jocelyne Benoit. Missing: Carola Morton and the instructor/photographer, Peter Hogan
The branch plans to offer both introductory and intermediate courses in the Spring and Autumn.
Participants in the courses may choose to take the Heraldry Proficiency exams at introductory and intermediate levels if they choose to; however, the courses are designed as an end in themselves. The exams are not free, but RHSC members get a 50% discount. The primary aim of giving these courses is to increase our members' knowledge of heraldry, and for our friends and branch members to appreciate heraldic history and the beauty of heraldic art. Space is limited. There is room for only eight participants in each course.

Interested readers may enquire by phoning 514.321.7475, or email:

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Skype me...

The Royal Heraldry Society of Canada (RHSC) has taken another step into the 21st century by holding its first "virtual" meeting of a number of Executive Committee members. Seven members of the Committee, included the Society's President, David M. Cvet, and from the west to east, Carl Larsen, 2nd Vice President, Darren George, Director and Editor of Gonfanon, David Rumball, 1st Vice President, David Steeves, Toronto Branch President and Robert McColgan, Ottawa Branch President and Peter Hannen, Director and Editor of HinC. The virtual meeting was indeed "coast-to-coast" as David was at his summer residence in Nova Scotia for the call.

For the past year, David has been encouraging members to download a popular software application called Skype. This software enables computer to computer communications, either one-on-one with video and audio interface, or one-to-many (like our virtual meeting) in audio only. Although Peter did not have his microphone functioning, he was able to hear the comments during the meeting, and sent text messages to contribute to the discussion. At this point, about 2/3's of the Executive Committee are outfitted with Skype. David encourages the Committee members to purchase a headset, similar to the one depicted on the above left. This improves both the receiving and sending audio, and keeps the conversation quiet in the house, as opposed to having people speaking over your computer's speakers and possibly disturbing others in the house. The virtual meeting was scheduled for 9:00pm Atlantic Time, Thursday, August 13. The meeting was successful as it went well, and it clearly demonstrated the possibilities of hosting virtual meetings with respect to connecting with more members of the Executive Committee and saving both the members and the Society from incurring costs.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Digby Heraldry Class

On Monday, June 22, David M. Cvet, President of the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada delivered a presentation on Canadian Heraldry to an audience comprised of three classes of grade 4 and grade 5 students, of the Digby Elementary School in Digby, Nova Scotia. The presentation began with the viewing the first part of the Society's DVD which introduced the viewers to the basics and history of heraldry.

After the DVD, David fielded questions from the students, and then distributed photocopies of blank shields for the kids to colour their own coats of arms and participate in a contest on deciding whose drawing of the arms were considered the best or most interesting. There were six tables occupied by students, and once the drawing was completed, each table selected the best or most interesting arms. These were collected by David, and then shown to the entire group of students. The selected arms were determined by the volume of the cheers and applauding by the students. As it would happen, there was a tie between two drawings, and in order to break the tie, a coin toss was done, and Hannah's arms was selected. Her depiction is shown on the left. She was presented with a prize of a DVD entitled "Kingdom of Heaven". The Society challenges those "heraldically" inclined individuals to attempt write the blazon of the arms!

The Society wishes to thank Mr. Martin Winchester, grade 5 teacher at the school for organizing this event.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Heraldry at the Hall

On Monday, May 4th, Her Excellency the Governor General hosted an event at Rideau Hall, her official residence, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Canadian Heraldic Authority, and also to celebrate "the vitality of Canadian heraldry" (as the invitation read). Mme Jean wore her handsome gold, silver and enamel chain of office as head of the Canadian Heraldic Authority; she is also, of course, patron of the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada.

Her Excellency explains the symbolism of her own coat of arms. “My arms reflect my roots and my sense of belonging, but also my most deeply held beliefs, what I hope to accomplish during my mandate, and the legacy that I want to leave to the country that welcomed me with open arms.” - the carving was created by Society member, Donald Black. Click here to view more details on the image.
The event took place in the ballroom of Rideau Hall, with a reception and exhibition following in the Tent Room. Present were past and present staff and heralds of the Authority, most of the officers and directors of our Society, members of the Ottawa branch, and children from the Michaëlle Jean School in Ottawa. The event was chaired by Sheila Marie Cook, who is secretary to the Governor General and Chancellor of the Authority. The principal speaker was the Governor General, who spoke with passion of the experience of working on her personal coat-of-arms, to find symbols which spoke of her own history and current interests. Her Excellency was presented with a carved and polychromed depiction of her arms, the work of Donald Black and a gift from him and from the Society.

During the main event in the ballroom of Rideau Hall, a couple of announcements were made which were gratifying to our members. One is that the Garfield Weston Foundation has presented the Authority with chains of office for each of the heralds: these were on view in the Tent Room after the ceremony. Even more gratifying was the announcement that the Governor General has authorized the wearing of a tabard by the Chief Herald. Alas, there was no sketch on view of what this tabard might look like, but the announcement marked the fulfillment of a dream which the Society has had for many years. The achievement of this dream, however, lies in our hands: on behalf of the Society, our executive has underwritten the cost of the tabard, and an appeal to our membership is forthwith launched to cover the cost!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Toronto Branch at the ROM...

The morning of March 16th was no ordinary morning. With the help of Toronto Branch Vice President David Steeves, transported and unloaded the paraphernalia which formed the Society's heraldry display area for the duration of March Break at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) from March 16 to the 20th. This is the third year in which the Branch has actively been engaged with the ROM, executing the mission of the Society with ease as literally thousands of people passed through the area, many stopping to ask questions, and/or their children wishing to pause for a few minutes to colour their own personal coats of arms.
View of the presentation tables with the children's arms drawing table in the foreground left
The presentation area was setup this year adjacent to the glass case housing a cuirass (16th century), halberd, two-handed sword and other medieval artifacts. It was an appropriate back-drop for the heraldry display and presentation. Featured at this year's display included the hand-made by Society member, Donald Black, the coats of arms of the previous Governor General and the current Governor General. Featured as well, was a wooden carving of the City of Toronto coat of arms which was on loan at last year's March Break.

A young visitor to the ROM, diligently working on her personal coat of arms
The ever popular "kids' table" manned by ROM volunteers, provided opportunities for the kids visiting the museum to take some time out and focus on drawing and colouring their own personal coat of arms, under the guidance of the very knowledgeable Branch volunteers manning the display area. Frequently, as the children are busy drawing and being well behaved, the parents would take the time out to discuss Canadian heraldry with whomever was available at the display, often surprised to learn that heraldry is alive and well in Canada.

The five day affair concluded with some volunteers from the Toronto Branch actively participating in the second annual armoured tournament held by AEMMA in cooperation with the ROM and the RHSC. The tournament was nothing short of glorious.

The Toronto Branch wishes to thank the volunteers manning the display area, which includes Tom Doran, who was there each and every day, David Rumball, John Wilkes, Ilona Jurkiewicz (Branch President), and David Steeves.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

First Canadian Space Expedition Crest

OK, perhaps a contemporary usage of the word "crest" as opposed to the more traditional heraldic usage, regardless, such symbolism is the heart of heraldry, and the Canadian Space Agency, even though they may not realize it, are actively practicing the spirit of heraldry through their new "crest".

This patch commemorates Canada's first long duration Expedition onboard the International Space Station (ISS). Canadian Space Agency astronaut Dr. Robert Thirsk will live and work in the Station for six months. Robert is an admirer of Pacific Northwest Indigenous art, and is honoured that Bill Helin, a renowned Tsimshian artist has accepted to portray his mission through the use of several of its mythical figures.

For more details on the story and the symbolism in the "crest", visit the Canadian Space Agency's story by clicking on the above image.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

President's Message - 2009

Contemplating this issue's message, I pondered on what might be considered significant anniversaries for 2009. I was unsuccessful in discovering any specifically heraldic anniversaries, but did recall some which, while not entirely heraldic, were significant from a human perspective and in demonstrating how symbolism plays an important part in our lives.

As a great admirer since my childhood of NASA and its programs, I have a great interest in the first one. This year will mark 40 years since the first lunar landing by Apollo 11 on July 24, 1969. Each NASA mission is identified by a special “crest” (their term) symbolizing its various concepts and attributes – in the case of the Apollo 11, the “crest” shows the American eagle landing on the surface of the moon with the olive branch of peace clenched in its talons. I remember it as one of the rare times when the entire planet was in sync with a significant human accomplishment. Continuing with the space exploration theme, a worthy acknowledgement is this year marks the 20th anniversary of the formation of the Canadian Space Agency or CSA. Interestingly, unlike NASA, the CSA had petitioned for a grant of arms which were granted by the Canadian Heraldic Authority on July 25, 1991. The arms are depicted below right.

For the Scots out there (and for the rest of us who wish we were), this year marks 250 years since the birth of Robbie Burns.

From a monarchical perspective, this coming April marks the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII ascending the throne of England.

Another significant event was the dismantling of the Berlin Wall on November 9 of 1989, with 2009 marking 20 years since that historic event took place.

These anniversaries mark significant events of human history. I felt that perhaps we should also mark the achievements of the Society with the following significant events.

2009 marks the 43rd anniversary of the Society since its creation in 1966. Perhaps “43rd” doesn't have the same ring as “40th ” or “50th ” as an anniversary, but it does clearly indicate the long history and the viability of the Society, especially in surviving the dramatic cultural and political changes that have occurred during the years since its birth. I am pleased and honoured to be President of such a longstanding, credible and viable organization.
Our journal Heraldry in Canada also marks its 43rd anniversary, having been published first in September of 1966. Its first issue consisted of two double-sided 8½ x 11 sheets and contained five black-and-white illustrations of Provincial Arms, a list of thirty-two Society members and four or five articles. The editor was probably our Society’s founder, Allan Beddoe, O.B.E. Another significant anniversary for 2009 is the 19th for our newsletter Gonfanon, first produced in December 1990, with editor Daniel Cogné and associate editor John Kennedy. (Thanks to John Wilkes for providing these historical details).

On the subject of the Society’s traditions, it should be noted that a new one was established at the recent AGM in Montreal. This was the bearing in of the mace by Nemo Turner, our very own mace-bearer. I was surprised to learn of the extensive history and significance of this ceremony, and am pleased that Nemo has volunteered to fill this new position. I felt that the ceremony of the mace enhanced the “feel” of the AGM and look forward to the ceremony again at future meetings of the Society. Speaking of AGM’s, mark on your calendars:- October 2-4, 2009 at the Toronto Arts & Letters Club as the next AGM.

I was pleased to learn that the BC/Yukon Branch had put on a successful and well-attended formal dinner at the Oceanfront Grand Resort, Victoria, having as special guests the Hon. Steven L. Point, OBC, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia and his wife, the Hon. Mrs Gwendolyn Point.
In December the Toronto Branch held their fifth annual Christmas Dinner at the Royal Canadian Military Institute, having as its special guest heraldic artist Karen Bailey. She delivered a fascinating account of her experiences as a Canadian Army artist in Kandahar, leaving her with unforgettable images to put onto canvas. Her artwork will be put on display at a planned exhibition this year or in 2010. Dr. Claire Boudreau, Chief Herald of Canada also attended the dinner, which was a thoroughly enjoyable affair. These local events are extremely important to ensure that the Society remains relevant by enhancing its ability to “reach out” to members and non-members alike.

In closing, I look forward to the events scheduled for 2009 and to the creativity that goes behind the planning and organizing of these occasions. I look forward also to working with the Executive and facing the numerous challenges ahead, and to finding new, creative and pragmatic solutions that will further the mission of the Society.

By David M. Cvet