Governor General adopts church symbols

Published November 1, 1999

New Governor General’s coat of arms.

The Queen’s representative in Canada doesn’t assume the titles of the Monarch she represents, such as Defender of the Faith, but Gov. Gen. Adrienne Clarkson has put her Christianity front and centre in her new coat of arms.

An Anglican, Her Excellency, has two church symbols in the coat of arms that were created and presented in a record 29 days.

Around the necks of the tigers that support the shield, are two white plates with a red cross on each. These are taken from the coat of arms of the Anglican Church that were presented by former governor general Romeo Leblanc in 1995 at the General Synod.

“Madame Clarkson wanted some sort of symbol of her faith in her coat of arms,” said chief herald Robert Watt, in an interview. “We had a number of options and decided on the plates as well as the motto at the base of the design which is from an Anglican collect.”

The collect for the Nativity of John the Baptist has a line, Verum Solum Dicatur, Verum Solum Accipiatur. Although translated differently in the Book of Common Prayer, it means May only the truth be spoken, may only the truth be heard.

The line is also frequently used by Primate Michael Peers before sermons. He said he first heard it used by a priest in the 1950s and has used it since, but didn’t know its origins. A friend of the couple, he presided at the summer wedding of the Governor General and John Ralston Saul.

The phoenix on the shield also has an Anglican connection. It was suggested by Dr. Suah She Foo, a parishioner at St. Thomas’ in Toronto.

Margaret Dinsdale is a Toronto freelance writer.


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