Canada's Monarchy

The Role of Queen Elizabeth II

Home Page

Queen Elizabeth II personifies the history of Canada, in which her family for five hundred years have played a leading role. She makes possible a level of national life above the compromise, bargaining and self-serving ambition of politics. She possesses ultimate legal authority in Canada, preventing politicians from ever being more than temporary administrators of power. She integrates executive, legislative and judicial functions of government at central and provincial levels. She turns policies of political parties into laws for a democratic state through royal assent in Parliament. She is the essential element of the idea and practice of "loyal opposition" which allows Canadians to oppose the government of the day without being considered disloyal to their country. She is the common constitutional thread binding the 13 governments of Canada's federal system, thereby helping reconcile regional authority and federal unity. She gives (as she has for over 40 years) a personal example of dedication, hard work and self-sacrifice as Queen that has inspired millions of Canadians both in their work and personal lives. She is a great world figure, known and respected throughout the globe, and by being Queen of Canada, she endows Canadians with that international prestige.


Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada


Elizabeth II became Queen on 6 February 1952 on the death of her father King George VI. She was proclaimed Queen and "Supreme Liege Lady in and over Canada" at Ottawa the same day.


Before her Coronation she assumed the separate title "Queen of Canada" by Act of her Canadian Parliament. This new royal style and title was proclaimed at Ottawa 29 May 1953. The Queen's official style and title is "Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom, Canada and Her Other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith."


The separate title "Queen of Canada" fulfilled the dream of the founders of Canada. In 1867 the Fathers of Confederation wanted their new country called "The Kingdom of Canada" but dropped the proposal because of American objections. Sir John A. Macdonald told Queen Victoria on 27 February 1867 that the purpose of Confederation was "to declare in the most solemn and emphatic manner our resolve to be under the Sovereignty of Your Majesty and your family forever." The Confederation Debates made clear that Canada was to be governed "by the Sovereign in person or by her representative duly authorised."


Elizabeth II was crowned Queen 2 June 1953. At her Coronation she swore an oath to govern the peoples of Canada and her other realms "according to their respective laws and customs."


Elizabeth II became Queen of Canada because her ancestors (direct and indirect) were the 32 kings and queens who had reigned over the country since Henry VII and Francois I. These monarchs brought about the discovery, exploration, settlement, defence and development of Canada.


Henry VII financed Cabot's voyage in 1497. Francois I sent Cartier to claim the St. Lawrence region in 1534. Elizabeth I commissioned exploration of the North. James I began the settlement of Newfoundland. Henri IV ordered the founding of Quebec in 1608. Charles I tried to settle Nova Scotia. Louis XIV made Quebec a royal province in 1663. Charles II granted the Hudson's Bay Company charter in 1670. Anne forged personal ties with the native peoples. George II opened the way for German immigration. George III guaranteed French Canada its religion and language. Victoria proclaimed Confederation. Edward VII granted many of the provincial coats-of-arms. George V proclaimed the Statute of Westminster in 1931, giving Canada full independence.


Elizabeth II is a "shared" monarch. She is Queen of 15 other countries and head of a Commonwealth of 51 states (1/4 of the world's people). Because of this, Canada has a great world figure at its head. She is also a great symbol of the unity of the world's races. Canada and The Bahamas, culturally mixed countries, one predominantly white and the other mostly black, both have Elizabeth II as Queen.


Queen Elizabeth II's face has been familiar to every Canadian at least since her picture as a 9-year old princess appeared on a Canadian stamp issued in 1935 for the Silver Jubilee of her grandfather King George V.


During World War II the Canadian Government proposed the evacuation of the young Princess Elizabeth and her sister to Canada. King George VI however decided to keep his family around him despite the war danger. During the war Princess Elizabeth made a broadcast to the children of the Commonwealth.


In 1947 Princess Elizabeth married the Greek-born Prince Philip who was both a Greek and Danish Prince. As Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh he has supported the Queen in her role as Queen of Canada. His Royal Highness has been in Canada more than any other member of the Royal Family, past or present. As well as being a pioneer environmentalist he is also the founder of the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme that has involved tens of thousands of Canadian young people.


On her first tour of Canada in 1951 the then Princess carried with her a draft accession declaration in case her ailing father died when she was in Canada.


As the authority from which all official honours, decorations and medals stem in Canada, the Queen is Sovereign of the Order of Canada and the Order of Military Merit, as well as the Royal Victorian Order. The command-in-chief is vested in her and she has therefore a special relationship with the Canadian Forces. She is also patron of many Canadian associations, societies and charities.


Queen Elizabeth II's ancestry is a multicultural panorama. German and Danish in the main lines, it also includes figures as diverse as Armenian princes, Mongol warriors and Muslim leaders.


Elizabeth II on ... Canada:


"I count myself fortunate to be at the head of a state in which such a society (open to everyone) exists and which is strongly established in freedom and tolerance." (1970)


"I'm getting to know our country rather well." (1978)


"I'm going home to Canada tomorrow." (1983 on leaving California for British Columbia)


"I and members of my family have been with you on many special days in the life of this country. I particularly recall another July 1st in Canada's Centennial Year, here on Parliament Hill. I said then, and I repeat it today, that 'Canada is a country that has been blessed beyond most countries in the world.' It is a country worth working for." (1990)




"From the moment when I first set foot on Canadian soil the feeling of strangeness went, for I knew myself to be not only amongst friends, but amongst fellow countrymen." (1951)


"(Canadians) have placed in our hearts a love...which will never grow cold and which will always draw us back again." (1951)


The Crown's Role:


"I want the Crown to be seen as a symbol of national sovereignty belonging to all. It is not only a link between Commonwealth nations, but between Canadian citizens of every national origin and ancestry." (1973)


"If I have helped you feel proud of being Canadian, if I have reminded you of the strength which comes from unity and if I have helped to draw your attention to the bright vision of the years ahead, I shall feel well satisfied because I believe with all conviction that this country can look to a glorious future." 1959)


"Our ceremony today brings together Sovereign, Parliament and people _ the three parts of Constitutional Monarchy. That is a system in which those who represent the community come together and remain together, rather than dwelling on differences which might further divide them." (1990)


Canadian Citizenship:


"Canada asks no citizens to deny their forebears, to forsake their inheritance _ only that each should accept and value the cultural freedom of others as he enjoys his own. It is a gentle invitation, this call to citizenship and I urge those who have accepted the invitation to participate fully in the building of the Canadian society and to demonstrate the real meaning of the brotherhood of man." (1973)


"Parliamentary democracy has fostered tolerance and flexibility _ a good balance between individual rights and collective responsibilities. And this is because the Constitutional Monarchy has always placed the emphasis on people in community _ as it were, a national family with the Sovereign as its head." (1987, Saskatoon)


Canada's Future:


"I am not just a fair weather friend, and I am glad to be here at this sensitive time, I hope my presence may call to mind those many years of shared experience, and raise new hopes for the future. The unity of the Canadian people was the paramount issue in 1867, as it is today. There is no force, except the force of will, to keep Canadians together." (1990)


Sovereign's Perspective:


"My family's association with this country over many generations allows me to see and to appreciate Canada from another viewpoint, that of History." (1977)


French Language:


"It is agreeable to me to think that there exists in our Commonwealth a country where I can express myself officially in French." (1964 to Quebec Legislature)


Native Peoples:


"Thank you for being just the way you are." (1970 to the Inuit who were too shy to approach her)


"The people of The North hold a special place in our memories and in our hearts." (1994, to The Legislative Assembly of The Northwest Territories, Yellowknife)


Her Personal Commitment:


"I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great Imperial Commonwealth to which we all belong. But I shall not have strength to carry out this resolution unless you join in it with me, as I now invite you to do; I know that your support will be unfailingly given. God bless all of you who are willing to share it." (1947, 21st birthday broadcast from South Africa)


"Archbishop of Canterbury: 'Will you solemnly promise and swear to govern the Peoples of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon, and of your Possessions and the other Territories to any of them belonging or pertaining, according to their respective laws and customs?'


Queen Elizabeth II: 'I solemnly promise so to do.' " (1953, Coronation Oath)


"I dedicate myself anew to the people and the nation I am proud to serve." (1977, Speech from the Throne, Ottawa)


"I feel the same obligation to you that I felt in 1952. With your prayers, and your help, and with the love and support of my family, I shall try to serve you in the years to come." (1991 Christmas Broadcast)


Canadian Homecomings


Some Acts of Elizabeth II as Queen of Canada


...on Elizabeth II


In her more than 40 year reign in Canada the Queen's impact has been great and varied. A former Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau recently paid tribute in his memoirs to her role in facilitating patriation of the Constitution in 1982. When the Premier of Quebec, Jean Lesage watched Her Majesty carrying out her duties in face of separatist violence in 1964, he was so moved by her calmness and courage that he kept breaking into tears. Outsiders often share such perceptions. A Canadian writer interviewing the Ovechkin family after their unsuccessful attempt to flee from Soviet Communism in 1988, was surprised when one family member asked to see a Canadian dollar. Then he realised it was the picture of the Queen on it that they wanted to see. She symbolised the freedom they aspired to _ and alas never achieved, for they were killed in their next attempt. After the freeing of the American hostages in Iran through the efforts of the Canadian Ambassador, the picture of American gratitude that flashed round the world was the scrawled message "God Save the Queen!" on a bag of U.S. mail bound for Canada.


"I will continue to do my best...and I hope you will all continue to give me your help." Toronto 1973


"With your prayers, and your help...I shall try to serve you in the years to come." Christmas Broadcast 1991