Newfoundland and Labrador Heraldry and Flags

The Newfoundland Coat of Arms

Newfoundland Coat of Arms
The Coat of Arms of Newfoundland.

The Newfoundland Coat of Arms was originally granted on January 1, 1637 to a private company. It was not until 1928 that it was rediscovered and officially reintroduced. The arms consist of a red shield bearing a silver cross with lions and unicorns in the quarters. The supporters holding the shield are European interpretations of Newfoundland's native Beothuk people. An elk, meant to represent Newfoundland's caribou herds, stands above the shield. The Latin motto translates "Seek ye first the kingdom of God" and is found in the New Testament, Matthew 7:23.

The Newfoundland Seal and Badge

The Great Seal of Newfoundland was given royal approval in 1827. It depicts Mercury, the god of commerce and merchandise, presenting to Britannia a fisherman who, kneeling, offers her the harvest of the sea. Above this device are the words "Terra Nova", and below, the words Haec Tibi Dona Fero - "These gifts I bring thee."

The Great Seal of Newfoundland Letter of Approval
The Great Seal of Newfoundland.
The Great Seal of Newfoundland was given royal approval in 1827.

Reproduced by permission of the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador (PANL GN2/5), St. John's, Newfoundland.
(70 kb)

Letter of Approval.
Letter from the British Government granting approval of the badge for the Newfoundland flag.

Reproduced by permission of the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador (PANL GN2/5), St. John's, Newfoundland.
(104 kb)

Early in the 20th century, the Newfoundland government, in common with other British colonies, decided to adopt the red ensign as an official flag, with the Newfoundland badge on the fly. The design on the seal was modified for this purpose in 1903 by Adelaine Lane, a niece of Governor Sir Cavendish Boyle, and approved by the British government the following year.


The Provincial Flag of Newfoundland and Labrador

Provincial Flag of Newfoundland and Labrador
Provincial Flag of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The provincial flag was officially adopted by the provincial legislature on May 28, 1980. It was designed by Newfoundland artist Christopher Pratt. The flag was first flown on Discovery Day, June 24, 1980.

What the colours represent:

  • Blue symbolizes the sea.
  • White represents snow and ice.
  • Red is for human effort.
  • Gold signifies our confidence in ourselves.

What the areas represent:

  • The blue triangles stand for our Commonwealth heritage in its similarity to Britain's Union Jack.
  • The red triangles represent the island and mainland portions of the province.
  • The gold arrow points toward our optimism for a bright future. When hung as a banner, the arrow closely resembles a sword - a reminder of the great sacrifice made by our province's war veterans.
  • The white centre incorporates the Christian cross, Beothuk and Naskapi ornamentation, and the maple leaf's outline. The trident emphasizes Newfoundland and Labrador's continued dependence on and connection to the fishery and marine resources.

The provincial flag symbolizes the past, present and future of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Flag of Labrador

What the colours represent:

  • White represents snow.
  • Green symbolizes the land.
  • Blue represents the waters of Labrador's rivers, lakes and the sea.

What the spruce twig represents:

  • The spruce twig in the upper left-hand corner was chosen because this tree is common in all regions of Labrador.
  • The three branches of the twig symbolize the three peoples of Labrador: the Inuit, the Innu, and the European settlers.
  • The twig grows from one stalk, representing the common origin of all humanity.
  • The shorter inner twig represents the past, while the larger outer twig represents a brighter future.


The Newfoundland Tri-colour
Newfoundland's Tri-colour Flag
Newfoundland's Tri-colour Flag.
The vertical pink, white and green stripes of Newfoundland's tri-colour flag, known as the native flag, have a long history.

A popular and widely-flown flag in Newfoundland for much of the 19th century, and well into the 20th, was the "Pink, White and Green." Sometimes known as the "Native Flag," it originated in St. John's in the early 1840s. The story is that during annual wood hauls for the Anglican and Roman Catholic cathedrals, which took place while sealers were in town in the spring, considerable rivalry developed between the two groups involved. The Protestant English marked their wood piles with the pink flag of the Natives' Society, while the Catholic Irish used green banners. The threat of violence was such that Bishop Michael Fleming intervened, and persuaded the sealers to adopt a common flag , on which the pink and green would be separated by a white stripe to symbolize peace, taken from the banner of Scotland.

The new flag was adopted by the Natives' Society, and soon became Newfoundland's unofficial flag. The following song about the tri-colour flag was frequently sung during the early 20th century, and became an alternative national anthem. It was written by Archbishop Michael F. Howley in 1902.

The Flag of Newfoundland
The pink the rose of England shows,
The green St. Patrick's emblem bright,
While in between the spotless sheen
St. Andrew's cross displays the white.

Then hail the pink, the white, the green;
Our patriot ring long may it stand,
Our sire lands twine their emblem trine
To form the flag of Newfoundland.

What e'er betide our ocean bride
That nestles midst Atlantic foam,
Still far and wide we'll raise with pride
Our native flag, o'er hearth and home.

Should e'er the hand of fate demand
Some future change in our career,
We ne'er will yield on flood or field
The flag we honour and revere.

Fling out the flag o'er creek and crag;
Pink, white and green, so fair, so grand;
Long may it sway o'er bight and bay,
Around the shores of Newfoundland.

The Union Jack and the Red Ensign

The tri-colour never displaced the Union Jack, which was flown on land to symbolize Newfoundland's membership in the British Empire. It was adopted as the country's official flag by the National Flag Act of 1931, and re-adopted as the provincial flag in 1952. It was replaced by the present provincial flag in 1980.

The Union Jack The Red Ensign
The Union Jack.
The Red Ensign.

The red ensign - with the Union Jack in the upper corner and the badge on the fly - came into common use as the official flag in the early 20th century on land and sea. It was superseded by the Union Jack from 1931-1934 only. It was flown until at least 1952, possibly as late as 1965.

The above information was compiled from a variety of sources by Wendy Churchill, Alex Dalziel, Vanessa Rice. The information contained herein is accurate to August 1998.

Sidebar updated April, 2007.

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