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Armorial Bearings ("Coats of Arms")

According to Conrad Swan, York Herald of Arms, the Northwest Territories did not have a "coat of arms" prior to 1905 when Alberta became a province. He notes, however, that they did have a seal of public authority.

The seal of the Northwest Territories appears to date from 1869. A description follows: "The royal arms of general purpose post-1837 are placed on an oval shield, which in turn is surrounded by the Garter and ensigned by the Crown. The supporters are the lion and the unicorn. On a scroll suspended from a 'gas bracket' of the Victorian period is the motto "DIEU ET MON DROIT" (God and my right). Round the edge, between a double-beaded design, runs the legend, beginning at the bottom of the seal, "THE SEAL OF THE NORTHWEST TERRITORIES."*

It is interesting to note than an editorial in the July 14, 1906, issue of the Lethbridge News appears to contradict Conrad Swan. It states, "The old Territorial shield contains an animal which may be either a polar bear or a white haired gopher, crawling on a checkerboard with four sheaves of wheat - not very original - on a white ground underneath." Since this editorial is quite humorous in nature, it is difficult to determine whether the information noted regarding the territorial arms is authentic or not. No other information has been found to substantiate it.

And finally, a coat of arms is printed at the beginning of many publications of the Northwest Territories government for the period 1876 to 1905. These arms are the Royal Arms, post-1837, the same arms that are used on the Northwest Territories' seal of authority which was referred to previously in this note. Considering this fact, one might assume that these arms were those of the Territories. However, the same arms were also printed on many Canadian federal government publications of the same period.

Alberta was the last province in Canada to be granted a coat of arms. After a considerable amount of prodding, arms were finally assigned by Royal Warrant dated May 30, 1907. The description follows: "Azure in front of a Range of Snow Mountains proper a Range of Hills Vert, in base a Wheat Field surmounted by a Prairie both also proper, on a Chief Argent a St. George's Cross." The original designer of Alberta's provincial arms has been the subject of a considerable amount of speculation over the years. However, in a letter to the Lieutenant Governor dated March 30, 1910, the Deputy Provincial Treasurer states that the design was selected from those submitted during a competition. And in correspondence dated May 4, 1967, Mr. J.F.C. Wright, a former Administrative Assistant in the Provincial Secretary's department states, " . . . it has been reasonably well established now that the individual responsible was a Mrs. H. McCully, who at the time was the wife of the C.P.R. Station Agent at Lacombe, Alberta." Alberta's Public Accounts for 1908 include an expenditure listed under Executive Council, "Departmental Expenses Sundry Items - Mrs. J.A. McCully - $3.00."

To commemorate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Province of Alberta in 1980, the arms of Alberta were augmented by Royal Warrant dated July 30 1980, as follows: "Crest: Upon a Helm with a Wreath Argent and Gules a Beaver couchant upholding on its back the Royal Crown both proper; Supporters: On the dexter side a Lion or armed and langued Gules and on the sinister side a Pronghorn Antelope (Antilocapra americana) proper; the Compartment comprising a grassy mount with the Floral Emblem of the Said Province of Alberta the Wild Rose (Rosa acicularis) growing therefrom proper; Motto: FORTIS ET LIBER (Strong and Free) to be borne and used together with the Arms of the Province of Alberta upon Seals, Shields, Banners, Flags, or otherwise according to the Laws of Arms."

The Office of the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta uses the 1907 coat of arms with a royal crown above it, bordered by a garland of maple leaves.


Royal Arms
Used on N.W.T. Pulications

Northwest Territories
Seal of Authority

Alberta Arms

Alberta Arms


* Swan, Conrad, Canada: Symbols of Sovereignty, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1977, pp.218-19

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