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Historical British Columbia Flags


Last modified: 2012-08-09 by rob raeside
Keywords: british columbia | canada | lt governor |
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1870 Colonial flag
[BC  1870] image by Martin Grieve

1870 Governors flag
[BC  Governor, 1870] image by Martin Grieve

[1870 BC badge] image by Martin Grieve

The crest of the Royal Arms between the letters B C was approved by the Admiralty as the badge of the Colony of British Columbia on 9 July 1870, and inaugurated by the Governor on 9 October 1870. With a laurel garland it appeared in the centre of the Union Jack (the flag of the governor afloat), and may have been used briefly, without the garland, as a badge on the Blue Ensign.

The badge on the flag of the Lt-Governor of British Columbia should have been the arms of the province, or, in their absence, the seal of the province. However there were no arms and the seal, a seated figure of Queen Victoria, was considered unsuitable. Hence the contrived badge of 1870; royal crest and letters B C.

1871 Lt. Govenor flag
[BC Lt. Governor, 1871] image by Martin Grieve

[BC badge] image by Martin Grieve

On 20 July 1871 British Columbia became a Province of the Dominion of Canada. The Governor became a Lieutenant-Governor, the badge on the Union Jack was surrounded by a maple-leaf garland, and any vessels operated by the Province of British Columbia now flew a Blue Ensign with the badge of the Dominion of Canada in the fly.

The colouring of the badge as shown in "Arms and Badges of the Several Colonies of Great Britain" of 1881 is unusual. The cap of the crown is a shade of purple instead of red, and the fleur-de-lis which are part of the structure of the crown and should be gold, have been painted blue.

In 1906 British Columbia was granted arms, and the shield of the arms, surrounded by a maple-leaf garland, became the badge on the Lt-Governor's Union Jack until it was replaced by the current flag in 1982.

[BC Lt. Governor] image by Martin Grieve

In 1896 British Columbia took advantage of a federal statute of 1877 that empowered provinces to change their seal from time to time. The new seal, designed by an amateur heraldic enthusiast, the Rev. Arthur J. Beanlands, was a shield of the Union Jack with a demi-sun in splendour, on blue wavy bars on white, in chief. The shield, supported by a wapiti and a ram, was surmounted by the royal crest

[BC badge] image by Martin Grieve

In 1904 provinces without arms were encouraged to apply for them, and British Columbia requested a warrant assigning the heraldic design on the seal as an armorial bearing. The College of Arms agreed to this providing changes were made. The "Union device" was to be reduced in size and defaced with an antique crown, but placed at the top of the shield in the most important position, while the enlarged sun on wavy bars was placed below. The shield was assigned by royal warrant 31 March 1906, and replaced the 1870 badge on the flag of the Lt-Governor in the same year. The supporters and crest were not included in the warrant, but continued to be used. This anomaly was corrected on 15 October 1987 when the complete Coat of Arms was granted in person by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
David Prothero, October-November 2002