The Symbols of New Brunswick

I was putting up the red ensign flag on top of the Court House today and realized something about it didn’t correspond to the information I had been told recently about the New Brunswick flag.  To make this bizarre brainwave connection that occurred in my head easier to follow, I should back up a little and provide some background information.

The province of New Brunswick declared February 9 to 16, 2015 to be Heritage Week.  The theme this year was “Hope Restored”, which is the English translation of the provincial Latin motto “Spem Reduxit.”  2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the proclamation of the national flag of Canada and the unveiling of the flag of New Brunswick.  The poster for Heritage Week this year incorporates both the motto and flag.

Our provincial flag, unveiled in 1965, bears the unique ship atop blue and white waves and a yellow lion on a red background.  These symbols also represent New Brunswick in the crest on the red ensign that was the flag of Canada from Confederation in 1868 until 1921.  The dates don’t match up!  So what’s the story?

Never wanting to let an educational opportunity pass by my son, I decided to ask him.  He set upon the task and with his skills as a teenager and access to the internet he came back to me with the answer in less than three minutes.

The symbols depicted on the flag are taken from the Coat of Arms assigned by Royal Warrant of Queen Victoria on May 26, 1868. They are a gold lion on a red field across the top and an ancient galley with its oars in action across the base.

With a little more digging I found a bit more information about the origin of these symbols.  In his book The Flags of Canada, Alistair B. Fraser states: “Many symbols of New Brunswick date from the arrival of the Loyalists in 1783 and its establishment as a separate colony in 1784.  The great seal deputed to the new colony the following year bore the motto Spem Reduxit and an illustration of a ship, both of which spoke of the Loyalists' journey to return to life under the British crown.

By the time New Brunswick entered Confederation as one of the founding provinces in 1867, the symbol of the ship had taken on an additional meaning.  The province now boasted a significant ship-building industry, so when arms were assigned in 1868 a conventional heraldic ship, or lymphad, was placed on them in apparent acknowledgment of this.  The shield of arms also bore a golden lion identical to one of the royal lions of England, but with the possibly additional allusion to the same lion found on the arms of the German Duchy of Brunswick (at the time ruled by King George III), after which the province was named.

In 1870, the arms of New Brunswick were officially incorporated into not only the badge on the flag of the lieutenant-governor, but also on the quartered badges on the governor general's flag and the Canadian Blue Ensign.  It also appeared unofficially on the Canadian Red Ensign until that too was approved in 1892.”

So now I understand why the symbols from the relatively new provincial flag also appears on the much older red ensign that flies proudly on top of the Albert County Court House.

On a side note, my son and I proceeded to discuss the fact that the symbols of New Brunswick include elements that are English, Scottish and German, but not French.  Interesting.