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Queen's University (Canada)

Last modified: 2012-08-11 by rob raeside
Keywords: canada | queens university | crown | rose | thistle | trefoil | pine tree | shamrock | saltire |
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Queen's university flag
[Queens College flag] image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 9 January 2005

Alumni flag
[Queens College Alumni flag] image by Chris Kretowicz


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Queen's University was established in Kingston (Ontario, Canada) by Royal Charter of Queen Victoria in 1841. Classes were first held in 1842. It was the earliest degree-granting institution in the United Province of Canada.

The flag of the alumni of the Queen's University is vertically divided blue-yellow-red with a yellow crown in canton. Blue, yellow and red are the main colours of the coat of arms of the University.
Ivan Sache, 20 March 2005


Queen's University is located in Kingston. The coat of arms is easily found on any of the university's web pages, e.g., http://www.queensu.ca/secretariat/info/coatofarms.html, where it is also described as "Or, on a saltire Azure between in chief a fir Tree eradicated, in base a thistle stalked and leaved and in fess a red rose barbed, seeded, stalked and leaved all Proper and a trefoil Vert, an open book of the First, a bordure Gules charged with eight ancient crowns Gold." It is further noted that this unique heraldic device was assigned to Queen's University by the College of Arms. Originally devised by amateur heralds when the university was founded, the coat of arms is very complex... A cross of St. Andrew, with an open book at the junction to show that the arms belong to a place of learning, represents the original bond between Queen's and Scottish universities. Within the arms of the cross, four devices are displayed: at the top a pine tree for Canada, on the left a rose for England, at the bottom a thistle for Scotland, on the right a shamrock for Ireland. The shield is surrounded with a red bordure within which are disposed eight ancient crowns to recall the name Queen's and the granting of a royal charter.

The University flag, while well known to students and alumni seems to be strangely absent from the web. The Alumni Magazine has shown photographs of it in all sorts of places, and it is definitely used at alumni events and football games.
Chris Kretowicz, 19 August 2002


The university flag is a banner of arms. At Queen's University Encyclopedia: Coat of Arms we find that:

"Queen's coat of arms is based on that of Edinburgh University, the institution after which Queen's itself was modeled. It consists of a gold shield with red edges, divided into four triangular compartments by a blue, diagonal St Andrew's cross, which represents the university's Scottish origins (St Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland). A golden book, symbolizing learning, sits open at the centre of the cross. In each of the four compartments is an emblem of the university's Canadian and British origins: a pine tree for Canada, a thistle for Scotland, a rose for England, and a shamrock for Ireland. The red colour of the border is a mark of cadency, indicating that Queen's is younger than Edinburgh University. The border is decorated with eight gold crowns, symbolic of Queen Victoria and the university's royal charter. The official heraldic description of the coat of arms is: "Or, on a saltire Azure between in chief a fir eradicated, in base a thistle stalked and in fess a red rose barbed, seeded, stalked and leaved all Proper and a trefoil Vert, an open book of the First, a bordure Gules charged with eight ancient crowns Gold." The whole shield is underlined by a banner with Queen's motto: Sapienta et Doctrina Stabilitas (Wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times).

The coat of arms appeared as early as 1850, but was not registered with the College of Arms in England until more than a century later, in 1953. The registration cost $600 and there is a story that the open crowns on the border were chosen in Queen's traditional, cost-conscious manner because they were $50 cheaper than closed crowns. The coat of arms was registered with the Scottish equivalent of the College of Arms, the Lord Lyon King of Arms, in 1981 and with the Canadian Heraldic Authority during Queen's Sesquicentennial Celebrations in 1991, at a ceremony presided over by Governor General Ramon Hnatyshyn. In 2000, the Coat of Arms was made part of the new Queen's Visual Identity."

Then at Queen's University Encyclopedia: Sesquicentennial we find that

"Queen's celebrated its 150th anniversary from May 1991 to May 1992 with a long list of high-profile academic and non-academic events... The other central event of the sesquicentennial anniversary was university day on October 16, which commemorated the granting of Queen's Royal Charter on that date in 1841. The day included a reception at Grant Hall, at which Governor General Ramon Hnatyshyn unveiled a commemorative postage stamp and officially registered the Queen's coat of arms and flag..."

The flag is a banner of arms, and can be seen at on a Canadian postage stamp at the Canadian Postal Archives (see above).

As a Queen's alumnus, I can vouch for the widespread use of the depicted flag, on campus, but as pointed out mainly by alumni. The blue is usually more "Romanian".
Rob Raeside, 28-29 March 2005

The university's licensing guidelines list of trademarks, found at http://www.queensu.ca/studentaffairs/trademarklicensing/guidelines/scheduleb.pdf, includes both flags. It tells us that the tricolour flag may only be reproduced in the colours of the university (Pantone 187 red, Pantone 295 blue and Pantone 124 gold). While a depiction of the flag is listed as a trademarked Alumni Logo, the flag itself is simply described as the "Queen's University Flag". In contrast, the banner of arms is called the "Queen's University Ceremonial Flag". It and the arms are reserved for official university use. According to chapter XIV (Ontario) of The Flags of Canada, available online at http://www.fraser.cc/FlagsCan/Provinces/Ontario.html, these flags were adopted in 1984, and before this a banner of older, assumed, arms was used.

[Fraser also describes the tricolour as a 'civil flag', which is perfectly understandable in contrast to the banner 'represent[ing] the authority of the institution', but quite an interesting choice of words. As far as observed practice goes, I suppose current students simply don't feel the need to use a flag of the university.]
Jonathan Dixon, 21 September 2010