This is the chapter entitled, Quebec, from the book,
JE ME SOUVIENS
Motto of Quebec
Bearing the soul of a people, the flag of Quebec is the embodiment of the provincial motto, I remember. With its fleurs-de-lis, white cross, and blue field, it reaches right back to the beginning of New France and the flags flown by Champlain both on his ship and at his Abitation de Québec. Yet for all its comfortable familiarity today, the evolution of the flag of Quebec was as tortuous as was that of the flag of Canada.
Flags of the French Régime
THE FLEUR-DE-LIS AND THE CROSS
Extended by tradition back to fifth century France, the fleur-de-lis was first used as a royal device by Louis VI (1108-1137). He affixed it to his seal, his coins, his cloths, and his flag. The latter, called the Bannière de France displayed the fleurs-de-lis spread (semé) over a rectangular field of blue, a colour which recalled the cloak of the renowned fourth century bishop, Saint Martin. After the Bannière had been used for two centuries in this form, Charles VI (1380-1422) reduced the number of fleurs-de-lis to three-apparently in honour of the Holy Trinity.2
In mediaeval France, the Bannière took on many of the characteristics of a national flag, for, although it was a banner of royal authority, it was used extensively on land and at sea.3 However, by the time of the settlement of New France it was falling into disuse. With the exception of momentary appearances at three subsequent royal events within France, the Bannière effectively vanished with the death of Henry IV in 1610. Indeed, by the time of the French Revolution in 1789, it had been forgotten for so long that the revolutionists even neglected to have it desecrated as a royal symbol.4
There is no record that the Bannière, itself, was ever used in what is now Canada, despite imaginative latter-day artistic renderings to the contrary.5 Rather, almost universally, everyone from explorers like Cartier, La Salle and La Vérendrye who were marking territory, to local officials at Québec, Montréal, and Trois-Rivières, who were erecting gates and buildings, used the Royal Arms.6 Not that the graphic design was any different - the Bannière being but the banner of these Royal Arms - but it remains that French practice more commonly relied upon the greater permanence of arms than the ephemerality of flags. Thus, although the fleur-de-lis did not appear on the Bannière in New France, and, indeed, only rarely upon other flags, this royal mark was well-known during the old régime.
Nevertheless, the fleurs-de-lis did appear upon the very first flag to fly over Québec: the little swallow-tale pennant appearing in Champlain's illustration of his Abitation. It is sometimes assumed that this illustration shows the Bannière, itself. However, graphic design is not the only thing that distinguishes a flag; shape is also crucial, and Champlain's pennant is not rectangular. Although clearly derived from the Bannière, it appears to be one of the battlefield standards, or étendard, which was employed during the reign of Henry IV (1589-1610).7
On his ships, though, Champlain's flags bore a cross rather than the fleurs-de-lis. The ship illustrations on his map of 1612 show what seems to have been an early use of the flag of the French merchant marine: a white cross on a rectangular blue field.8 The use of a distinctive cross on a flag as a sign of national identity started in 1188, when on January 13, the kings of France, England, and Flanders settled on the colours they would use in the ensuing Crusade. Initially, the French cross was red on white, while the English was white on red, yet by 1277, England had reversed its colours to give the present Cross of Saint George. Then by 1375, France also reversed its colours, probably in response to the English, and from that time until the revolution, the white cross was a symbol of France.9 The present flag of Quebec emerges from Champlain's flags if a fleur-de-lis from the étendard on his Abitation is placed in each quadrant formed by the cross on the merchant flag of his ship.
But that is not the end of the story, for there was no continuity in the use of the fleur-de-lis upon flags in the three hundred and forty years between the foundation of the Abitation de Québec in 1608 and the adoption of the flag of Quebec in 1948. Upon flags, at least, the fleur-de-lis fell into an period of neglect which amazingly lasted over two centuries. The decline was under way soon after the foundation of New France as its inhabitants had begun to view a flag of white as an emblem of the French nation even during Champlain's lifetime.
LE DRAPEAU BLANC
Joan of Arc strongly influenced France to think of white as the principal national colour when she used it as the field of her banner. As she commented at her trial for heresy and sorcery on February 28, 1431:
As white gradually became firmly established as a national colour, it replaced other colours upon royal, regimental, and naval flags. There it remained until the French Revolution. At sea, the White Flag was also often flown by the merchant marine "pour en tirer avantage dans leur commerce et Navigation."12 This occurred, despite the fact that the White Flag was reserved for the navy and that the merchantman were required, prior to 1661, to fly the blue flag with the white cross as had Champlain, or later, the same flag with an inescutcheon of the royal arms.
It was probably this use of the White Flag by merchantmen which identified it with the nation for those at Québec. In July 1632, Père Le Jeune described the return of some settlers after a three-year absence forced by English privateers:
Although at first the White Flag would have been seen primarily on ships, by 1656 it had spread to the land in the colony.14 A few years later in 1663, Louis XIV had proclaimed New France a royal colony and so changed its status from that of a commercial fiefdom. Now the royal purse could pay for the defense against the Iroquois with the result that in 1665 the Régiment de Carignan-Salières brought the White Flag to the forts it built along the Richelieu River.
Across New France, from forts in Acadia to ships on Lake Ontario, the White Flag soon flew. That it was the recognized symbol of France was evident to all: in 1714, the English recaptured Fort Nelson on Hudson's Bay, and General Knight wrote,
The White Flag was usually seen plain, but sometimes it bore either golden fleurs-de-lis or the royal arms; occasionally it bore both to form what was then the Royal Flag of France. Although records of such flags are rare, it is known that on December 3, 1738, when La Vérendrye entered a western fort in what is now Manitoba or western Ontario, he was preceded by a white pavillon painted with the Arms of France.16
Despite these variations, and despite the fact that the plain White Flag was officially the flag of the French navy, the inhabitants of New France identified with it from the early years until the fall of the French Régime.
The British Period
After the transition to British rule, either the Union Flag or the (plain) Red Ensign replaced the White Flag upon official structures in Quebec. However, not only are these flags discussed thoroughly elsewhere, but the flags of greatest interest for Quebec are those which arose from the aspirations of the Canadiens.
For an amazingly long time, those aspirations were not to be expressed with the fleur-de-lis. Although this symbol was to become dominant in the twentieth century, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, it had virtually vanished from consciousness. Not only had the fleur-de-lis rarely been seen upon flags during the French Régime, but any of the Royal Arms which had not been purged in 1759, were in 1775 ordered removed from "every Church or Court where they may at present remain."17 Indeed, even the motherland had vanished as a source of renewal of the fleur-de-lis, for when France went republican in 1789, it expunged all of its old symbols. In the twilight of the eighteenth century, it is doubtful that an bookmaker would have given the fleur-de-lis much of a chance for a comeback.
Yet, the absence of an appropriate symbol, did not mean the absence of the desire for a flag. As the historian, Benjamin Sulte, described the situation as it was in 1807,
But what should that Canadian flag be? The question prompted little response for the next quarter-century, but from 1832 until the beginning of the twentieth century various symbols competed vigorously for the position of honour. The 1830s were years of considerable political unrest and the strong feelings erupted in a profusion of flags that were characterized as much by what they were not, as by what they were; the flags recalled neither royalist France nor the United Kingdom; some recalled either revolutionary France or the United States; others, significantly, evoked Canada, itself.
THE PATRIOTE PERIOD
The very first of these flags is notable as (what is probably) the longest-lasting indigenous Canadian flag: the Patriote Flag. Still in use today in Montréal by the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste (SSJB), this flag was inspired by the French Tricolore, but its design was distinctive: a horizontal tricolour of green over white over red. Created in 1832 by the Patriotes, the primary Francophone political party of the day, its reference to republican France, and to other conquered peoples-the green represented the Irish-spoke eloquently of the struggle for representative government in Lower Canada. From the beginning, the Patriote Flag proved popular: it was used by the SSJB from the inception of the society in 1834.19
Despite the fact that the Patriotes dominated the elected House of Assembly, most of the power was held by the appointed Legislative Council. An appeal to the British Government to make the system more democratic was rejected, and March of 1837 the power of the Assembly was further eroded when the governor of Lower Canada was even authorized to bypass them on budgetary matters. The resulting resentment was expressed through words, rallies, rebellion, and many more flags.
On June 1, 1837, the leader of the Patriotes, Louis-Joseph Papineau, was led into an assembly at Ste-Scholastique behind the Patriote Flag, which had been adorned with a maple leaf, beaver, and muskellunge. Another flag bearing maple leaves, and apparently prepared for this gathering was the one carried the following December 14 by the Patriotes in the battle of Saint-Eustache. This assembly in June marked the first appearance of any indigenous Canadian symbols on flags, and, in particular, the first appearance on flags of maple leaves.
The maple leaves were not uniformly used as an appeal to nationalism: one flag showed a branch of maple leaves in the claws of a Canadian eagle which was winging its way to a star representing the U.S.A. Unless the graphical message was not already abundantly clear, it also bore the inscription "NOTRE AVENIR" [OUR FUTURE]. Another flag appealed to the same destiny with stars and an American eagle.
Throughout, these and other flags made a strong appeal for democracy in Canada. The principal flag, however, remained the green-white-red tricolour of the Patriotes, and, on October 23, 1837, it was adopted as the flag of the rebellion. But the rebellion failed, and the flags, like the Patriotes, retreated from the scene. Nevertheless, from the point of view of symbols, the decade was a period of a glorious awakening of Canadian flags. And if the designs sometimes spoke of other lands, their basic appeal for democracy was laudable.
In the 1840s the symbolic ground shifted away from the Patriote Flag. Not that the only recently established practice of embellishing flags with Canadian symbols changed, although the beaver did seem gradually to lose ground to the maple leaf as the century progressed. Rather, the change was in the basic pattern which shifted to European French design, either royalist or republican, with the republican dominating the rest of the century.
THE TRICOLORE TRIUMPHS TEMPORARILY
This move was under way as early as 1842 when the just founded Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste in Québec chose a vertical bicolour of green and white rather than the Patriote Flag. Then, in 1844 the SSJB in Montréal switched from the Patriote Flag to the French Tricolore, and later the same year the newly founded Institute Canadien adopted it also. Later (in 1888), the Québec SSJB was even to drop its green-and-white and join the Tricolore ranks.
The use of the Tricolore was given a boost with the outbreak of the Crimean War in 1853. Britain and France were allies in this battle against Russia and so flying it became at once pro-French and pro-British. From this time until it began to lose ground to a royalist symbol early in the twentieth century, the revolutionary Tricolore was the flag favoured by most French-Canadians. Although the flag was usually seen plain, in Quebec the white pale sometimes sported maple leaves, a beaver, or both. Outside Quebec, the Acadians created their own flag in 1884 by adding the golden Stella Maris [Star of Mary] at the top of the blue pale.
The 1840s not only brought the Tricolore, they also brought the royalist symbol which was eventually to trounce the Tricolore. In one of the most remarkable symbolic rebirths of all time, the fleur-de-lis reentered Quebec consciousness in an almost bizarre fashion.
The Reincarnation of the Fleur-de-Lis
Although the fleur-de-lis had rarely appeared on a flag since the days of Champlain over two centuries earlier, and although it had sunk so far into obscurity that it had taken not so much as the smallest part in the rise of nationalist flags in the 1830s, yet, in the 1840s it abruptly began to be promoted as the strident symbol of yesteryear. Driven by a yearning for a symbolic identity, the public transformed a confected tradition into a real tradition and in the process transformed the fleur-de-lis into the symbol of the people of Quebec in a way in which it had never been the symbol of the people of France: today, the fleur-de-lis is Quebec. To understand how this transformation came about, it helps to return to the eighteenth century to trace the remarkable fortunes of a religious hanging, or banner, which came to be known much later as the Carillon.
Often displayed in churches or carried in processions, banners have long been used to express religious principles and to enhance religious ceremonies. Typically, such religious banners were hung from a crossbar attached to a vertical pole, and, in the early eighteenth century when the Carillon was apparently made, their use was common. The Carillon, measuring two metres wide by three metres high, was made with three strips of what once must have been white silk.21 The centre of one side is dominated by a full length image of the Virgin Mary holding the Infant Jesus, while the other bears the royal arms of France. Crucial for the present story are the fleurs-de-lis which grace the four corners of each side; while all are upside-down, the top ones point inwards, the bottom ones, outwards.
Early in the Seven Years' War (1756-63) the Carillon probably resided in a chapel at one of the two French forts on the shores of the upper end of Lake Champlain.22 Fort Saint Frédéric (known to the Americans as Crown Point) and Fort Carillon (Ticonderoga) had been built to protect the Saint Lawrence Valley from an approach by the British down Lake Champlain and the Richelieu River. A field about a kilometer inland from Fort Carillon was the site, on July 8, 1758, of the last major French victory when the forces under Montcalm soundly defeated an Anglo-American force of over four times its size. However, subsequent military reversals caused a French withdrawal from both forts the following summer. The retreat was not hurried, and items, such as the Carillon Banner, which were not destroyed to keep them out of enemy hands, where transported north.
Although it is tempting to assume that the Carillon would have resided at the fort of the same name, not only is the banner's name an unreliable guide as it arose nearly a century after the forts' abandonment, but the best, albeit indirect, evidence suggests that the banner would have been at Fort Saint Frédéric. It seems that Father Jean-Antoine Depéret, the chaplain there, carried the banner north upon the abandonment of the fort in 1759, and then turned it over to another military chaplain and Recollet priest, Father Félix Berey des Essarts, who, in turn, deposited it in the church of the Recollets, in Québec. There it remained until rescued by Brother Louis-François Martinette from a fire in the monastery in 1796. Brother Louis kept it in a coffer in his attic until, upon his deathbed in 1848, he gave it to Louis de Gonzague Baillairgé, a young lawyer who had been trying to locate the banner after hearing stories of it.
In transferring the banner to Baillairgé, Brother Louis allowed that it was rumored to have had a heroic provenance: "a torn and tattered flag which, it was said at the convent, had seen the fire of Carillon."23 Baillairgé then displayed his preference for certitude over certainty as speculation was transformed in his mind into fact. Soon, the religious banner had been transformed into a battle standard, and a few months later, when it was carried in the procession of the SSJB, it was incontrovertibly presented as "the flag under which our ancestors gained renown at the Battle of Carillon."24 Indeed, under the persistent proselytization of Baillairgé, the primary symbolic value of the banner, incongruously dubbed the Drapeau de Carillon, was that it was a relic of a glorious past when Canadians fighting under its folds had played a brilliant part in the defeat of the enemy. In an age earnestly seeking an identifying symbol, here seemed to be one of truly heroic proportions. As the public stock of the Carillon climbed, so, too, the fleur-de-lis it bore arose from the ashes to assume a legendary past it had never experienced.
In fact, Canadians had really played only a marginal role that grand July day in 1758: the Battle of Carillon was won by the French regulars. Canadians occupied only seven percent of the French force, and in their position on the right flank were never directly attacked. Further, although a contemporary source clearly shows the flags of the French regulars, it reveals none for the Canadians;25 nor would it have been easy for them to carry such a large banner as the Carillon for they were stationed in a forest. Indeed, there is every indication that at no time had the Canadian militia ever used flags or banners.26
Over the years there were many people who did not accept Baillairgé's fanciful and self-promotional version of events, but it was only after his death in 1896 that others were allowed to examine the Carillon in detail. In 1905, after it had been repaired at the Québec Seminary, a former superior there commented, "I have never been able to see in that relic that we guard so carefully here, anything but a banner carried in religious processions."27 Finally in 1915, historian, Ernest Gagnon published a learned article which dismantled the myth Baillairgé had woven.28 But it was too late: the juggernaut was rolling; the Tricolore had been displaced; and the fleur-de-lis now truly did wear the mantle of Quebec history.
To leave the story here, would be to neglect another important, and independent, source of renewal for the fleur-de-lis in Quebec: heraldry. Short of religion, there are few human activities that possess as long and carefully nurtured a memory as does that of heraldry. In 1868, just following Confederation, Quebec received arms by royal warrant. Appearing on a gold field in the chief were two blue fleurs-de-lis which now served to give the device its first official approval in over a century. However, unlike the situation in every other province but Newfoundland, in Quebec, the arms did not play much of a role in influencing the design of the provincial flag.
The Fleurs-de-Lis Flies Again
In 1848, when the fleur-de-lis was reintroduced into Quebec society by the lawyer, Baillairgé, the Tricolore was ascendant, but slowly, the fleur-de-lis began to take hold. During the British-French alliance of the Crimean War, a frigate, La Capricieuse, became the first French naval vessel to sail up the St. Lawrence since the defeat of 1759-60. It was greeted at Québec with much fanfare by a panoply of officials, troops, Indians, and numerous sections of the SSJB. Many of these groups lofted flags and the Tricolore abounded, but among them, some students from the Seminary of Québec carried colourful flags bearing the fleur-de-lis.29 From that time until the end of the century, there was a sporadic but gradual increase in the use of fleurs-de-lis on flags in Quebec.
For most of the rest of the nineteenth century, the contest over the flags was but one aspect of a battle fought on many fronts between ultramontanism and liberalism in Quebec. The ultramontanes, a conservative Catholic group who espoused the supremacy of the church over the state, generally promoted the old royalist symbol of the fleur-de-lis. The liberals, inspired by the democratic, republican and free-thinking ideas which emerged from the American and French revolutions, advocated the Tricolore. The ideologies of the ultramontane never triumphed and were finally dismantled in the mid-twentieth century by Vatican II and the quiet revolution. Nevertheless, there is a irony in the fact that the symbol they supported was to win even though there cause was lost.
What had been, in the nineteenth century, a trickle of fleur-de-lis flags, became, with the turn of the twentieth century, a veritable flood-a flood probably driven as much by the imperialism of anglophones as by the nationalism of francophones. In the 1890s, Canadians of both stripes had often displayed their nationalism (Canationalism?) by flying the Canadian Red Ensign. While fundamentally a British flag, it did bear a distinctive Canadian badge on the fly, and that badge did include the arms of Quebec. But among anglophones, an imperialist mood was gaining ground, driven, in part, by the patriotism engendered by the desire to fight alongside the motherland in the South African War (1899-1902). Amidst this wave of jingoistic imperialism, the Union Flag became canonized as the symbol of the British Empire. Until recently, this flag had taken a distant second to the more nationalistic Canadian Red Ensign, but now it swept the ensign aside in a mood that made the Union Flag de rigueur for all right-thinking Canadians to fly.
Inexplicably (that is, for anglophones), the French-Canadians just failed to understand the compelling virtue of adding the Boers to the long list of Britain's subjugated peoples. This incomprehension lead to the Montréal riots of March 1900, during which, the students of McGill University took it upon themselves to make sure that shops, newspapers, city hall, and the Université Laval, all adopted right-thinking attitudes and flew, if necessary by force, the Union Flag.30 Such microcephalic thinking was unfortunately not limited to the students: the Ontario press savagely excoriated French-Canadians for not possessing the proper imperial attitude.31 This environment cannot but have added an urgency to the need francophones already felt for a flag which would distinguish them from other Canadians.
The dénouement arrived on September 26, 1902 when Abbot Ephège Filiatrault hoisted a flag on his presbytery of Saint Jude at Saint-Hyacinthe. Anticipating the present flag of of Quebec, Filiatrault placed a fleur-de-lis in each quadrant formed by a white cross on a blue field. But, Filiatrault's fleurs-de-lis all pointed to the centre, while those on the provincial flag are erect. The inspiration for the Abbot's flag was unambiguous. As he described it in a pamphlet he published under the pseudonym of "un Compatriote":
So strongly had his design been influenced by what he believed to be the properties of that infamous banner, that Filiatrault's flag also was promptly, if somewhat confusingly, dubbed the Carillon. And, if most of Filiatrault's historical assertions were spurious-the Canadiens' participation in the battle of Carillon had not been significant; the banner had not been present at the battle; its field was not blue; his claim that the cross was inspired by those on the flags of the chevalier de Lévis (of the 1760 capitulation at Montréal) was just wishful thinking-nevertheless, Filiatrault's primary objective was beautifully fulfilled. He wanted the flag to use the symbols of the past to convey "les mânes de nos ancêtres...du pieux souvenir de leur postérité"33 [to posterity a reverent recollection of the spirits of our ancestors]. In this aim, he succeeded superlatively, and, if some of the ancestors were a little more distant than he had imagined-Champlain rather than Montcalm and Lévis-it is doubtful that Filiatrault would have minded.
Filiatrault had omitted the maple leaf and the beaver, not because they were inadequately Canadian, but rather because they were quintessentially Canadian. He was designing a flag for French Canadians, not for all Canadians.34 However, in looking at the beauty of his design, it is clear that he understood that elegant simplicity is paramount in effective flag design. Possibly, he was just seeking to do a better job than the then current version of the Canadian Red Ensign, the aberrant seven-province flag which presented a dog's breakfast of unrecognizability. Possibly, he just had a good eye. Not surprisingly, what happened next was not to the Abbot's taste.35
On March 24, 1903, some influential citizens of Quebec formed Le Comité du drapeau national de Québec [The Committee of the National Flag of Quebec] and decided that Filiatrault's flag was but a good start; what it really needed was the addition of a few more motifs: a sacred heart of Jesus and a wreath of maple leaves.36 This composite design was soon known by the equally composite name Le Carillon-Sacré-Coeur. Flag design by committee all too often produces a smorgasbord, as a little something is included to keep each faction happy.37 Abbot Filiatrault was not alone in his dislike for these modifications, but despite his objections, before long other modifications were proffered which added, say, a statue of the Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre, or the arms of Quebec with or without wreath, beaver and motto, and so it went. Indeed, completely new designs continued to be proposed in abundance right into the 1940s.38 One accepted for many years by the SSJB (Montréal) was designed by L.J.A.Derome about 1912.39 The upper hoist presented three golden fleurs-de-lis on blue, the lower hoist, a rampant lion on red, and the fly, an image of Saint John the Baptist replete with lamb, maple leaves and beaver.
But a strong campaign developed in favour of the Carillon-Sacré-Coeur which was backed not only by the influential citizens, but by many of the Sociétés Saint-Jean-Baptiste which, in both Canada and the United States, passed resolutions of support of it.40 The campaign was often conducted on a grand scale: on March 1905, the newspaper, La Verité, promoted the flag by printing and distributing 15,000 postcards, 60,000 stickers, 20,000 prints, 150,000 buttons and insignias, 76,000 flags of all sizes, of which 500 were over 5.5 metres in length.41
The promotion continued, and, in 1926, the Carillon-Sacré-Coeur received quasi-official approval as a law in the Legislative Assembly recognized it as the flag of the SSJB in the Québec diocese.42 This step followed hard on the heals of both the 1925 brouhaha in the federal Parliament over whether it was even acceptable to contemplate the possibility of a national flag for Canada, and the 1926 contest in La Presse, which recommended a British-pattern ensign for the country.43 It seems that once again, the vexillological uncertainties of the larger Canadian community, served to heighten the need to establish an appropriate symbol for Quebec.
Opposition to the retention of the sacred heart on what was fundamentally a civil flag remained, and support grew in the 1930s for a return to Filiatrault's Carillon flag.44 Yet, there is scant evidence that the Legislative Assembly would have settled the issue and created a provincial flag had not events at the federal level intervened to reveal, once again, the parochial nature of the country's leaders.
Le Drapeau Québécois
The Second World War, as wars are wont to do, heightened a sense of national identity. Although the Union Flag flew on the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa throughout, from the beginning there was a sense that it was not the flag under which Canadians wished to fight. The First Division went overseas under the Battle Flag of Canada, approved by the war cabinet in 1939. Even though this flag had not been designed by a committee, it contained a little something for everyone: the Union Flag in the canton, three red maple leaves in the centre, and three golden fleurs-de-lis on a blue roundel on the fly. The flag did not gain the approval of the troops, but it was a step in the right direction.
By early 1944, the Canadian Red Ensign flew officially at army and air-force bases overseas, and on September 5, 1945, it permanently replaced the Union Flag on the Peace Tower. In making these changes, Ottawa was following, albeit lagging far behind, public opinion in Canada. Those who had served overseas sought a solely Canadian flag-as a representative letter put it: "To the devil with the Fleur-de-lis and the Union Jack."45 That this sentiment was mirrored at home soon became evident, as, across the country, only 14% of the public were to include the Union Flag, and 7%, the fleur-de-lis, in the designs submitted to the Parliamentary flag committee in 1946.46
Prime Minister King had bowed to popular pressure in November, 1945 when he established the joint committee of the Senate and House to consider a suitable design for a distinctive national flag. Instructing the committee, Secretary of State Paul Martin asked that the flag of Canada be unlike any other, and in particular "symbolic of the country and of its position as a sovereign state".47 Reenforcing this position, the Legislative Assembly of Quebec unanimously beseeched the committee to choose "un drapeau véritablement canadien"48 [a flag that would be truly Canadian]. Along with the majority of Canadians elsewhere, Quebec sought a flag that excluded any sign of subjection, or colonialism. It was not to be; the committee lacked the courage to go against Mackenzie King's private instructions to the Liberal majority that they were to support his personal favourite: the red ensign with the golden maple leaf on the fly. The whole thing was a mummery, and in the end, Mr. King made some feeble excuses and the committee's subservient recommendations were shelved.
This caused the passionate Canadian, T.S. Ewart, to make the too general, but poignant remark:
But while anglophones, such as Ewart, lamented and chose to bide their time, francophones acted-if Canadians as a whole did not know who they were, at least the Québécois did. So it was that the ineptitude of the federal politicians prompted René Chaloult, independent deputy from Québec-Comté, to present a motion to the Legislative Assembly (November 19, 1946) inviting
This was clever, for, under the guise of promoting a national flag of Canada, he was actually seeking a provincial flag of Quebec. In the debate the following March, opinion over whether Quebec should adopt a flag was divided, and so a committee was established to study the problem. The labours of the committee produced nothing but support in principle for a flag. Although the politicians dithered, for the rest of 1947, the public clamored for the Fleurdelisé, a name applied by that time to Filiatrault's Carillon. On December 2, Chaloult presented a new motion which argued that if Nova Scotia could claim a flag, so should Quebec. Finally on January 21, 1948, the government acted decisively, and before the issue could be debated again, the cabinet presented a decree:
To Premier Maurice Duplessis's announcement that the Fleurdelisé was already flying over the tower, the Assembly erupted in thunderous applause. Formal approval of the Legislative Assembly arrived two years later on March 9, 1950. Before long the Fleurdelisé, as the provincial flag was now known, had attained a comfortable familiarity which made it seem as if it had been the flag of Quebec since the Abitation. Abbot Filiatrault would have been proud-but then, for that matter, so would have been Champlain.
The Lieutenant-Governor of Quebec
Before the authorization of a special flag badge for the Lieutenant-Governor of Quebec on July 17, 1870, he probably flew the plain Union Flag at his residence.51 As the special flag for the Lieutenant-Governor was originally intended for use aboard a ship, it is not clear how long it was before it began to replace the plain Union Flag on land.
The badge that the Lieutenant-Governor of Quebec placed in the centre of the Union Flag was, like that of the other four founding provinces, the provincial arms enwreathed in maple leaves. So, even though the arms were of minor influence in the design of the provincial flag, they were very important for the Lieutenant-Governor's flag.
Each of the four founding provinces received arms by royal warrant on May 26, 1868. Quebec's reads like a chronology: fleurs-de-lis in the chief representing the French Régime, an English lion in the centre (fess) representing the British Period, and maple leaves in the base for the Canadian period. Curiously, although three golden fleurs-de-lis on a blue field had been the traditional representation, yet, two blue ones on a golden field appeared on the 1868 arms.
No explanation was given at the time for these choices, but plausible ones are not hard to find. The practice of reversing colours on derivative arms is well established: just as the saltire on the 1625 arms of Nova Scotia (New Scotland) is a reversal of the white saltire on blue used by Scotland, it would be equally appropriate if the fleurs-de-lis on the portion of the arms representing New France were a reversal of those of France. It has also been suggested that the change in number and colour was just a polite way for Queen Victoria's heralds to distance themselves from the historic claim England had for land in France.52 After all, in pursuant of this claim, the royal arms of Britain had born golden fleurs-de-lis from 1340 to 1801; there was no point in opening old wounds now by returning them to the arms of a British dominion. Finally, the choices may have been driven as much by design considerations.53 Certainly, as presented, the arms of Quebec are a beautiful match to those granted to Nova Scotia at the same time.
Whatever the original reasons, with the rise of interest in the fleur-de-lis in the early twentieth century, the representation of Quebec by two blue ones did not seem consonant with images of the past. On December 9, 1939, a provincial order-in-council declared that there would now be three golden fleurs-de-lis on a blue field in the chief of the arms. At the same time, the motto, JE ME SOUVIENS, was added on a scroll below and a crown was placed above. Aesthetically, these changes were very effective, although it remains the fact that arms are something granted by the sovereign and are not subject to capricious modification by those who hold them.54 Thus, there were now two versions of the Quebec arms in use: the official (1868) ones, and the assumed (1939) ones. Needless to say, the assumed version was preferred within the province, while either might be used outside.55
While the 1939 version of the arms was ultimately to appear upon the flag of the Lieutenant-Governor, it is not clear that it was ever used as a badge upon the Union Flag, for, in 1940, the new Lieutenant-Governor, Sir Eugène Fiset (1939-50), chose to fly the plain Union Flag, rather than one defaced by any badge. As the king's representative in Quebec, it is possible that he just found it easiest to avoid the question of what were the appropriate arms to use on the flag: Quebec's version, or the sovereign's version.
The next Lieutenant-Governor, Gaspard Fauteux (1950-8), started using the Canadian Red Ensign on the gubernatorial residence of Blois de Coulogne. Certainly, this was in keeping with the shift to the Ensign rather than the Union Flag which had occurred in 1945 at the federal level. However, this usage did not last very long, for with the adoption of the provincial flag by the Legislative Assembly on March 7, 1950, the Union Flag on the tower of the Legislative Assembly had been replaced by the new provincial flag. It seems that at this point Fauteux also decided to have a new flag to identify the representative of His Majesty. With the assent of the Governor General, he chose to fly a flag patterned after the one used by the Governor General: royal blue in colour, with the (1939) arms on a white roundel in the centre.56 When this flag was introduced, it bore the crown with the raised arches, sometimes called the Tudor Crown. It now bears the depressed arches of the Saint Edward's Crown, favoured by the Queen.
Quebec did not join the majority of the other provinces in the 1980s when they adopted the modern pattern for the flag of the Lieutenant-Governor. However, despite the minor design differences, such as the wreath of golden maple leaves and the flag shape, in many ways it was the other provinces which were, after some thirty years, following the lead of Quebec.
Flags of Occasion
The use of a flag to mark a special occasion has a long history in Quebec. An early one was the one hoisted to mark the Tercentenary of the City of Québec in 1908. A white cross was place upon a powder blue field strewn (semé) with fleurs-de-lis.57
The best known flag of occasion in Canada, the one for the 1967 Centennial of Confederation, is often mistakenly believed to be the flag of Montréal's EXPO 67. But, EXPO had ones of its own. The flag for the Canadian Centennial Exposition presented the theme for the whole fair, Man and his World, by reproducing the symbol,, eight times in a ring. The device was usually presented in white on a blue field.
Montréal also used distinctive flags as the host of the Summer Olympics in 1976, and the horticultural fair, Les Floralies internationales, in 1980. The latter bore a symbol which evoked not only the floral context of the exposition (a hand-held bouquet), but Montréal (the M at the bottom), Quebec (the fleur-de-lis), and the world (the disk).58
Each of Quebec's two oldest universities flies an armorial banner based from the arms its eponym. In 1922, McGill University received arms derived from those which had been granted posthumously to its founder, James McGill. The red and white armorial banner of the university displays three martlets, a mythical bird which, lacking feet, is portrayed in motion. The crowns bearing fleurs-de-lis are a reference to both the city's royal name and its French nature, while the open book is the heraldic symbol of an institution of learning.
In 1952, Université Laval was granted arms which are but a colour inversion of the blazon of François de Laval, the first bishop of Québec. The armorial banner flown by the university bears a golden cross on a red field. Five blue shells on the cross recall the crusades in which Msgr. de Laval's ancestors took part; the sixteen silver allerions are spread eaglets without beck or talons and represent defeated and disarmed enemies.
The Université de Montréal adopted a new monogram in 1967. It forms the university's flag when displayed in gold on a blue field.
The Collège militaire royal de St.-Jean uses a flag which follows the pattern set by its sister, the Royal Military College, in Kingston, Ontario. Flown first during the graduation ceremonies on May 11, 1985, the flag is divided into three pales of light blue, white, and light blue, while the crest of the college, a mailed fist holding three maple leaves, is place in the central pale.
Municipal or Regional Flags
The capital city of Québec has one of the most effective and prettiest municipal flags in the country. Lifted from the city's arms, a golden ship on a blue field recalls not only the foundation of the city in 1608, but also the long-time maritime activities of its residents. The silver, crenelated border represents the fact that Québec is a walled city. This flag was adopted by a city by-law on January 12, 1987 and raised on the City Hall on February 3. From 1967 until 1987, the city flew a white ensign with the Fleurdelisé in the canton and the city arms on the fly.
Montréal uses a banner of its arms: in the quadrants formed by a Saint George's cross there appear a fleur-de-lis, a rose, a thistle, and a shamrock. The flag has been used since May 1939 when it was introduced to mark the visit of King George VI. At that time, the arms had only recently been revised from the pattern used since 1833 which had employed a Saint Andrew's cross. At the end of March 1981, a logotype was introduced and it now appears on almost every article used to represent the city-except flags. Actually, it did appear on a flag briefly at the symbol's inception, but as this use was not continued, the traditional flag remains in place.
Since its centennial of settlement in 1938, the delightfully styled Kingdom of Saguenay has flown a striking flag. Its creation, by Monseigneur Victor Tremblay, the director of La Société Historique de Saguenay.59 was prompted in part, it seems, from the lack of either a national or provincial flag at the time.60 The flag bears a double cross: silver representing industry, over red for the population. The upper two quadrants are green, symbolizing the forests, and the lower ones, yellow, for the ripe harvests. The approach adopted in the Saguenay, of specifically designing a flag, as such, seems to be rare among the Quebec municipalities. More often, flag design appears to be a secondary byproduct of other forms of identification. Possibly, this is but a reflection of the preference early settlers and explorers had for the use of arms rather than flags.
It is a widespread practice in Quebec for municipal flags to have a white field. It is pleasant to imagine that this constitutes a reference to the White Flag of the old régime. In the centre of the flag will be placed either a heraldic or logotypic badge. Normally communities carefully record the date when arms were granted (or assumed), or when a logotype was adopted. But the date the device was placed upon a flag, which may be a decade or so later, often goes unrecorded. So, it is often unclear when the flag, itself, began to be used. With a few exceptions, the raising of most municipal flags in Quebec seems to have awaited the adoption of the National Flag in 1965.
All the municipalities on the Île de Montréal have been been represented in the Montréal Urban Community since 1970. Although most of their flags were adopted after that time, in 1969, LaSalle adopted one which combined the eight-pointed star from the arms of its eponym, Robert-René Cavelier de LaSalle, with blue wavy lines from the municipal arms. In 1976, Saint-Laurent adopted a logotype evocative of a tree, blossom, or open-armed greeting. This was subsequently placed upon a white field to form the municipal flag. The same approach was followed by Outremont and Lachine. Lachine's badge, adopted about 1980, shows two stylized leaves, the ribs of each forming an L. The blue leaf evokes water and the old way of life and the green one, foliage and modern dynamism.
The neighouring communities of Boucherville, Pierrefonds and Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville place their arms upon white, while Brossard and Longueuil employ a logotype in the same way. Before adopting its logotype in 1978, Longueuil flew a flag with a white cross on red on the hoist and a blue fleur-de-lis on white on the fly. Laval places its logotype, an L built out of cubes, upon a grey field. All five write their names upon their flags. Until 1987, nearby Saint-Eustache placed its arms in the white canton of an otherwise horizontal tricolour of red, green and blue. Thereafter, two blue swallows flew against a white sky. Saint-Jérôme uses a pictorial scene within a maple-leaf outline and places it upon a yellow field. Joliette, has a vertical bicolour of white and blue; the city's arms are placed upon the blue, while its name is written on the white.
Along the Ottawa River, the cities of Aylmer and Gatineau, both have flags. Aylmer's badge, which is placed upon a white field, recalls not only the adjacent Lake Deschênes, but the villages of Deschênes, Lucerne and Aylmer, out of which the city was formed in 1975. Gatineau placed its arms in the central pale of a vertical tricolour of green, white and orange. In 1987 a logotype, in the form of a stylized green G on white, was adopted.
The arms, which Sherbrooke places upon a white field along with its name, evoke the city's location at the junction of the Saint-François and Magog Rivers in the Eastern Townships.
The city of Cap-de-la-Madeleine, situated along the St. Lawrence between Montréal and Quebec, specifically designed a flag and adopted it in 1969.61 It is divided into three diagonal panels: the red at the hoist bears the national symbol of a maple leaf; the white in the centre, the city's arms; and the blue on the fly, the provincial emblem of a fleur-de-lis. The design bears a striking similarity to the flag that Red Deer, Alberta, adopted eight years later.
Across the river, Bécancour reestablishes the pattern that characterizes much of the lower St. Lawrence: a badge on a white field. Bécancour and Rivière-du-Loup employ a logotype while Sept-Iles, Matane, and Ste-Anne-des-Monts use arms. Each includes its name upon the flag. Ste-Anne-des-Monts has also revived a much older flag, bearing the monogram SA, which had been employed in the mid twenties to embellish homes on the occasion of the Fête Dieux, Saint-Jean Baptiste day and the festival of Ste Anne.
Baie-Comeau has had a flag since 1985 when it reversed the colours of its logotype to display white upon blue. This, along with the absence of any writing, contributes to a very effective flag.
This sampling of the municipal flags of Quebec is far from exhaustive. Yet, the selections appear representative.
This is the chapter entitled, Quebec, from the book,
1. Reuben Gold Thwaites, The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents, 1610-1791, Vol. 3 (Cleveland: Burrows Brothers, 1896-1901), pp. 28-29.
2. Whitney Smith, Flags through the Ages and Across the World (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1975), p. 131.
3. August Vachon, "The Royal Mark in New France,"The Archivist, Vol 17, No. 1 (Ottawa: National Archives of Canada, January-February 1990), pp. 11-13.
4. Gustave Desjardins, Recherches sur les drapeaux français (Paris: Vve A. Morel et Cie, 1874), pp. III-IV, 15, 18, 60-62, 113. The three occasions were the coronation (1610) and funeral (1643) of Louis XIII, and the funeral (1715) of Louis XIV.
5. There is a record of the Bannière's use on Pierre du Gua de Monts' lodging at his settlement on île Sainte-Croix in 1604. But this island in the St. Croix River is just over the border in Main rather than New Brunswick. The record can be found in Marc Lescarbot, Histoire de la Nouvelle-France ... suivie des Muses de la Nouvelle-France, Vol. II (Paris: Edwin Tross, 1866), p. 450.
6. Many more examples, extending over two centuries, of this use of the Royal Arms in North America are cited by Vachon, The Archivist.
7. Desjardins, Recherches..., pp. 50-51.
8. Certainly, by 1643 the merchant marine was identified by the rectangular blue flag with the white cross. In 1661, an edict of Louis XIV required an inescutcheon of the royal arms to be added to this merchant's flag. The swallow-tale pennant also appearing on his ship is, like the one on the Abitation, a battlefield standard. See Vachon, The Archivist.
9. Smith, Flags..., pp. 44-45.
10. Alain René Lesage, Les aventures de Monsieur Robert Chevalier dit Beauchêne..., t. 1 (Maestricht: Jean-Edmé Dufour S. Phil. Roux, 1780), p. 126.
11. Smith, Flags..., p. 66.
12. Timothy Wilson, Flags at Sea (London: Her Majesty's Stationary Office, 1986), p. 61.
13. Thwaites, Jesuit Relations, Vol. 5, p. 42.
14. Thwaites, Jesuit Relations, Vol. 43, p. 138.
15. René Chartrand, "The Flags of New France," The Flag Bulletin, XV:1 (1976), pp. 13-21. See also Chartrand, "Les drapeau en Nouvelle-France," Conservation Canada, Vol. 1, No. 1, (1974), pp. 24-25.
16. Antoine Champagne, Nouvelle études sur les La Vérendrye et le poste de l'Ouest (Québec: Les presses de l'Université Laval, 1971), p. 152.
17. Alan B. Beddoe, Beddoe's Canadian Heraldry (Revised by Col. Strome Galloway) (Belleville: Mika, 1981), p. 41.
18. Benjamin Sulte, Melanges Historiques, La SSJB 1834-1852, Vol. 15 (Montréal: Ducharme, 1921), p. 65.
19. Raoul Roy, Pour un drapeau indépendantiste (Montréal: Les éditions du frac-canada, 1965), pp. 14-15.
20. Eric Hobsbawm, "Introduction: Inventing Traditions" The Invention of Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), p. 2.
21. The silk has turned a light brown and very brittle with age. The design and workmanship of the banner was of low quality.
22. This reconstruction of the early history of the Carillon is based largely on the careful scholarly work of D. Peter MacLeod and C. Michel Boucher, "The Drapeau de Carillon, History and Legend," The Flag Bulletin,, XXXII, 2 (1993), p. 66-87.
23. E. Gagnon, "Le Drapeau de Carillon," Revue canadienne, new series, Vol. II (March 1882), pp.129-139, see p. 133.
24. Le Journal de Québec (June 27, 1848). See also the Quebec Gazette (June 28,1848).
25. H.-R. Casgrain, Lettres et pièces militaires, instructions, ordres, mémoires, plans de campagne et de défense, 1756-1760 (Québec, 1891).
26. MacLeod and Boucher, "The Drapeau de Carillon ."The Flag Bulletin,, XXXII, 2 (1993), p. 70-71.
27. J.C.K. Laflamme to Gagnon, February 10, 1905. See Gagnon, "Le prétendu drapeau de Carillon," p. 306.
28. E. Gagnon, writing as Pierre Sailly, "Le prétendu drapeau de Carillon," Revue canadienne, new series, Vol XVI (October 1915) pp. 304-306.
29. H.-J.-J.-B. Chouinard, Fête nationale des canadiens-français (Québec: A. Coté et Cie, 1881), pp. 78-79.
30. Rauol Roy, Pour un drapeau indépendantiste (Montréal: Les Éditions du Franc-Canada, 1965), p. 44.
31. Robert J.D. Page, Imperialism and Canada, 1895-1903, (Toronto: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1972), p. 7.
32. Un Compatriote, Aux Canadiens-français, notre drapeau, (St. Hyacinthe: La Tribune, 1903), p. 17. Although it is widely claimed in the literature, and it seems reasonable, that this pamphlet was written by Abbot Ephège Filiatrault, no one seems to provide any basis for the assertion. Further, the literature sometimes claims that the pseudonym was "un patriote" and that the date was 1902.
33. Aux Canadiens-français, notre drapeau, p. 21.
34. Aux Canadiens-français, notre drapeau, p. 22.
35. Elphège Filiatrault, Nos couleurs nationales (Saint-Jude, 1905), 12 p.
36. Le Comité de Québec, Le Drapeau National des Canadiens français: un choix légitime et populaire. (Québec, 1904), 309 pp.
37. Although this is norm, there are striking exceptions such as the National Flag of Canada, where there was strong artistic leadership and the committee did not design as much as it chose between designs.
38. See: Edouard Blondel, "Les drapeaux canadiens" La Presse (1920 April 10), pp. 1, 8; and François Beaudoin, "Flags of Quebec"The Flag Bulletin, XXIII, 5 (1984), p. 157.
39. Jean-Guy Labarre, Non au Drapeau Canadien (Montréal: Les Éditions Actualité, 1962), p. 48.
40. Rodolphe Fournier, "Historique du Fleurdelisé" Le Manuel des Sociétés Saint-Jean-Baptiste (Québec: Les Editions du Richelieu, 1953), p. 89.
41. François Beaudoin, "Flags of Quebec"The Flag Bulletin, XXIII, 5 (1984), p. 157.
42. Labarre, Non au Drapeau Canadien, p. 49.
43. "The National Flag Contest" La Presse (Montréal, May 26, 1926), an editorial and an illustration.
44. Roy, Pour un drapeau indépendantiste, p. 76.
45. See the discussion in T.S. Ewart, A Flag for Canada (Ottawa: self, 1947), p. 5.
46. John Ross Matheson, Canada's Flag: A Search for a Nation, (Boston: G.K. Hall, 1980), p. 59-60.
47. Matheson, Canada's Flag, p. 50.
48. Labarre, Non au Drapeau Canadien, p. 51.
49. Jacques Archambault and Eugéne Lévesque, Le Drapeau Québécois (Québec: Éditeur officiel du Québec, 1978), p. 22.
50. Archambault and Lévesque, Le Drapeau Québécois, p. 23.
51. Although the new flag was approved on July 16, 1870, the despatch was not received by the Privy Council in Canada until August 8, which likely marks the earliest time the new flag would have been in use.
52. Alan B. Beddoe, Beddoe's Canadian Heraldry (revised by Col. Strome Galloway) (Belleville: Mika, 1981), p. 72.
53. Conrad Swan, Canada: Symbols of Sovereignty (Toronto: University of Toronto, 1977), p. 100.
54. In this way, arms are like a trademark or a patent, which are similarly not subject to arbitrary redefinition by the recipient.
55. The 1967 Centennial Fountain on Parliament Hill uses the 1868 version, while the 1986 Canadian Symbols Kit uses the 1939 version.
56. Memo from Micheline Dussault to Group Captain Gabriel Taschereau, Executive assistant to the Lieutenant-Governor of Quebec, circa January 1971.
57. Beaudoin, "Flags of Quebec", pp. 157. One of these Tercentennial flags is preserved in the museum at the Collège militaire royal de St.-Jean.
58. The symbol of the Montréal Olympics was created by Georges Huel, while that of Les Floralies internationales de Montréal was by Marcel Cadieux.
59. Hugh MacLennan, Rivers of Canada, "The Saguenay" (Toronto: Macmillan, 1974), p. 221.
60. Kevin Harrington, "The Saguenay Flag," Flagscan, Issue 11, Vol. III, No. 3 (Fall 1988), pp. 3-8.
61. Cap-de-la-Madeleine adopted its flag on Aug. 25, 1969.
This is the chapter entitled, Quebec, from the book,