Heraldry started in 12th-century Europe when knights painted their shields with emblems to symbolize their unique identity and interests when in full armour. Gradually, monarchs took control of the official granting and use of coats of arms, which allowed them to honour people and groups. Coats of arms thus developed as grants of honour received from a sovereign exercising his or her personal prerogative.
In Canada, the Canadian Heraldic Authority is responsible for the granting of coats of arms and other armorial bearings. Several former Lieutenant Governors have their own coats of arms including the Honourable Steven Point, the Honourable Iona Campagnolo and the Honourable Garde Gardom. In Government House, the heraldic shields are displayed under the respective portrait of the Lieutenant Governor to whom they belong.
Government House also displays the heraldic shields of members of the Royal Family or Governors General who have stayed at the House. Each coat of arms is created for the date of the honouree's first overnight visit to Government House. The shields are displayed in the House thereafter, honouring the visitor after their departure.
The shields line the wall beneath the Rogers Window and along the walls of the main staircase. The Rogers Window depicts the heraldry of British Columbia as well as the previous Lieutenant Governors of British Columbia. Together, the refurbished coats of arms and the Rogers Window honour the heraldic traditions and the regal history of British Columbia.
In 2013, His Royal Highness The Duke of York unveiled the Canada and British Columbia Heraldic Windows in the entrance way of Government House to honour the role of the Canadian Crown. One window contains Her Majesty's Royal Cypher, the shield of the Royal Arms of Canada, and the crest of the Royal Arms of Canada, the latter as an indication of the role of the Governor General. The other window contains an emblem from the Queen's Diamond Jubilee medal, the shield of the arms of British Columbia, and the emblem of Office of the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia. The windows were designed by stained glass artists Mr. Ed Schaeffer and Mr. Tom Mercer.
A heraldry exhibit is open to the public in the Cary Castle Mews Interpretive Centre. This display was created by the British Columbia branch of the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada, whose mission is to promote Heraldry, particularly Canadian heraldry, and to encourage an interest in the subject among Canadians. A preview of the exhibit is available here.
|Coat of Arms||Visitor||First Visit|
|Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York||1901|
|His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales||1919|
|His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester||1929|
|His Royal Highness Prince George||1929|
|His Majesty King George VI||1939|
|Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth||1939|
|Her Royal Highness The Princess Elizabeth||1951|
|His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh||1951|
|Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal||1955|
|Her Royal Highness The Princess Margaret||1958|
|Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra||1959|
|Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II||1959|
|His Royal Highness The Prince Andrew||1977|
|His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales||1986|
|Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales||1986|
|His Royal Highness The Prince Edward||1994|
|His Royal Highness Prince Michael of Kent||2002|
|Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex||2006|
|Coat of Arms||Visitor||First Visit|
|The Earl of Dufferin||1876|
|The Marquess of Lorne||1882|
|The Marquess of Lansdowne||1885|
|The Earl of Aberdeen||1894|
|The Earl of Minto||1900|
|His Royal Highness The Duke of Connaught and Strathearn||1912|
|The Duke of Devonshire||1920|
|The Viscount of Willingdon||1927|
|The Earl of Bessborough||1932|
|The Earl of Athlone||1941|
|The Viscount Alexander||1946|
|The Right Honourable Vincent Massey||1958|
|Major-General The Right Honourable Georges P. Vanier||1960|
|The Right Honourable Roland Michener||1968|
|The Right Honourable Jules Léger||1970|
|The Right Honourable Edward R Schreyer||1979|
|The Right Honourable Jeanne Sauvé||1984|
|The Right Honourable Ramon Hnatyshyn||1992|
|The Right Honourable Roméo LeBlanc||1997|
|The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson||2000|
|The Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean||2006|
|The Right Honourable David Johnston||2011|