Canadian Royal Heritage Trust

A National Educational Charity

The Royal Reason Why (What, Who and How)


by Arthur Bousfield and Garry Toffoli


Why is horseracing known as the sport of kings?

Monarchs have always been keenly interested in horseracing – no doubt because of the importance of the horse in war and communications. This interest goes back as far as ancient history. In 1500 B.C. a treatise on the breeding and training of horses was written for a Hittite king. The modern practice of organised horseracing, however, originated with our own kings and queens, in both the British and the French lines. King Henry VIII had studs at Hampton Court, Malmesbury, Tutbury and Ribon. King James I, who was King James VI of Scotland before he became King of England as well, was a great patron of the turf in Scotland. When he succeeded to the English Throne, he took his passion along with him. King Charles I, the son of King James I, had 139 horses and 32 brood mares at Tutbury in 1649, the year he was murdered by the Cromwellians. King Charles II, who was restored to Throne after the Commonwealth, is known as the “Father of the British turf” and often rode and won both match and plate races at Newmarket. The Ascot race meeting gained the high distinction it still retains after it received the patronage of Queen Anne. Queen Victoria took royal patronage outside the confines of the British Isles and gave her name to the Queen’s Plate in Canada along with a gift of 50 guineas for the winner, still presented by the monarch today. King Edward VII’s horse Persimmon won the Derby in 1896 and Queen Elizabeth II is recognised as one of the world’s greatest authorities on bloodlines and horse breeding.


Why is a first-class chef called a “cordon bleu”?

This term has come into common usage from our French line of kings. The Order of the Holy Spirit was the French equivalent of the Order of the Garter, and was founded in 1578 by King Henri III. The ribbon worn by the knights of the order was blue and was therefore known as the cordon bleuCordon bleu or “blue ribbon” came to be applied not only to the insignia but to those appointed to the order themselves and then, by extension, to anyone in society of particular distinction. It was at first used facetiously for special eminence in cooking but has now become the designation for master chefs and even gifted amateur cooks. King Louis XIV so much appreciated a dinner held on his behalf by Madame Du Barry that he decided to engage her cook for the Royal Household. He was informed that the cook was a woman and that she ought to have a worthy reward  – nothing less than the cordon bleu. In English the term “blue ribbon” is derived in the same way as cordon bleu. It comes from the insignia of the Order of the Garter and then was applied to anything deemed first class. This is why blue ribbons are awarded as prizes at shows, fairs or exhibitions.


Why is a certain kind of pottery known as “Queen’s Ware”?

In 1725, Thomas Astbury invented a cream-coloured, light-bodied earthenware. He called it creamware. Josiah Wedgwood, the great potter, brought this creamware to a high degree of refinement during the 1760s, and it became famous throughout the world. In 1762, a set of creamware was presented to Queen Charlotte, consort of King George III. After Her Majesty accepted the set, Wedgwood changed the name of the ware to Queen’s Ware, to celebrate the Queen’s patronage. It has been known as such ever since. Queen Charlotte knew that Wedgwood was going to name the ware in her honour but she expected that it would be called Charlotte Ware. The wily Wedgwood, however, knew that by calling it Queen’s Ware, he would be able to present it to other female sovereigns and consorts as well. He soon did so to the Russian Empress, Catherine the Great.


Why is the bottom button of a gentleman’s waistcoat always left undone?

This fashion originated with King Edward VII. As Prince of Wales he grew more portly upon entering middle age. He therefore started leaving his bottom button undone to accommodate his girth, then decided it looked elegant. Soon men, regardless of whether they were themselves slim or stout, copied the style that the Prince had adopted. Since then, no gentleman wishing to look fashionable has done up the bottom button of his jacket.


Why was the first pizza created?

Pita bread, the origins of pizza, was known for centuries, and came from the Middle East.  Pizza is, however, closely associated with Italy. The pizzza of Naples, the classic pizza as we know it, was created in 1889 by the baker Raffaele Esposito to celebrate the birthday of Queen Margherita of Italy. He had been commissioned to do so by her husband King Umberto I. Pizza Margherita, as it became known, features mozzarella cheese (white), tomatoes (red) and basil leaves (green), which are the colours of the Royal House of Savoy and thus of Italy.


What medical innovation did Queen Victoria popularise?

The use of chloroform by women is the normal procedure for childbirth today, but it was not always so. Queen Victoria was one of the first to use it. She did so to ease the pain when delivering her two youngest children, Prince Leopold in 1853 and Princess Beatrice in 1857. The royal example resulted in doctors and patients embracing the practice.


What was a Crown Victoria?

The Crown Victoria was a full-size automobile made by the Ford Motor Company in St Thomas, Ontario, and favoured by police forces throughout North America as their standard cruiser. The name originated in a style of carriage designed in France in the 1830s. It was named after the then Princess Victoria (later Queen Victoria) and it featured an elegant low body. The name was eventually passed on to horseless carriages (automobiles) of a similar style.  The Ford line of automobiles carrying the name was discontinued in 2011 and the St Thomas plant was closed.


What does “True North” mean in the English version of the anthem “O Canada”?

“True North” does not mean the North Pole or the “real” north, implying that the northern lands of other countries are false. The term was borrowed for the anthem from Alfred, Lord Tennyson, who used it in a dedication to Queen Victoria for his publication of Idylls of the King. The dedication was a rebuke to “Little Englanders” in Britain who hoped Canada would join the American Republic. Tennyson defended Canada and its fidelity as “That True North whereof we lately heard” in reference to its loyalty to Queen Victoria. It is the use of “true” in the context of meaning loyal or faithful, as, for example, lovers are described as “true to each other”. The line of the anthem is describing Canada as loyal to the Crown: “We see thee rise / The True North strong and free”.


What is Canada’s oldest corporation?

The Hudson’s Bay Company, which was created by King Charles II through a royal charter issued in 1670, is the oldest. It was inaugurated originally to exploit the fur trade and explore the New World. It subsequently evolved into a retail giant in Canada. It operated for some years as “The Bay”, but has recently returned to operating under its historic commerical name as “The Hudson’s Bay”.


What is King Oscar?

It is an appetizer that has come to diners from Norwegian cuisine. It consists of a slice of buttered bread (crusts removed) as a base, encircled by thin-sliced cucumbers. The bread is then covered with mayonnaise and topped with a pile of baby shrimps. The appetizer is named after Oscar II, King of Sweden and Norway.


Who are the four kings in a deck of cards?

The four kings of the cardboard court are four legendary and representative monarchs of the world. The King of Hearts is the Emperor Charlemagne. He is the most regal king in the deck. He has an abundant show of ermine because Charlemagne was so highly regarded for having revived the Roman Empire in the West. Hearts is therefore always the chief suit in the deck and the King of Hearts is the king of the pack. The King of Spades is King David of the Bible. Spades comes into the English language from the Italian word spada, meaning sword. King David was made the King of Spades since he was the man of the sword in the Biblical account of his life. The King of Diamonds is Julius Caesar. Although he was not actually a king or emperor himself, he was believed in the Middle Ages to have been the first Emperor of Rome. From Caesar come the titles Kaiser and Czar.  The battle-axe held by the King of Diamonds evolved from the fasces (a bundle of elm or birch rods with a projecting axe blade), which was the symbol of authority in ancient Rome. And, finally, the King of Clubs is Alexander the Great (King of Macedonia and conqueror of the world). The orb held by the King of Clubs symbolises Alexander the Great’s conquest of the globe.


Who invented the dinner jacket (known to Americans as the tuxedo)?

Although it is now frequently regarded as formal dress, the dinner jacket was invented to provide evening wear for less formal occasions in place of the white tie and tails that were the 19th Century gala dress for men. The originator was King Edward VII. As Prince of Wales he made the dinner jacket not only acceptable but fashionable for certain occasions. On his voyage to India in 1875 he adopted a short, dark blue jacket with silk facings, worn with a bow tie and black trousers, to wear to club dinners. Why do Americans call the dinner jacket a “tuxedo”? Some people think that it was invented by an American. In fact, the American name came about because in 1886 James Brown Potter, an American acquaintance of the Prince of Wales, stayed with the Prince in London. The Prince ordered his Savile Row tailor to make Potter one of the new dinner jackets. When Potter returned to the United States he introduced the Prince’s fashion creation at his own club, Tuxedo Park, a resort in New York State, from whence Americans gave the Prince of Wales’s dinner jacket the name “tuxedo”.


Who gave the word “Canadian” its mondern meaning?

In the days of New France, Canadien referred to the ancestors of modern French-Canadians. After the Treaty of Paris in 1763 transferred New France to the British Crown, and English and Scottish settlers established themselves in Quebec, the name continued to refer only to those of French descent. The first known user of Canadien in its modern civic sense, meaning a resident of Canada regardless of ethnicity, dates from the first election to the Assembly of Lower Canada in 1791. The 23-year old Prince Edward, son of the King and future father of Queen Victoria, who was then resident in Quebec City, broke up a riot between English and French voters and demanded of them, “Part then iin peace. Let me hear no more of the odious distinction of English and French. You are all His Britannic Majesty’s beloved Canadian subjects”.  From then on English-speaking residents began referring to themselves as “Canadians”.


Who wrote the first story set in Canada?

Queen Marguerite of Navarre, sister of King Francois I of France, the king who sent Cartier to discover and settle Canada. The narrative was one that Queen Marguerite wrote for her Heptameron, which was an anthology of tales. She told the story of a couple marooned on a desert island in the Gulf of St Lawrence.


Who designated white and red as the official colours of Canada?

Following the terrible ordeal of the First World War, King George V wished to honour the gallant sacrifice made by his Canadian subjects. He therefore assumed distinctive Royal Arms for Canada. Previously the Canadian arms had been an amalgamation of the several provincial arms. In doing so, the King also assigned white and red as his royal livery colours for Canada. Red represented the blood shed by Canadians in the war and white represented the bandages that were also associated with that sacrifice. In 1965, when the National Flag was proclaimed for Canada by Queen Elizabeth II (granddaughter of King George V), white and red were adopted as the colours of the flag.


How did the Monarch Butterfly get its name?

It comes from the name of one of the Royal Houses that have reigned over Canada. Settlers in the Thirteen Colonies in the reign of King William III were impressed by the beauty of the butterfly. Its bright orange colour reminded them of their monarchy for King William III belonged to the House of Orange. The settlers therefore named the butterfly after him.


How was use of the tartan revived?

Before 1747, the tartan was almost universally worn by Highland Scots, though the specific plaids for clans are more modern. Most of the Highland Scots had remained loyal to the exiled Royal House of Stuart rather than supporting the Royal House of Hanover. Following the failed attempt by the Stuarts to regain their throne in 1745, the Highlanders were suppressed and the tartan, in particular, was proscribed by an “Act for the Abolition of Highland Dress and Tartan”. By the early 19th Century only a few people, regarded as somewhat eccentric, maintained the dress. King George IV revived the tradition by wearing Highland attire for his 1822 visit to Edinburgh. And when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert made their residence at Balmoral Castle in 1847, the Queen and her sons set a new fashion for wearing the tartan. It was given a new lease on life. Since then, it has continued to be worn by Scots and those of Scottish ancestry or connection everywhere.


How did the dessert cherries jubilee get its name?

The great French-born chef Georges Auguste Escoffier (1846-1935) created the dessert known as cherries jubilee in honour of the Golden Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, which Her Majesty celebrated in 1887. Escoffier was known as “the king of chefs and the chef of kings”. Queen Victoria’s grandson, the Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany, once told Escoffier, “I am the Emperor of Germany but you are the Emperor of Chefs”.


How did we come to send people to represent us in Parliament?

Between 1275 and 1307, King Edward I of England established the practice of summoning knights from the counties and men from the towns to his High Court of Parliament. These knights and townsmen were to discuss the affairs of the kingdom with the great nobles, who alone had previously met with the King in Parliament. The knights and townsmen represented the “communities” of the kingdom – hence the term “House of Commons”. Commons is an old English word meaning communities. In Canada the House of Commons is known in French as Chambre des Communes. King Edward I’s Parliament of 1295, with its lords, knights and townsmen, is known to history as the “Model Parliament”. After 1307, Pariament organised in this way became the distinctive feature of English politics. Ever since, the representation of communities has been one of our chief constitutional principles. It remained only to expand the actual number of people who chose their members of Parliament over succeeding centuries, until, in the 20th Century, universal suffrage was introduced.


How was the maple leaf chosen as the national badge of Canada?

The maple leaf became Canada’s national badge in direct consequence of the tour of British North America by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) in 1860. It was in that year, during the public planniing for the royal tour, that native-born English-Canadians voiced their desire for a badge to wear when welcoming the Prince, to match the English rose, Scottish thistle, Welsh leek, and Irish shamrock to be worn by those born in the United Kingdom, or the lily worn by French-Canadians. By general consensus, the maple leaf, a symbol which had also been identified with Canada by French-Canadians, was adopted. Knowing of this, the Prince brought tableware with him decorated with maple leaves to use on his tour and as gifts. Subsequently, in 1868, sprigs of three maple leaves were introduced into the provincial arms of Ontario and of Quebec. In 1902 King Edward VII gave the maple leaf official recognition as a royal badge by incorporating it into the design for his Coronation invitation cards. In 1921 a sprig of three maple leaves was included in the Royal Arms of Canada and from there a single maple leaf was featured in the National Flag proclaimed by the Queen in 1965.


Copyright (c) 2013 Arthur Bousfield and Garry Toffoli (Fealty Enterprises)