Canadian Royal Heritage Trust

A National Educational Charity

The Sovereigns of Canada

by Arthur Bousfield and Garry Toffoli


There have been thirty-three monarchs of Canada, from nine royal houses, since 1497. These figures in our history have played important, and often critical, roles in the evelopment of the Canadian State and the Canadian identity. The Office of The Queen (or King) is the oldest continuous and unbroken institution in Canada, extending not only through time to Confederation but back through the centuries, and is the source from which all other institutions have emerged. Unlike countries with elected or appointed leaders, there is no break, even of a second, between “terms”. The same second a monarch dies the successor reigns. “The King is Dead! Long Live the King!” is the historic expression of this continuity.

Canada’s Constitution Act 1867, Section 9 states that “The Executive Government and Authority of and over Canada is hereby declared to continue and be vested in the Queen”. The significance of this section is two-fold. The use of the expression “is hereby declared” means that the Queen’s authority does not come from the Constitution. The Constitution only declares the existence of an independent fact; it does not confer a status on the Queen. “To continue” means that the authority is not a new one but is the same authority that existed prior to 1st July 1867. By comparison, Section 17 of the Constitution Act, dealing with legislative authority, uses neither “declared” nor “continue” because the Parliament of Canada, consisting of the Queen, the Senate and the House of Commons, was a new creation in 1867, established by the Constitution. The formula is this section is “There shall be …” In short, the Constitution, which itself emanates from the Sovereign, declares that the sovereignty of the Monarch of and over Canada was the same before and after Confederation and exists by its own authority. How that authority manifested itself, before, in and after 1867, evolved however in other constitutional documents also emanating from the Sovereign.

The Canadian Monarchy therefore did not begin in 1867 but may be said to have begun in antiquity with the early Anglo-Saxon and French monarchs. It should also be noted that the aboriginal peoples of Canada had their own forms of monarchical government prior to European contact, which continue within their communities today, and provide additional lines of monarchical authority for the Canadian Crown. The aboriginal peoples subsequently established allegiances to the Canadian monarchs as subjects or allies, through various treaties, while retaining their independent existence.

The most appropriate date to mark the beginning of the Canadian Monarchy is 1497 when John Cabot (Giovanni Caboto) claimed what is now Canada in the name of King Henry VII of England’s Royal House of Tudor. In 1534 Jacques Cartier made a similar claim on behalf of France’s King Francois I of the Royal House of Valois. In recognition of these beginnings, the heads of King Henry VII and King Francois I are carved over the doors to the House of Commons in Ottawa. In 1553 another milestone was reached when Queen Mary I became the first woman to reign in her own right. In 1663 King Louis XIV made Quebec a Royal Province, exercising his authority directly, rather than allowing the commercial Company of 100 Associates to continue governing on his behalf. Our monarchs continued in two separate, but in fact closely interrelated, royal lines, ruling different parts of what is modern Canada, until 1763 when King George III of the Royal House of Brunswick became the first sole monarch of all Canada, with the transfer of New France to his authority from that of King Louis XV. With Confederation in 1867, under Queen Victoria, Canada became a separate monarchy for domestic, and some international, purposes and in 1931, with the Statue of Westminster, under King George V, Canada became a separate and equal monarchy from the United Kingdom for all domestic and international purposes. In 1953 Queen Elizabeth II officially assumed the separate title of Queen of Canada.

Canada’s Kings and Queens (1497 to present):
(For more detailed biographies of Canada’s Kings and Queens see “The Sovereigns of Canada – Biographies” which soon will be added to Discovering Canada’s Monarchy.)

Royal Houses of Tudor & Habsburg
King Henry VII (1497 – 1509; reign in England began 1485)
King Henry VIII (1509 – 1547) [son of K. Henry VII]
King Edward VI (1547 – 1553) [son of K. Henry VIII]
Queen Mary I (1553 – 1558) [sister of K. Edward VI]
& King Philip I of Imperial House of Habsburg (1553 – 1558)
{made co-sovereign with his wife, Queen Mary I}
Queen Elizabeth I (1558 – 1603) [sister of Q. Mary I]

Royal House of Valois
King Francois I (1534 – 1547; reign in France began 1515)
King Henri II (1547 – 1559) [son of K. Francois I]
King Francois II (1559 – 1560) [son of K. Henri II]
King Charles IX (1560 – 1574) [brother of K. Francois II]
King Henri III (1574 – 1589) [brother of K. Charles IX]

Royal Houses of Stuart & Orange
King James I (1603 – 1625) [1st cousin, twice removed of Q. Elizabeth I; great-grandson of K. Henry VII]
King Charles I (1625 – 1649) [son of K. James I]
King Charles II (1649 – 1685) [son of K. Charles I]
King James II (1685 – 1689) [brother of K. Charles II]
King William III of Royal House of Orange (1689 – 1702) [son-in-law and nephew of K. James II; grandson of K. Charles I]
& Queen Mary II (1689 – 1694) [daughter of K. James II]
{joint sovereigns}
Queen Anne (1702 – 1714) [sister of Q. Mary II]

Royal House of Bourbon
King Henri IV (1589 – 1610) [2nd cousin of K. Henri III]
King Louis XIII (1610 – 1643) [son of K. Henri IV]
King Louis XIV (1643 – 1715) [son of K. Louis XIII]
King Louis XV (1715 – 1763; reign in France ended 1774) [great-grandson of K. Louis XIV]

Royal House of Brunswick or Hanover
King George I (1714 – 1727) [2nd cousin of Q. Anne; great-grandson of K. James I]
King George II (1727 – 1760) [son of K. George I]
King George III (1760 – 1820) [grandson of K. George II]
King George IV (1820 – 1830; Prince Regent from 1812) [son of K. George III]
King William IV (1830 – 1837) [brother of K. George IV]
Queen Victoria (1837 – 1901) [niece of K. William IV; granddaughter of K. George III]

Royal House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha
King Edward VII (1901 – 1910) [son of Q. Victoria]
King George V (1910 – 1917) [son of K. Edward VII]
{In 1917, during World War I, King George V changed the name of the Royal Family from the Royal House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to the Royal House of Windsor}

Royal House of Windsor
King George V (1917 – 1936) [son of K. Edward VII]
King Edward VIII (1936) [son of K. George V]
King George VI (1936 – 1952) [brother of K. Edward VIII]
Queen Elizabeth II (1952 – ) [daughter of K. George VI]

Copyright © 2004/2013 Arthur Bousfield and Garry Toffoli (Fealty Enterprises)