Manitoba Historical Society
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The Coat-of-Arms

by Irene Craig

Manitoba Pageant, April 1956

This article was published originally in Manitoba Pageant by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make this online version available as a free, public service. As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

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In Ottawa on August 2, 1870, soon after Manitoba became a province, the Canadian Government authorized a design for a Manitoba Coat-of-Arms, and that was fine; but - 33 years later the Manitoba Government discovered that the Order-in-Council for the design had not been registered. A new start had to be made.

In 1903, the Manitoba Government themselves passed an Order-in-Council and at this time, determined to see it through, they decided to apply to the proper authority in London directly and to have the design formally recorded. The proper authority was the College of Heralds where all the important details of pageantry and state are decided. These things take time.

Two years later, however, on May 10, 1905, Manitoba's Provincial Coat-of-Arms was granted by Royal Warrant and officially the College listed it in their records as "Verton a Rock, A Buffalo Statant proper, on a chief Argent the Cross of St. George"... which is all very impressive but more simply it means, against a green background a buffalo standing on a rock, above which, on a silver back-ground, is the Cross of St. George. Manitoba now had a Coat-of-Arms - well, almost.

About six weeks later, the long-delayed certified copy of the Warrant of Registration came from 10 Downing Street and with it a bill for 25 pounds, 1 shilling, the fee for "armorial design". This design included a buffalo, to be sure, but to the amazement of the members of the Manitoba Government it had a human face - and it was official. The extraordinary Coat-of-Arms appeared on all of the official documents of the Province, on all stationery, and, for a time, on the road signs, but over the years the various departments of government and official engravers decided it was an error. They simply didn't believe it and so they discarded the Coat-of-Arms with the human face and substituted buffalo pictures of their own, most of them different.

In 1946, what with so many buffaloes, the bewildered King's Printer decided that there should be one and one only, and that, the one assigned by the College of Heralds. Since 1947 the buffalo with the human face is the one on the Province's Coat-of-Arms. This is now the design on the stationery and so on, and when it was carved on the west wall of the Provincial Garage on Kennedy Street, Winnipeg, there were many critical comments - yet there it is. Opposite the Law Courts may be seen an excellent example of Manitoba's official Coat-of-Arms, the bearded creature carved in Tyndall stone.

Page revised: 13 June 2009

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