APRIL 3, 1975
Ceremonial and Insignia--Some Considerations
AN ADDRESS BY Dr. Conrad Swan,
YORK HERALD OF ARMS-IN-ORDINARY
TO HER MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH II
CHAIRMAN Sir Arthur Chetwynd,
President, The Empire Club of Canada
SIR ARTHUR CHETWYND:
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen: It is now my pleasure to introduce Lt. Col. R. C. Rutherford, President of the Royal Canadian Military Institute, who will introduce our guest speaker.
LT. COL. RUTHERFORD:
Mr. Chairman, My Lord Bishop, ladies and gentlemen: This dinner tonight, held in conjunction with the members and guests of the various Loyal Societies of Toronto, is a very special occasion. Indeed, it is the outstanding social function of the Empire Club this season. Beyond that, it is also a loyal occasion, a time when all of us remember our individual and collective connections with the British family of nations and reaffirm our loyalty to the Crown.
On such an occasion it is fitting indeed that our principal speaker should be a Canadian who is uniquely associated with the Crown. He is Dr. Conrad Swan-historian, genealogist, scholar and York Herald of Arms-in-Ordinary to Her Majesty.
Dr. Swan's office was established in the year 1484, and he is the thirty-ninth holder of this office in unbroken succession. He is one of thirteen members of the Royal Household appointed by the Sovereign to be Her Majesty's Officers in Arms-in-Ordinary, comprising the College of Arms or Heralds' College, and charged with responsibility for armorial, genealogical, ceremonial and similar matters. And theirs is the task of producing and directing the brilliant pomp and pageantry of the great occasions of state-coronations, state funerals, investitures, the state opening of Parliament, and so on, as well as to trace and record pedigrees and to grant coats of arms to the distinguished and noble among Her Majesty's loyal subjects throughout the Commonwealth.
Dr. Swan is unique in history as the first of Her Majesty's Canadian subjects ever to hold office in the College of Arms, having been appointed first in 1962 as "Rouge Dragon" and as "York Herald" in 1968. He is also Genealogist of the most honourable Order of the Bath.
Unquestionably, Dr. Swan is the most knowledgeable and erudite of all Canadians in his field. Notably, in our Canadian affairs, he was heraldic adviser to the Prime Minister of Canada concerning the Canadian flag and the establishment of the Order of Canada.
Dr. Swan was born in Duncan, British Columbia, in 1924. He served in Europe and India as a captain in the Madras Regiment of the Indian Army from 1942 to 1947. He obtained his Bachelor's and Master's degrees at the University of Western Ontario, and his Doctor of Philosophy degree at Cambridge.
Dr. Swan is married to the Lady Susan Mary Northcote, daughter of the Earl of Iddesleigh and cousin of Field Marshal Montgomery. They have five children and live at Boxford House, Suffolk-in the Constable country-a residence recorded in the Domesday Book.
Ladies and gentlemen of The Empire Club of Canada and the Loyal Societies, it gives me great pleasure to call on this truly unique Canadian, York Herald of Arms, Dr. Conrad Swan.
Mr. President, My Lord Bishop, ladies and gentlemen: England had a "white Easter", and it seems that I brought the snow when I arrived on Monday. I do apologise! But I am extremely edified to find so many who are willing to leave their firesides, and their Scotch, and the other meagre comforts that are left to us nowadays, despite predatory governments, to come this evening and show they are such devoted antiquaries and also, I hope, persons who are interested in certain of the more civilized characteristics to which we are heir.
I have been asked to speak to you this evening on ceremonial and insignia. I cannot invite you to a university course of three lectures a week with seminars and reading lists, and so on. So if you will bear with me, I thought that we might call our subject this evening "Ceremonial and Insignia-Some Considerations". That is sufficiently broad so that we can touch lightly on these matters, having touched the light fantastic so elegantly on the floor!
1975 is probably an especially good year to pause for a moment and to consider the question of Ceremonial and Insignia.
I say this because 1975 marks the centenary of the inauguration of the Governor General's Medal by the Earl of Dufferin.
His intention, which has been carried out faithfully by all of his eighteen successors, was to stimulate scholarship. It was an essentially academic award and one which has always been highly prized.
Dufferin's initiative attests the fact that with the development of Canadian nationhood, various circumstances and situations accrue which demand official recognition. Such may best be met by an augmentation of the means traditionally available.
Lord Dufferin's medal was certainly an answer to such a need, and as time has proved it has been an enduring one.
However, the Governor General's Medal was more than that. Viewed in the perspective of history, this award was the precursor of a distinctively Canadian system of honours and awards.
It cannot be claimed to be the ancestor of the Order of Canada, for the Governor General's Medal is not a badge, an insigne attesting membership of an Order of chivalry. It is a scholarly award ad personam as with the Medal of the Royal Society, for example.
Notwithstanding, this medal, inaugurated by Lord Dufferin one hundred years ago this year (and incidentally, it is a medal which is unique in the history of the Governors General of the whole British Commonwealth and Empire), is without a doubt the forerunner, the harbinger of a system of honours and awards particular to this country.
As for other countries of the world, there is hardly a sovereign state of any consequence today which does not have a system of honorific awards, each with its own appropriate insignia.
Of those countries which, for one reason or another, are generally regarded as really important, the only ones which do not have such systems would appear to be Turkey and Switzerland.
As for the countries of the communist world-Soviet Russia, China and the rest-they all have such awards. Indeed, the Order of Victory of the U.S.S.R. is upon occasion encrusted in diamonds, and the Order of Lenin is always made of gold and platinum.
A curious circumstance in several communist countries is the fact that despite the sweeping away of so much of the past, frequently in a sea of blood, nevertheless one finds former Christian Orders being refounded. For example, the Tsarist Order of St. Vladimirknown as Vladimir the Apostolic, Grand Prince of Kiev, the national hero and really the founder of Holy Russia-has reappeared as the Order of Vladimir. That he was a saint and a champion of Christianity has been conveniently forgotten.
Similarly, we recall the Royal Bulgarian Order of Sts. Cyril and Methodious. They were the Apostles of the Slavs; St. Cyril gave us the Cyrillic alphabet, and his brother, St. Methodious, introduced Slavonic into the liturgy. These too have been remembered by a Communist government. That Order has re-emerged as the Order of Cyril and Methodious. How the good saints reacted to the removal of their haloes is not yet revealed.
Nor is that all. In Poland the communist government has even kept the Decoration known as Polonia Restituta in its entirety. As you will recall, this means that they have retained its badge which takes the form of a most distinctive cross.
Every African country, save a few very small and poor ones, have systems of honorific awards which, for historic reasons, either follow the British or French traditions. As for Ethiopia, the position is somewhat obscure at the moment.
I have recently had the honour of assisting in advising the King of Lesotho, formerly Basutoland, one of the two countries completely surrounded by South Africa. The King has been establishing a series of Orders which have such civilized adjectival descriptions as: The Most Courteous Order of Lesotho, The Most Dignified Order of Moshoeshoe, and so on.
In some African countries, their Orders and Decorations are heavily orientated to one or other group within the nation, as in Uganda where General Amin has a highly organised system for the armed forces. One such award is signified for the General by the post-nominal abbreviation, "V.C." which in this instance stands for "Victorious Cross". The physical attributes of this Decoration are highly reminiscent of the celebrated British award; the major difference being that the Lion and Crown on the Victoria Cross are replaced on the Uganda award by the head of the General.
Such counsels did not prevail when the Badge of the Order of Canada was being settled. Some would feel that there was wisdom in that.
The Order of Canada is, naturally, the heir to a long series of honours and awards bestowed on Canadiansusing that term in its broadest sense-from the French regime onwards. Under the Bourbons the Order of St. Louis was the usual means by which meritorious service was recognised. In a limited number of instances hereditary dignities were bestowed, as with the still extant Barony de Longeuil.
The dispensation under the British Crown included some admissions to the Order of the Bath, more to the Order of St. Michael and St. George, and most of all to the Order of the British Empire. Knighthood in its oldest form of all, that of Knight Bachelor which means a Knighthood without membership of a specific Order, was also granted. All such Knights, following custom, were distinguished by the title of "Sir", and their ladies shared in their husband's honour by the corresponding prefix of "Lady". To me there has always seemed a considerable degree of equity in this arrangement, for who would deny that in the achievement of excellence by a married man his wife, as often as not, plays a major role?
Hereditary dignities were also bestowed, both peerages as well as baronetcies. From Confederation onwards, these honours and distinctions were bestowed by the Sovereign upon the advice of his or her Canadian Prime Minister.
Such a tradition continued until 1919 when, for reasons which need not detain us here, the then Federal Government decided not to recommend any more such awards. Indeed, thereafter what amounted at times to a war of attrition was mounted by that body, especially when formed in the Liberal interest. The attitude was one completely against the concept of honours and awards. Mr. Mackenzie King, Prime Minister during many of the succeeding years, even went so far as to return his C.M.G. to the King. Curiously enough, this did not prevent his subsequent acceptance of other foreign awards-but that is another story.
Except for the return to the old arrangements under the then Mr. R. B. Bennet's Conservative administration, with his Honours Lists of 1934 and 1935, and the awarding of Orders and Decorations (which did not carry titles) during the Second World War, this proscriptive policy towards honours and awards continued officially until 1967.
By that time, the Federal Government had come round full circle to an appreciation of the desirability, convenience and economy of some system of honours and awards. With such a decision taken, a tradition of some forty years standing of "no awards" had to be reversed, and for obvious reasons this was no easy task.
However, I feel that the then Federal Administration, having decided that a complete volte-face was required, showed great courage in setting about this task. As a result, they launched with undoubted success the now much respected and highly prized Order of Canada and, ultimately an even broader system of honours and awards including those for bravery.
In all this, the important role played by the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem has not, as yet, I feel, been fully appreciated.
It will be recalled that this Order of the Crown enjoys a great degree of autonomy, and has long been established in Canada. Like the Garter, Thistle, St. Patrick, Royal Victorian Order and Order of Merit it is not subject in a constitutional sense to political influence.
The Order has seven grades ranging from Grand Cross to Serving Brother, each with its appropriate insignia. However, the significant point in the history of honours and awards in Canada lies in the fact that not even the three highest and knightly grades of this Order carry with them any title. The grades are, as you will recall, Bailiff Grand Cross, Knight of Justice, Knight of Grace, and their female counterparts. In other words, here is a highly organised Order of the Crown, founded long before, and quite independently of the sensitivities particular to certain Ottawa administrations, for which even in its knightly grades titular prefixes do not apply.
Accordingly, during the periods of greatest pressure against all honours and awards, the Most Venerable Order of St. John in Canada was able to weather all the storms, some of which were of major gale force.
Indeed, during this period-possibly somewhat because of it--the Order grew stronger and stronger, and became more and more respected and sought after.
The really significant point, however, as far as the genesis of the Order of Canada is concerned, is the fact that the continued existence of the Most Venerable Order in this country during this period was a continuing witness to the fact that Orders and Decorations of the Crown can take various forms and need in no way affront those who, for one reason or another, experience a conscientious objection to titles.
I am convinced that we Canadians should be eternally grateful to the Most Venerable Order of St. John for the vitally important role which it played under, at times, most difficult circumstances, in pointing the way to calmer, once again traditional and more constructive counsels in these matters. The ultimate result was, in part at least, the founding of the Order of Canada. If ever quiet precept and steadfast example finally won through, surely this is a patent example.
Thus we have a contributory influence in the foundation of the Order of Canada which came into being with its most distinctive and distinguished insignia; the Badge, appropriately enough, being inspired by a snow flake.
In the broad view of the history of honours and awards of the Crown, the institution of the Order of Canada was in no way novel or revolutionary. It was, in fact, but a further application of a principle established in 1687. By this, from time to time Orders and awards are established for the recognition of meritorious service in or for specific Realms of the Sovereign.
The first implementation of this principle was the establishment of the Order of the Thistle for Scotland, 1687. Then there was the institution of the Order of St. Patrick for Ireland, 1783. Next came the Order of St. Michael and St. George, 1818, originally for the reward of the inhabitants of the Ionian and Maltese Islands. This was followed by the Order of the Star of India, 1861, and the Order of the Indian Empire, 1877-to name the principal examples. The most recent addition to this distinguished group was the Order of Canada, 1967.
Each of the awards and dignities about which we have been speaking has its own insignia, its own Badge and other tesserae by which membership is signified.
We have seen that honorific insignia of this kind are of almost universal application in 1975.
Further examples of insignia with which we are familiar would include the uniforms of the Governor General and of Lieutenant Governors; the robes of the Justices of the Supreme Court of Canada as well as of the Provincial Benches, and yet again, of the Speakers of the various Legislatures. The Mace of each of the latter should not be forgotten.
The vestments of the prelates and other clerics of the several communions extant in Canada are familiar to all of us, or at least, ought to be.
Yet again, we recall the insignia of rank in the Armed Forces; the Federal and Provincial Coats of Arms, as well as the Arms of Universities, Cities, Dioceses, Learned Societies, professional bodies and private persons; the Federal Great Seal and the Provincial Deputed Great Seals.
Finally, in this selective list, I would recall that well known insigne which is guaranteed to raise more heat under more collars in the shortest possible time. I refer to the National Flag of Canada.
All of these are well recognized examples of Canadian insignia. On the broader aspects of insignia I shall invite your further consideration later.
Some will say, "Well yes, but why all this dressing up?" Obviously in life many things could be done in an open necked shirt, old tweed jacket and flannel trousers, none of which have known creases in what I could regard as the right places for years. This is very true. Surely, however, the legitimate retort to such an observation is, "Yes, but would not these acts be done better under other circumstances?"
For example, a surgeon can, in fact, perform his art in such casual clothes-indeed, he sometimes has to do so. My father, a gynaecologist and obstetrician, used to be thrown into paroxysms of laughter because nine times out of ten when he put on his white tie, decorations and tails, it seemed to throw some good lady into labour. And so the child, usually healthy and bouncing, was delivered to the creaking of a boiled shirt and the clanking of medals. But normally the surgeon puts on special overalls, gloves, hat and mask for several reasons, all of which are summed up by the general phrase: This helps him to do his work well.
The particular reasons would include:
2. keeping his own clothes clean from blood and medicaments;
3. advising all those whom it concerns that he is about to, or is, or has just been engaged in surgery so that he will be treated by them as he should be for various good and valid reasons;
4. reminding the surgeon himself that the life of a man depends upon his attention, devotion to duty, skill and expertise; that what he is doing is the subject of specific legislation by the civil legislature, and may also have the gravest ethical and moral implications.
The wearing of most un-usual clothes in this instance stems, therefore, from two basic causes: first, professional, for art or craft reasons; second, the psychological factors.
Now, if one analyses the wearing of un-usual clothes by persons in the exercise of their profession, office or trade, these two basic factors--what we have termed the professional and the psychological-will be found to pertain in various yet different degrees, but always.
Take one further example. When a Judge of the Queen's Bench of Ontario enters his court and takes his place upon the Bench, he does so wearing a group of stylised robes--of great antiquity in origin although much modified over the years-which are without a doubt, not usual.
By this very fact alone, everyone in the Court, even the most dull witted, cannot but sense that something unusual, something portentious is about to take place, otherwise, all of this has no meaning.
In fact, none will be disappointed for, at the appropriate moment, that same Judge will in the name of the Sovereign, call all men to witness that the prisoner at the bar will undergo a particular sentence. This could be execution, or that he will be deprived of his liberty for such and such a period, that is to say, removed from the bosom of his family, cut off from society, excluded from exercising his most important rights as a citizen, and so on, because of the serious crime he has committed. On the other hand, the Judge may order that the prisoner be restored to full liberty, and leave the court without the slightest stain on his reputation. All of these, and many others are among the important decisions issued by Judges.
Naturally, he could give these same decisions dressed in sweat shirt, old jeans, leaning back on the rear legs of his chair, resting his feet on the desk before him, but would it be worthy of the seriousness of the occasion? Would the Judge be helped, be in a sense forced to give that attention to the proceedings required by their dire nature?
In official acts, the professional as well as the psychological aspects are, I would submit, of the greatest importance, not just for the subject and the principal agent, the prisoner and the judge, for example, but also for the spectators, the other participants, the audience, the congregation, the witnesses, depending upon the occasion.
These principles are applicable mutatis mutandis in all aspects of official and public life of the nation.
That insignia are frequently traditional, that is to say handed down from generation to generation, attests the fact that such have been found to constitute a positive aid not only to the official in exercising his functions, but also to those subject to or in one way or another connected with those functions.
For that reason they are continued, and to my way of thinking should be continued, provided always that they assist to this end, and until some better way is not only evolved but is proved.
Such is not a counsel of ossific reaction, quite the contrary. The best and most vital traditions are always amenable to evolution, adaptation and modification depending upon time, place and circumstances so that they may help all those concerned in the execution of their duties, and others in their appreciation of the nature of the event.
Our tradition of academic robes is a wonderful case in point. Starting as conventual habits, especially of the Benedictines, at Oxford and Cambridge in the late Middle Ages, they have been adapted and varied a thousand-fold in the service of the respublica litterae.
As a result, all basically the same, yet varied almost beyond belief, they are to be found from the Universities of Toronto to Sydney, Edinburgh to Jamaica, Delhi to Harvard, Wellington to Nairobi.
The significant point here is that there is nothing enforcing their continued use, save an appreciation by all concerned that they make a positive contribution to academic excellence.
We have been discussing the application of certain principles concerning the use of insignia in official and public life.
That such principles also have social application is almost too well understood to require comment here this evening. After all, each and every one of us by the particular type of clothes and other accoutrements we wear--in other words by certain insignia--express to our hosts, the President and members of The Empire Club of Canada, and to their other guests, that respect which we individually and collectively are convinced is their due. They, in turn, have returned the compliment.
Let us now turn to the word ceremonial.
When one uses that word, as often as not one thinks of Coronations and other ceremonious occasions.
A State Opening by Her Majesty the Queen of a session of Her Canadian Parliament would be a good example.
As the procession moves from the entrance beneath the Peace Tower towards the Senate Chamber it does so in due order, each in his place and with the dignissimum coming last. An orderly positioning and regard for precedence stretches back to the Laws of Justinian. More immediately for us they are ultimately based, although much modified over the years, upon an Order of 1339 known as "The Order of all Estates of Nobles and Gentry of England"; the series ordenium of Henry VII; and the Statute 31 Henry VIII, 1539 "An Act for placing the Lords".
This act of Henry VIII was a declaratory act which confirmed the ancient and pre-existing Law of Precedence. Further important decrees were given by James I in 1612 and 1616.
All these decrees, orders, warrants and acts form the basis of the corpus, the foundation for arranging important occasions, no two of which are ever quite the same, and owing to time, place and circumstances, they have to be continually modified.
Other countries would call precedence "protocol" and there is hardly a country, no matter how socialist its hue, that has not discovered that two cannot go through the door at once; that wives of officials tend to be restive on official occasions, and that unless it is laid down beforehand exactly who goes where and when, who sits next to whom, and where their ladies fit into all this, there is simply an uncivilized, undignified scramble; everyone's time is wasted and the essential nature of the occasion escapes the participants. All countries have found that Chefs de Protocol, Masters of Ceremonies-whether they be Heralds or otherwise--are essential to a certain degree of good order.
And in this procession towards the Senate, about which we have been speaking, we see the inheritance, realisation, adaptation and flexibility of a vital yet six-hundred-year-old tradition of how one goes about marshalling the procedures of an important occasion in the life of a nation. Rome wasn't build in a day, nor Ottawa, nor Canada, nor for that matter, any civilized community or country.
These and other scenes of Investitures, State Openings of Parliament, proceedings of Justices, Troopings of the Colour and the like come readily to mind when the word ceremonial is mentioned, and quite rightly.
Such being so, are we to conclude then, that ceremonial and insignia, facts though they are, do not really concern the everyday life of the average person?
Let us explore this idea a little further.
When coming here this evening by car, we were involved in a complicated series of manoeuvres when upon the change of a light hundreds stopped and hundreds started to move. This process was repeated again and again. Yet all was done without a word of command.
The point I am making is that in this one example alone, thousands of people carried out again and again a fairly complicated series of manoeuvres in order that all might get home safely, or to their place of recreation, as quickly as possible. In other words they were carrying out an understood procedure in order to achieve a given end--and this is precisely what heralds, those professors of ceremonial, mean by ceremonial.
Any chairman of a board of directors will tell you that the only business-like way of conducting a meeting is in accordance with parliamentary or some other understood procedure.
Yet again at the reception before this dinner, every time someone was introduced, he or she and I went through a brief, but when you analyse it, fairly complicated ceremony of shaking hands, asking how each other did (and remembering not to answer!), engaging in a short conversation and then passing on.
The purpose was to introduce two people, vouch for and guarantee the integrity of one to the other at the instance of a third party.
One may say, this is commonplace. Of course it's commonplace, but how ceremonial it is no matter how many times it is repeated during a day.
As to insignia, leaving aside the splendid array of Decorations worn this evening, have you not noticed the large number of relatively simple rings worn on the third finger of the left hand by many here present-symbols of an oath of life-long fidelity. We need not stop to consider the ceremony with which these rings were given and received. Such are insignia of matrimony and as such go back to the sixteenth century at least, having since that time spread from the Christian West throughout almost the entire world, Christian or otherwise.
Engagement and betrothal rings go back even further and can be traced to Roman times when curiously enough, to our way of thinking, the girls' parents gave a ring to her fiance, in token of betrothal, whereupon the man presented the girl with a similar token of his pledge. Today the engagement ring is extremely important in what it signifies; so much so that some young ladies do not really believe they are engaged to be married until they "have their diamond" as the phrase goes, at least in certain circles. However, rings of this particular kind have no less than imperial precedent, for the earliest recorded diamond engagement ring was given to Mary of Burgundy in 1477 by her fiance, Maximilian von Hapsburg, son of the Holy Roman Emperor.
Even the most extreme sociological expressions of modern life have their own ceremonial and insignia, although I doubt if they would quite express it in that way! The jeans, artificially faded and frayed before sale; the really long hair of both sexes; the bare feet; the long skirts trailing onto public transportation, and so on are all basically symbols, devices, badges, insignia, of particular attitudes of life, and are so intended. The Guardsman in his full dress uniform, the nun in her habit, the ballet dancer in his tights, the navvy in his overalls, none could express the purpose of his life more patently than do some of the young, and not so young, about us. This they do by far-reaching mores--some would say they were advanced, all would agree that the mores are both particular and symbolic, whether sartorially or otherwise.
I hope that these few examples will be sufficient to make the point that man is, among other things, essentially a symbolic and ceremonial animal. I do not use this phrase in any existentialist sense, but rather on the solid basis of Aristotelianism.
He expresses himself in symbols. The very words he uses, after all, are nothing but symbols. He identifies his aspirations, his attitudes, his likes, his ambitions, his fears all by means of symbols and insignia of one kind and another.
He conducts his normal relations with his fellow men by means of agreed procedures towards given ends, which vary from culture to culture, but nevertheless are known and understood by his peers; be his arena a beer parlour or a drawing room. In other words his life is, although he may never realise it, ceremonial from the cradle to the grave, whether he is a Burke or a Lenin.
The insignia about which we spoke at the beginning, the Badge of the Order of Canada; the ceremonials that we conjured up in our mind's eye, the State Opening of Parliament for example, are but among the most splendid expressions, the highest manifestations, the peaks of mountains if you like, of a human experience and need which go down and are as broadly based as man himself no matter how humble.
Ceremonial and insignia, properly understood and properly applied, are surely the hall-marks of a really human and civilized community, society and country. They are brakes on egotism, accolades of merit, dykes against disorder.
To pretend that man has no need of insignia or ceremonial-of symbols and agreed ways of doing things--is to fail to understand at least one most important aspect of man.
Is this so strange? For was it not, even speaking symbolically, that he originally fell from grace through the taking, giving, receiving and eating of an apple; yet again, was he not redeemed, and has he not risen to some of his greatest heights, through a cross?
On behalf of The Empire Club of Canada and the Loyal Societies of Toronto, Dr. Swan was thanked by Mr. Melvin Kenny, President of the English-Speaking Union.