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Around 1500 European explorers (John Cabot, João Fernandes Lavrador,Gaspar Corte-Real, Jacques Cartierand others), fishermen from England, Portugal, France and Spain and Basques began exploration. Fishing expeditions started to come seasonally. John Cabot (1450–1499), commissioned by King Henry VII of England, landed on the North East coast of North America in 1497. In 1578 Queen Elizabeth I provided Sir Humphrey Gilbert, (†1583) a son in law of her favourite Sir Raleigh, with letters patent for “all far-away pagan and barbarous territories not possessed now by a christian prince or people”.  He landed in St John's in August 1583, and formally took possession of the island.

His arms were:


Arms: Argent, on a chevron gules three roses of the field.

Crest: A squirrel sejant gules

Motto: QUID NON (Why Not)


From 1616 to 1728, Proprietary Governors were appointed to establish colonial settlements on the island. John Guy was governor of the first settlement at Cuper's Cove where he founded the «Newfoundland Company» This company failed in 1631.

Other settlements were Bristol's Hope, Renews, New Cambriol, South Falkland and Avalon.


South Falkland was established by Henry Cary, 1st Viscount Falkland, in 1623 on territory in the Avalon Peninsula including the former colony of Renews. It was still in existence by 1626 but ultimately failed. The title Viscount of Falkland was created on 10 November 1620.


Avalon was founded by Lord George Calvert (†1632) who had acquired a piece of Newfoundland which he termed The Colony of Avalon in honour of "old Avalon...the first-fruits of Christianity in Britain." It  became a province in 1623. It was abandoned by George Calvert after a particularly harsh Newfoundland winter in 1628-’29 and passed to Calvert’s son, Cecilius (Cecil) Calvert.




Arms: Argent, a bend Sable,

 three roses of the field.


Arms: Paly Sable and Or of six pieces

 and a bend counterchanged.


In 1637 David Kirke (1597-1654), the son of Gervase Kirke who was a co-founder of a company to exploit the valley of St Lawrence, asked King Charles I for a land grant. In November 1637 Kirke and his partners were granted a royal charter for co-proprietorship of the entire island of Newfoundland. The portion of Newfoundland, the Avalon Peninsula, of Cecil Calvert was transferred to Kirke.

A coat of arms for Newfoundland was granted by Borough, Garter 1st January 1637 (Old style). The Royal warrant reads:


Early seventeenth-century representation of the armorial bearings of Newfoundland with tinctures tricked

 CA: Misc, Gts. 4.7


To all  and singular,  to whom these present Letters Patents shall come Sir John Borough, Knt Garter principall King of Armes of English men sendeth greeting,

WHEREAS our dread Soureraigne Lord King Charles by Letters Patents under the Great Seale of England, dated at Westmr, the 13th day of November in the 13th yeare of his happy Raigne did give grant and confirm to the right Hoble James, Marquess Hamilton, Maister of his horse, Phillip, Earle of Pembroke & Montgomery, Lord Chamberlaine of His Household, and Henry, Earle of Holland, Chief Justice in Eyre of all his Forests, Chaces, and Parkes of the South side of the River of Trent, and to Sr David Kirk, Knt one of the Gentlement of his privy chamber, all that whole Continent Island or Region commonly called Newfoundland in manner and forme as by thesaid Letters Patents more at large .. doth and may appear,

AND WHEREAS for the greater honour and splendor of the Contry and the people therein inhabiting It is and will be necessary that there be proper and peculiar Armes thereunto belonging to be used in all such cases as Armes are wont to be by other nations and countries. Upon the request unto me made by the above mentioned right Hoble James marquess Hamilton, Phillip, Earle of Pembroke & Montgomery, & Henry, Earle of Holland and Sr David Kirk, Knt, that I would devise and sett forth certaine Ensignes of Armes to be for ever used as the proper Armes and peculiar Ensignes of that Contry, I have accordingly for the purpose before recited devised sett forth and contrived the Armes & Ensignes hereafter described,

»That is to say Gules a cross Argent In the first Quarter of the Escocheon a Lyon Passant gardant Crowned Or, In the Second an Unicorn Passant of the second armed maned and unguled of the third gorged with a Crown wherunto is affixed a chaine passing between his forelegs and reflexed over his back of the last. In the third as in the second In the forth as in the first, And for the crest upon an healme Mantled Gules Doobled Argent and a Wreath Or & Gules an Elke passant proper the Eschcheon supported by two Savages of the Clyme pper armed and apparaled according to their Guise when they goe to Warre, and under all in an Escroll this Motto: QUAERITE PRIME REGNUM DEI  as in the margent more plainly is depicted,

In WITNESS whereof I the said Sr John Borough Knt Garter principall King of Armes of Englishmen have unto these presents affixed the seale of Myne office and subscribed my name. Dated the first day of Jan in the 13th yeare of the Raigne of our dread Souveraigne Lord King Charles, by the Grace of God of England Scotland France & Ireland King defender of the Faith etc., And in the yeare of Grace 1637.« [1]


í The silver cross on a red field immediately brings to mind the Arms of the Knights of St John, on whose patronal feast in 1497 Newfoundland was, by tradition, discovered by John Cabot. One might conjecture, therefore, that this fact influenced the choice of this basis design. Be that as it may, it is obvious that the crowned lions and the unicorns were inspired by the supporters of the royal arms as borne since 1603. Indeed these Newfoundland arms, along with those for Nova Scotia, are the only ensigns of public authority of Stuart origin in Canada.

The crest calls for an elk in its natural colours. Presumably this was a seventeenth-century attempt to include what was thought to be an example of the fauna of Newfoundland. In fact elk have never existed there. On can only conclude, therefore, that this was a misnomer for caribou, which has long been found on that island.

In the seventeenth century depiction of these armorial bearings, in the Records of the College of Arms, the supporters a indigenous Indians – the Beothuks – dressed and armed as for war. They are, in fact, particularly interesting from the heraldic point of view as even their oldest representations reflect a complete departure from the conventionalized Indians almost universal in armory during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. On the other hand the Newfoundland supporters reflect an effort to follow the patent of 1638, which required that they be ‘of the Clyme proper armed and apparaled according to their guise when tey goe to Warre’ that is to say, they should be a representation of factual local Indians, clothed and armed as they would be in reality.

The motto, taken from St Matthew’s Gospel 6.:33 might be rendered ‘ See ye first the Kingdom of God.’


This coat of  arms has been  generally attributed to the Newfoundland Company. The grant, however, was made to “the Country.” It, however, took almost three hundred years before they were actually borne for Newfoundland.


Kirke was installed as the Proprietary Governor. He arrived in 1638 and seized the governor's mansion, then occupied by William Hill, the governor of Cecil Calvert. In 1639, Kirke renamed the colony the Pool Plantation.





In 1655, the French, who controlled more than half of the island of Newfoundland, and most of Atlantic Canada, made Plaisance (Placentia) their capital. and appointed a governor. This was the beginning of a formal French colonization period of Newfoundland. The rest of the island was nearly conquered by New France explorer Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville in 1697 during the devastating Avalon Peninsula Campaign but the French failed to defend their conquest of the English portion of the island.




Arms of Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville


Arms: Azure, three roses Or 2&1 and a chief Gules, a crescent between two mullets Or.


The French colonization period lasted until the Treaty of Utrecht, in 1713, which ended the War of the Spanish Succession. France ceded its claims to Newfoundland to the British (as well as its claims to the shores of Hudson Bay).


Crown Colony of Newfoundland



Newfoundland was given de status of an official Crown Colony in 1825, and Thomas John Cochrane, an officer of the Royal Navy, was appointed as its first governor. The colony was granted a constitution in 1832, and Cochrane became its first civil governor.


The seal


Until the early 19th century no great seal deputed for the British general government of Newfoundland was used or, in fact even existed.

Seal of Newfoundland, 1827


After some initiatives in 1819 and 1820 a new seal was despatched to the governor in 1827 along with a warrant signed by George IV and dated 1 September of that year authorizing its use. The obverse contains an allegorical group symbolizing the historic and vitaly important fishing industry of Newfoundland. Mercury stands in the centre and is portrayed in the classical manner with a winged cap but otherwise nude save for a cloak. In his left hand an crook of his arm he hold a caduceus, symbol of commerce. His other hand extends towards a fisherman whom he presents to Britannia standing on the rght of the composition.

The fisherman, who kneels on one knee and holds up his net, complete with floats, is rendered in the romantic manner strongly reminiscent of Byron. The shirt, the trousers, and the hair-style could well have belonged to that idol of the romantic-liberal movement only recently dead when the matrices of this seal were engraved.

The interpretation of Britannia is strongly classicla, with loose-flowing dress, cloak, and Grecian helmet. With her left hand she supports an oval shield which displays the Union Badge (or Jack) surrounded by a border charged with shamrocks, roses, and thisles placed alternately.

On the extreme left of the composition, near the fisherman, the prow of a vessel protrudes, possibly a large rowing boat or fishing smack.

Below the composition is the inscription: HAEC TIBI DONA FERO (I bring you these gifts).


On the reverse of the seal was the royal achievement. On later seals the composition on the obverse and the achievement on the reverse were combined, the latter above the first. [2]


Newfoundland Colony



The colony was granted self-governing status in 1854. Philip Francis Little was the first Premier of Newfoundland Colony between 1855 and 1858. The colony rejected confederation with Canada in the period of 1864-69.

In 1904 the Colony was granted a badge on its flags


The Bade of Newfoundland.

Reproduced by permission of the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador

 (PANL GN2/5), St. John's, Newfoundland.


The composition of the seal was made the Newfoundland badge by King Edward VII  in 1904. This badge came in the centre of the flag of the lieutenant governor and in the fly of the red ensign flown by the republic


Dominion of Newfoundland



In 1907, Newfoundland became the Dominion of Newfoundland, a Dominion of the British Empire.


Stamp with the arms of Newfoundland, 1910


At the 300th anniversary of the London & Bristol Company for Colonists in Newfoundland a stamp was issued with the arms of that company resembling the arms granted to Newfoundland in 1637. It is not known on what documents these arms were based and they have the cross Gules, instead of Argent.

Soon after WWI however, Sir Edgar Bowring, High Commisioner for Newfoundland in London from 1918-’22 was informed that there was a grant of these arms in the College of Arms. After some research by the government of Newfoundland in 1927 it came to light that Charles I had given a concession to some of his favourites for The Island and the Territory known as Terre-Neuve and a coat of arms had been granted.

The Government of Newfoundland decided by decree of 12 December 1927 that the coat of arms of 1637 would be the offcial coat of arms of Newfoundland. On the depiction the helmet and lambrequines as described in te warrant are missing.


Æ See illustration in the head of this article


Due to economic hardship in 1934 Newfoundland suspended its self-government and accepted temporary rule by a royal commission of Government.


Province of Newfoundland



Together with Labrador, an area on the mainland, Newfoundland confederated with Canada on 31 March 1949 as the province of Newfoundland.


Newfoundland and Labrador



In 2001 Newfoundland was renamed the province Newfoundland and Labrador


Arms as on the flag of the Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador




Royal Newfoundland Constabulary


The RNC dates back to 1729, with the appointment of the first police constables. In the 19th century, the RNC was modelled after the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) with the secondment in 1844 of Timothy Mitchell of the Royal Irish Constabulary to be Inspector General, making it the oldest civil police force in North America. Mitchell served as Inspector General and Superintendent of Police until 1871, when the Newfoundland Constabulary was reorganized with a new Police Act.

Cap badge Newfoundland Constabulary



In 1979, Queen Elizabeth II of Canada conferred the designation Royal on the Newfoundland Constabulary

Cap badge


Sleeve patch (ancient)


Breast patch

Sleeve patch



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© Hubert de Vries 2015-12-07



[1] Joner, Léon A.: Les Armoiries de Terre-Neuve (Newfoundland). In: Archives Heraldiques Suisses.  1953, p. 30. And: Schedule A of the Newfoundland Coat of Arms Act, 1957. The original rendering of the coat of arms: Coll. Arms, Miscellaneous Grants 4, fo. 7. The supporters are two Beothuk indians. (Publ.: Woodcock, T. & J.M. Robinson: The Oxford Guide to Heraldry p. 157.) The date is 1 January 1637 Old Style i.e  1 January 1638 New Style.

[2] Swan, Conrad: Canad, symbols of Sovereignty. Toronto 1977. Pp.86-97

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