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The first European settlement in Nova Scotia was established in 1605. The French, led by Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Monts established the first capital for the colony Acadia at Port Royal.


The arms of de Pierre Dugua Sieur de Monts


Arms: Gules, a barrulet Or between a crescent in chief and a mullet reversed in base Argent

Motto: Dabit Deus his quoque finem (God shall also give an end to these toils) from the Aeneid, book I.1.199.


Other than a few trading posts around the province, for the next seventy-five years, Port Royal was virtually the only European settlement in Acadia. Port Royal remained the capital of Acadia and later Nova Scotia for almost 150 years, prior to the founding of Halifax in 1749.


Port Royal, 1609

From Lescarbot’s Map


In the upper left corner the arms of King Henry IV of France and in the upper right corner the arms of Jean de Biencourt de Poutrincourt,  lieutenant-governor of Acadia.


Scottish colony

In about 1620 Charles I of England and Scotland sent a group of Scotsmen to found a colony in Acadia with the name of New Scotland or Nova Scotia. From 1629-‘32, Nova Scotia briefly became a Scottish colony. Sir William Alexander of Menstrie Castle, Scotland claimed mainland Nova Scotia and settled at Port Royal, while Ochiltree claimed Île Royale (present-day Cape Breton Island) and settled at Baleine, Nova Scotia.


Arms of Willam Alexander 1st earl of Stirling Viscount Canada (1597-1640)

Copy of original in the records of Lyons Court, Edinburgh, Scotland.


Arms: Quarterly: 1&4: Per pale Argent and Sable a chevron and a crescent in base counterchanged (Alexander); 2&3: Or, a lymphad Sable between three crosses crosslet bottony fitchée Gules 2&1. (Stirling). In Nombril point Argent, a cross saltire Azure charged with and escutcheon of Scotland.

Crown: Coronet of an earl

Crest: On a helmet to the dexter lambrequined Gules and Argent, a beaver rampant proper.

Supporters: Dexter an Indian  armed with an arrow and sinister a mermaid both proper.

Motto: PER MARE PER TERRAM  (By Sea, By Land)


The escutcheon is according all the patens of Nova Scotian baronets issued by King Charles I, prior to the year 1629, that “the baronets and their heirs male should as an addition of honour to their armorial ensigns, bear, either on a canton, or inescuctecheon, at their options, the ensign of Novan Scotia, being “argent, a cross of St Andrew azure, charged with and inescocheon of the royal arms of Scotland...” [1]


There were three battles between the Scottish and the French: the Raid on St. John (1632), the Siege of Baleine (1629) as well as Siege of Cap de Sable (present-day Port La Tour, Nova Scotia) (1630). Nova Scotia was returned to France through a treaty. The French then established Fort Ste. Marie de Grace as the capital on the LaHave River before re-establishing Port Royal.

The French quickly defeated the Scottish at Baleine and established settlements on Île Royale at present-day Englishtown (1629) and St. Peter's (1630). These two settlements remained the only settlements on the island until they were abandoned by Nicolas Denys in 1659. Île Royale then remained without European occupants for more than fifty years until the communities were re-established when Louisbourg was established in 1713.


Until the Conquest of Acadia, the English made six attempts to conquer it by defeating the capital. They finally defeated the French in the Siege of Port Royal in 1710. In that year Port Royal was renamed Annapolis Royal in honour of Queen Anne of Great Britain. It was not until the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, however, that the French finally conceded Acadia to the British Crown. Over the following fifty years, the French and their allies made six unsuccessful military attempts to regain the capital.


British Rule


Ensigns Armorial


Of the Royal Arms for each of the ten Provinces, those for Nova Scotia are the oldest in origin. With the sole exception of the unquartered arms of Scotland, used upon certain occasions, those of Nova Scotia, in their present form, are the most ancient arms of public authority in any of Her Majesty’s realms or territories. They were granted c. 1625 by Charles I of Scotland and England in connection with the plan of the statesman and poet, Sir William Alexander, Earl of Stirling and Viscount Canada, for the colonization of Nova Scotia. [2]  The blazon is as follows:


Arms: Argent, a cross of Saint Andrew Azure charged with an escutcheon of the Royal Arms of Scotland.

Crest: On a wreath of the colours, a branch of laurel and a thistle issuing from two hands conjoined, the one being armed and the other naked all Proper.

Supporters: Dexter, A Unicorn Argent armed, crined and unguled Or, and crowned with the Imperial Crown proper, and gorged with a coronet composed of crosses patee and fleurs-de-lis, a chain affixed thereto passing through the forelegs and reflexed over the back, Gold; Sinister, A savage holding in the exterior hand an arrow.

Motto: Over the crest MUNIT HAEC ET ALTERA VINCIT. (Some Fortify, Others Triumph).


Æ See illustration in the head of this article


These ancient arms of Nova Scotia have not, however, always enjoyed the undisputed place of honour and distinction which they do today.

After Nova Scotia had been ceded by France in 1713, the royal arms of France must have been  abandoned. The arms of the time of William Alexander apparently were not restored or were even lost or forgotten. Instead the royal achievement of Great Britain was displayed in the colony. This came on the reverse of the Great Seals Deputed (1730-1879) and also on proclamations and government publications.


Royal achievement of King George II

On a publication of the Council Chamber, Halifax, 3rd  January 1757


On the Province House in Halifax, constructed 1811-’19  the royal achievement of King George III is on the tympanon of the facade. In this building the Nova Scotia Legislature has met every year since its opening.

Facade of the Provice House of Halifax


In 1868 a curious situation arose. In that year a Royal Warrant of Queen Victoria assigned arms for use in each of the four provinces which in 1867 had united to form the Dominion of Canada. For Ontario, New Brunswick and Quebec, this action was most appropriate.[...] For Nova Scotians this Warrant meant the displacing of Ensigns of Public Authority of some 243 years standing, by a completely new coat of arms: Or, on a fess wavy Azure between three thistles Proper, a salmon naiant Argent.

Inadvertence seems to be the only explanation as to how this could have come about, particularly in view of the very considerable knowledge of, and real sympathy for, matters Scottish on the part of Victoria. At length, the whole question was rectified by a further Royal Warrant of George V, date 19th January, 1929, which annulled that of 1868 as far as Nova Scotia was concerned, and restored the seventeent century armorial bearings as the Ensigns of Public Authority of himself and his successors in and for that province. [3]


The House of Assembly Crest

The Speaker of the Nova Scotia House of Assembly and branches of the Speaker’s administration, such as Select Comittees and the legislative Library, are identified by the House of Assembly Crest.

This crest is derived from the Shield of arms for the province with the addition of St. Edward’s crown placed at the top of the shield. It is this crown which appears in many items of contemporary use throughout Great Britain and the Commonwealth as part of the Royal insignia chosen by Her majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.

The historic links  between Nova Scotia and Great Britain are remembered in the use of the House of Assembly Crest on stationary, House of Assembly publications and Select Committee reports. [4]




The first seals of Nova Scotia date from the beginning of the 17th century and should have been made for Sir William Alexander as a Lieutenant of Justice and Admiralty of New Scotland as well as for the Admiraty of New Scotland itself. The last seal, dated 18.March 1628,  is interesting because there was a ship on it displaying the arms and the supporters of Nova Scotia. No dies or impressions of these seals have survived.

Later seals were made in the time of George II, George III, William IV and Victoria. These had an european merchant trading with an indian on the obverse and the royal British achievement on the reverse. These pictures were combined on the seals of William IV and Victoria. When a coat of arms for Nova Scotia was adopted in 1868 the royal achievement disappeared from the seal and was replaced by the arms of Great Britain and Ireland and of Nova Scotia.

The present Seal of Nova Scotia, in use from 1930 has as its design the complete achievement of the Province - without the motto - and the legend: PROVINCE OF NOVA SCOTIA. [5]


Grant of Arms of Nova Scotia 12.10.1929


Signed  on behalf of His Majesty the King

Mary R.

Edward P.



George the Fifth  by the Grace of God of Great Britain Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas King Defender of the faith, Emperor of India To Our Right Trusty and Well-Beloved Cousin and Counselor Edmund Bernard, Viscount Fitz Alan of Derwent, Knight of Our Most Noble Order of the Garter, Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, Companion of the Distinguished Service Order, Deputy of Our Right Trusty and Right Entirely beloved Cousin Bernhard Marmaduke, Duke of Norfolk Earl Marshall and Our Hereditary Marshall of England Greeting: Whereas by Warrant under the Royal Signet and Sign Manual of het late Majesty Queen Victoria bearing date the twenty-sixth day of May One thousand eight hundred and sixty-eight certain Armorial Ensigns were granted and assigned to The Province of Nova Scotia and to the other Provinces of the Dominion of Canada. And whereas it appears that prior to the issue of the said Royal Warrant Armorial Bearings had been recorded in or about the year One thousand six hundred and twenty-five in the Office of Our Lyon King of Arms in Scotland. Know Ye therefore that We of Our Princely Grace and Special Favour do hereby cancel and annul the said Royal Warrant dated the twenty-sixth day of May One thousand eight hundred and sixty-eight in so far as it relates to the Armorial Ensigns of the Province of Nova Scotia and in substitution therefor have granted and confirmed and by these Presents do grant and confirm the Armorial Bearings following for the said Province of Nova Scotia that is to say:--

      “Argent a Cross of St. Andrew Azure charged with an escutcheon of the Royal Arms of Scotland,” with the Crest on a wreath of the Colours “A branch of laurel and a thistle issuing from two hands conjoined the one being armed and the other naked all proper,” And for Supporters, On the dexter  “An Unicorn argent armed crined and unguled Or, and crowned with the Imperial Crown proper, and gorged with a Coronet composed of crosses patee and fleurs-de-lis, a chain affixed thereto passing through the fore legs and reflexed over the back Gold.” And on the sinister “A Savage holding in the exterior hand an arrow” with the Motto “Munit haec et altera vincit”— as the same are in the painting hereunto annexed more plainly depicted, to be borne for the said Province of Nova Scotia upon Seals Shields Banners or otherwise according to the Laws of Arms.

      Our Will and Pleasure therefore is that you Edmund Bernard Viscount Fitz Alan of Derwent, Deputy to Our said Earl Marshal to whom the cognizance of matters of this nature doth properly belong do require and command that this Our Concession and Declaration be recorded in Our College of Arms in order that Our Officers of Arms and all other public Functionaries whom it may concern may take full notice and have knowledge thereof. And for so doing this shall be your Warrant.


Given at Our Court at Saint James’s this Nineteenth day of January One thousand nine hundred and twenty-nine in the Nineteenth year of Our Reign.

       By His Majesty’s Command

(Signed) L.S. Amery


Recorded in the College of Arms London pursuant to a Warrant from the Deputy to the Earl Marshal of England

 (Signed) Algar Howard

Windsor Herald and Registrar


         Extracted from the records of the College of Arms London

A.T. Butler

Portcullis, 12 October 1929.



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© Hubert de Vries 2015-12-09



[1] Fox-Davies, Arthur Charles: The Book of Public Arms. A Complete Encyclopaedia of all Royal, Territorial, Municipial, Corporate Official and Impersonal Arms. London T.C. & E.C. Jack 67 Long Acre W.C. and Edinburgh, 1915. P. 568.

[2] Certainly in existence on 28th May, 1625, vide the Patent of Sir Robert Gordon, the first Baronet of Nova Scotia. The Register of Arms in Scotland, 1621-72, is missing. The Arms of Nova Scotia were re-entered in the Lyon Register between 1805 and 1810 (entry undated).

[3] Text printed in Stewart, J.A.: The Arms of Nova Scotia, The Queen’s Printer, Nova Scotia, 1955, Appendix.

[4] Swan, Conrad: The Canadian Arms of Dominion and Sovereignty. In: Recueil du Ve Congrès International des Sciences Généalogique et Héraldique à Stockholm.  Stockholm, 1960 pp. 256-258. Eve, Elizabeth: Nova  Scotia Symbols. 1997.

[5] An extensive article about the seals of Nova Scotia in:  Swan, Conrad: Canada, Symbols of Sovereignty. Toronto, 1977. Pp. 124- 33

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