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Canadian Forces

Members of the Royal Family have maintained a special relationship with the armed forces of Canada for well over two hundred years. At the highest level, the Command-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Canada is vested in Her Majesty The Queen, as declared by the Constitution Act 1867, as it had been vested in all her predecessors. But the personal relationship is also deeper and more extensive.

Since the Letters Patent of King Edward VII in 1905, the Sovereign has made each Governor-General Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Armed Forces.

Charles in Canadian Uniform. By Fred Chartrand, CP.

Members of the Royal Family have seen active service in Canada or with Canadian forces. The Duke of Connaught first came to Canada in 1870 when he fought against the Fenians (Irish-American terrorists who attacked Canada from the United States) at Eccles Hill, south of Montreal, and earned the Canadian General Service Medal with “Fenian Raid 1870” bar. King Edward VIII served for a time in the Canadian Corps on the Western Front in World War I, while he was the Prince of Wales. Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was second in command of HMS Wallace when that ship supported the Canadian landings in Sicily in World War II.

In more modern times Prince Charles, Prince of Wales undertook some of his training with the Royal Marines in the 1970s at CFB Gagetown in New Brunswick. And many current members of the Royal Family have received the Canadian Forces Decoration. These include The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales, The Duke of York, The Princess Royal, The Duke of Kent, Princess Alexandra and Countess Mountbatten

One of the distinctive characteristics of the Canadian Forces is the regimental system which treats units of the Forces as families, many led by a member of the Royal Family as colonel-in-chief. Only members of the Royal Family are colonels-in-chief in Canada and ten hold such appointments: the Queen, Duke of Edinburgh, Prince of Wales, Duke of York, Earl of Wessex, Princess Royal, Duke of Kent, Prince Michael of Kent, Princess Alexandra, and Countess Mountbatten of Burma.

As a mark of special royal favour, many Canadian regiments have been given the designation royal (e.g. The Royal Canadian Regiment, Royal 22e Régiment du Canada, Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada) and others named after members of the Royal Family (e.g. Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, Toronto Scottish Regiment [Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother’s Own]).

(Source: Arthur Bousfield and Garry Toffoli, CRHT)

    Updated: 2010-06-27