George Stanley

George Stanley

Colonel Dr. George Francis Gillman Stanley, CC, CD, FRSC, FRHSC (hon.) (July 6, 1907 - September 13, 2002) was a historian, author, soldier, teacher, public servant, and designer of the current Canadian flag.


George F.G. Stanley was born in Calgary, Alberta and received a B.A. from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta. He went to Keble College, Oxford in 1929 as the Rhodes Scholar from Alberta, and earned a B.A., M.A., M.Litt. and D.Phil.; he also played for the Oxford University Ice Hockey Club, which won the Spengler Cup in 1931. At Oxford, he wrote his ground-breaking book, "The Birth Of Western Canada: A History Of The Riel Rebellions", and began his lifelong work on Louis Riel.

Stanley returned to Canada in 1936 and was appointed a professor of history at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick. He joined the Canadian Army upon arriving there. During World War II, he served as an historian in the Historical Section at Canadian Army Headquarters in London; he was also responsible for the War Artist Program, whose staff included Bruno Bobak, Molly Lamb Bobak, Alex Colville, Charles Comfort, Lawren P. Harris and Will Ogilvie. Stanley was discharged as a Lieutenant-Colonel in 1947. He then taught at the University of British Columbia, holding the first ever chair in Canadian history in Canada. In 1949, Stanley went to teach at the Royal Military College of Canada, where he was dean of arts for seven years, and remained there until 1969. He then returned to Mount Allison University to become director of the new Canadian Studies program, the first of its kind in Canada. He retired from teaching in 1975, but continued to write and remained active in public life well into his nineties. He is buried in Sackville, New Brunswick.

The historian, R.C. [Rod] Macleod of the University of Alberta, has written that: “Much of English Canada’s understanding of the formative years of the Canadian West comes from George Stanley’s remarkable work, "The Birth of Western Canada". Considering that it was one of the earliest works by an academically trained historian in this country, it has stood the test of time remarkably well. No other work of Canadian history published before the Second World War is as regularly read by historians, students and the general public…. [This] subject will always be identified with his name.”

Public life

In 1982, he became the 25th Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick since Confederation and served in this capacity until 1987. The mid-1980s were a festive and very busy time as New Brunswickers marked their bicentennial. During those years, eminent visitors from around the world also came to help New Brunswick celebrate. The Stanleys, with their strong sense of tradition and their comfortable manner with people from all walks of life, proved well suited to this role.

Family life

In 1946, George Stanley married Ruth L. Hill, a Montreal lawyer. They have three daughters: Dr. Della M.M. Stanley [Mrs. Thomas Cromwell] , Professor Marietta R.E. Stanley, and Dr. Laurie C.C. Stanley-Blackwell [Mrs. John D. Blackwell] . The Stanleys also have two grandchildren: Thomas E.G.S. Cromwell and Ruth L.H.Q. Stanley-Blackwell.


In 1976, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and was promoted to Companion in 1994. He also received a Knight of Justice of the Order of St. John, the Canadian Forces Decoration and twelve honorary degrees, as well as his four earned degrees. He was a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (FRSC) and of the Royal Historical Society (FRHistS). In 1983 he was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada (FRHSC). In 1950, he was awarded the Royal Society of Canada's J.B. Tyrrell Historical Medal. In 1955, he was elected president of the Canadian Historical Association; his landmark presidential address, entitled "Act or Pact? Another Look at Confederation," [ [ Act or Pact? Another Look at Confederation] ] has been frequently reprinted and remains a core reading for students of Canadian history.

Involvement with the Canadian flag

On March 23, 1964, Dr. Stanley wrote a memorandum [ [ memorandum] ] to the Honourable John Matheson, a prominent member of the multi-party parliamentary flag committee, suggesting that the new flag of Canada should be instantly recognizable, and simple enough so that school children could draw it. He drew a rough sketch of his design on the bottom of the letter. Dr. Stanley had become friends with Mr. Matheson in Kingston, Ontario, where their children learned Scottish dancing together. Two months before the Great Flag Debate erupted on May 17, 1964 with Mr. Pearson's courageous -- or strategic -- speech at the Royal Canadian Legion's national convention in Winnipeg, Mr. Matheson had paid a visit to Dr. Stanley at Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston. Over lunch at the RMC mess hall, the two discussed heraldry, the history and the future of Canada, and the conundrum of the flag. And as the two men walked across the parade grounds, Dr. Stanley gestured toward the roof of the Mackenzie Building, and the college flag flapping at its peak.

"There, John, is your flag," Dr. Stanley remarked, suggesting the red-white-red [ [ RMC's red-white-red design] ] as a good basis for a distinctive Canadian flag. At the centre, Dr. Stanley proposed, should be placed a single red maple leaf instead of the college emblem: a mailed fist holding a sprig of three maple leaves.

The suggestion was followed by Dr. Stanley's detailed memorandum [ [ memorandum] ] on the history of Canada's emblems, in which he warned that any new flag "must avoid the use of national or racial symbols that are of a divisive nature" and that it would be "clearly inadvisable" to create a flag that carried either a Union Flag or a Fleur-de-lis.

The Stanley proposal was placed on a wall with literally hundreds of other flag designs, and eventually was selected as one of the final three designs for consideration. Through some clever political moves by the Liberal members of the committee, it beat out Diefenbaker's flag (a combination of fleurs-de-lis, a maple leaf and the Union Flag), as well as the Pearson Pennant (a three-leafed stem on a white background with blue bars on either side).

Stanley's design was slightly modified by Jacques Saint-Cyr, a government graphic artist (who, ironically enough, was a separatist), who gave the flag its current look. It was officially adopted as the flag of Canada by the House of Commons on December 15, 1964 and by the Senate on December 17, 1964, and proclaimed by H.M. Queen Elizabeth II, taking effect on February 15, 1965.

Support for the new flag grew quickly, even in Quebec. As John Matheson observed in his book "Canada's Flag", "when in June 1965, Dr. George F.G. Stanley of [the] Royal Military College ... was granted an honorary doctorate at Université Laval, he was loudly applauded by the student body when the Canadian flag was referred to in his citation. The applause interrupted the citation." French-Canadian nationalists had long demanded that the Union Jack (Union Flag) be removed from any future Canadian flag.

Some debate lingered over whether Stanley or Saint-Cyr should get credit for the flag, but it was settled in 1995 when Prime Minister Jean Chrétien officially recognized George Stanley as the father of Canada's flag. [ [ father of Canada's flag] .]

elected works

*"The Birth Of Western Canada: A History of The Riel Rebellions" (1936) Reprint (1992) U. of Toronto Press. ISBN 0-8020-6931-2
*"Canada's Soldiers, 1604-1954: The Military History of An Unmilitary People" (1954) Macmillan, Toronto.
*"Louis Riel, Patriot or Rebel?" (1954) Canadian Historical Association.
*"In Search of the Magnetic North: A Soldier-surveyor's Letters from the North-west, 1843-1844" (1955) Toronto, Macmillan.
*"In the Face of Danger: The History of the Lake Superior Regiment" (1960)
*"For Want of a Horse: Being a Journal of the Campaigns against the Americans in 1776 and 1777 conducted from Canada" (1961) Tribune Press.
*"Louis Riel" (1963). Ryerson Press. 1st Paperback Edition, 1972. 5th Printing 1969. ISBN 0-07-092961-0.
* [ "The Story of Canada's Flag: A Historical Sketch"] (1965) Ryerson Press.
*"New France: The Last Phase, 1744-1760" (1968) McClelland and Stewart.
*"A Short History of the Canadian Constitution" (1969) Ryerson Press.
*"The War of 1812: Land Operations" (1983) Macmillan of Canada. ISBN 0-7715-9859-9
*"The Collected Writings Of Louis Riel/Les Ecrits Complets de Louis Riel" (1985) University of Alberta Press. (Text in French and English) ISBN 0-88864-091-9
*"Toil And Trouble: Military Expeditions To Red River" (1989) Dundurn Press Ltd. ISBN 1-55002-059-5
*"The Role of the Lieutenant-Governor: A Seminar" (1992).
* [ Bibliography of Dr. Stanley's Publications]


External links

* [ Plaque unveiling at boydhood home of Dr. George F.G. Stanley, 15 February 2008]
* [ The 100th birthday celebration for Dr. George F.G. Stanley on 6 July 2007 at his boyhood home in Calgary, Alberta]
* [ Col. the Hon. George F.G. Stanley (1907-2002)]
* [ "The Hon. George Francis Gillman Stanley" in "Canadian Who's Who" (University of Toronto Press, 1997)]
* [ Birth of the Canadian Flag]
* [ "The Story of Canada's Flag: A Historical Sketch". Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1965.]
* [ Dr. George F.G. Stanley's Flag Memorandum, 23 March 1964]
* [ Flag Designer Recalls Controversy, CBC Television, 15 February 1995 (video clip)]
* [ "One Single Leaf: The Ballad of George Stanley"] [ Hear the song]
* [ Dr. George F.G. Stanley's Childhood Home, 1111 7th Street S.W., Calgary, Alberta]
* [ National Flag of Canada Day: February 15]

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