The large format of this coin is the ideal canvas to depict one of our country’s most beautifully designed historical seals. The image itself offers a journey through Canada’s colonial history, as the seals of Upper and Lower Canada are brought together at a time when such unity was greatly needed. From these seals to the Grecian ladies who gracefully hold them and the Arms of Queen Victoria, it’s an image rich in symbolism and ornate Victorian design.
The reverse image features the Great Seal of the Province of Canada from 1841, redrawn for use on a Royal Canadian Mint 76.25-millimetre, 10 oz. fine silver coin. The image features all of the elements of the original seal, including the seals of the colonies of Upper and Lower Canada held side-by-side by two allegorical female figures representing the united colonies. The coat of arms of Queen Victoria sits at the top of the image, which also features engravings framing the images and decorative floral engravings. The outer rim includes the Latin text from the original seal: “VICTORIA D.G. BRITANNIARUM REGINA FID. DEF.” and “SIGILLUM PROVINCIAE CANADAE.” The obverse features the effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II by Susanna Blunt.
The design for this coin comes from an important moment in Canada’s past. The official seal it is based on was created when Britain’s two major Canadian colonies were brought together under a single government for the first time. The images in the design build on the separate seals of Upper Canada (now Ontario) and Lower Canada (now Quebec) and use popular Victorian imagery—all showcased in stunning detail on a large-format fine silver coin.
Before 1841, Upper and Lower Canada each had their own seals. The Great Seal of the Province of Canada placed these seals side-by-side, held up by two allegorical figures with their arms around each other’s shoulders. Over top of the entire scene is the Royal Arms of Queen Victoria, held by the lion representing England and the unicorn representing Scotland. Every element in this detailed design is symbolic. Here are some of the important symbols:
Lower Canada seal (engraved by Thomas Major in 1793): A graceful oak tree on the bank of a river overlooking several ships at anchor, with a typical Quebecois town featuring a church steeple in the background.
Upper Canada seal (from when the province was established in 1792): A peace-pipe or calumet crossed with a sword and an anchor and bound by an olive crown. The Union Jack is visible in the upper right-hand corner and two cornucopia decorate the bottom. Topping the design, to the left of the Union Jack, is the Royal Crown.
The royal arms of Queen Victoria (1837): Victoria’s shield, held up by the lion (England) and the unicorn (Scotland).