The role of Canada’s governor general is varied; formally, the governor general acts on behalf of the Sovereign, Canada’s Head of State. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the role has evolved over the years, especially given that this position predates Confederation by a long time. The governor general’s own website declares that Samuel de Champlain, “a governor in all but name,” was essentially the first to carry out the duties.
Current responsibilities include Constitutional duties, Commander-in-chief of Canada’s military, representing Canada at home and abroad, and encouraging excellence through the presentation of honours, decorations, and awards. Needless to say, it’s the latter that is particularly important for numismatists.
One of the awards given out by the governor general include an academic medal. Medals can be found in bronze, silver, and gold. These academic awards are awarded to the student graduating with the highest grade point average from a Canadian high school, college or university program. They are a prized piece of history, both for the recipient and their family, and for the collector after one comes to market.
Geoffrey Bell Auctions Ltd. is always pleased to offer quality medallic material and our Toronto Coin Expo 2019 Spring Sale is no different, so here’s a look at a few of our governors general through medals that can be found in our upcoming auction.
Under the leadership of Gilbert Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound, 4th Earl of Minto, who was our eighth governor general since confederation, serving from 1899 to 1904, Canada experienced an increase in national pride and immigration. He created our National Archives, promoted the creation of national parks, and established our first anti-tuberculosis foundation. Watch for two exceptional 1898 silver medals in Toronto.
When Victor Cavendish, 9th Duke of Devonshire became governor general in 1916 it caused a bit of controversy because the British Cabinet hadn’t consulted the Canadian government beforehand. He tried to fix relations between French and English Canadians after problems caused by the draft during World War I. During his term, women got the vote. Interested parties can watch for a nice bronze medal in our auction.
Alexander Cambridge, 1st Earl of Athlone was governor general during World War II and was very active in supporting the war effort. He served as host twice for Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Mackenzie King for the highly secret Quebec Conferences. His term was from 1940 to 1946 and our sale features a handsome bronze medal from this period.
Also represented by a beautiful medal is the Right Honourable Roland Michener who became governor general during our centennial year and served through 1974. The Michener Awards for meritorious public service in journalism were a result of his encouragement of excellence in this field and he was a strong believer in exercise and athletics, supporting the popular Participaction campaign.
The first Maritime born governor general was New Brunswick’s the Right Honourable Roméo LeBlanc. He proclaimed June 21st of each year to be National Aboriginal Day and worked on forming the Governor General’s Award for Excellence in Teaching Canadian History. Watch for a superb bronze medal in our auction.
Our Toronto Coin Expo 2019 Spring Sale takes place May 2nd and 3rd live at the Toronto Reference Library and online.