Newfoundland was Britain’s first colony, and the beginning of the British Empire.

The capital is St. John’s and its name originates in the tradition that John Cabot visited the harbour on St. John’s Day, June 24, 1497. This city was first settled by Devonshire fishermen, and the first permanent residence is believed to have been erected in 1527. Fishermen from southwestern Europe were working in Grand Banks possibly fifty years before Columbus discovered the New World. Cabot re-discovered the island for England in 1497, and Sir Humphrey Gilbert proclaimed British sovereignty in 1583.

Newfoundland became a self-governing colony in 1855, and continued in this form of government until 1934 when financial problems brought suspension of responsible government and Newfoundland was placed under the Commission of Government appointed by the British Crown. In 1946 the people voted as to whether they preferred returning to self-government, or unite with Canada.

In 1948 they became a province of the Dominion of Canada.

Newfoundland was 430 years old when she received her distinctive arms. In 1637 King Charles I, made a grant of the whole of the island to certain of his courtiers and favourites in England. In 1927, the shield of Newfoundland was re-discovered and adopted once more. In 1928 this crest began to appear on all Newfoundland Government printing and stationary with the motto: SEEK YE FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD.

This crest illustrates so much of England in its heraldic design. The red field, with the white cross through the center, with first and fourth quarters containing the lion of England, crowned, in gold colour. In the second and third quarters is the white unicorn emblem, identical with the Arms of Britain, with a coronet around each neck, and the gold chain, loose, hanging over their backs. The unicorn is usually seen “rampant”. But in this shield, he is seen ‘prancing’.

Lions have been upon the arms of Kings of England since the time of Alfred the Great, while the unicorn has been a supporter, first in Scotland, and then in England, from early history. Israel is referred to as a unicorn in the Bible in Numbers 23:22; 24:8, 9, 14, 19 and Deut. 33:17. Representing the people of Israel, the golden chain remains loose, significant of a people freed from their bondage (Babylonian captivity).


Compiled by Ida M. Ferguson