Adrienne Clarkson

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Toronto, Ontario
Grant of Arms and Supporters
October 1, 1999
Vol. III, p. 1

Arms of Adrienne Clarkson
Arms of Adrienne Clarkson
Arms of Adrienne Clarkson

Arms of Adrienne Clarkson


Gules a Chinese phoenix regarding a lightning flash and rising from flames issuant from a maple leaf the whole ensigned by a representation of the Royal Crown all Or;


The phoenix rising from flames is a blend of Eastern and Western symbolism: the Chinese-style phoenix represents Mme Clarkson's family's roots among the Toysan and Hakka people in Southern China, as well as her birthplace, Hong Kong. This Chinese phoenix is linked with the Western cultural symbolism of the bird rising from the flames, representing rebirth and re-creation. Her family has long valued this idea because it recalls how they arrived in Canada with nothing and rebuilt their lives from the ashes of the Second World War. The maple leaf in the flames indicates their new beginnings as Canadians. The Chinese phoenix is modelled on a fabric decoration example from the Qing Dynasty of the 18th century. This model was proposed by Dr. Suan-Seh Foo, a Toronto physician and artist. In Chinese culture the "feng huang" (phoenix) is a magical bird embodying the Yin (female) principle and is associated with the element of fire. As the Chief of Birds, it is one of the four spiritual animals, along with the unicorn, chief of all quadrupeds; the tortoise, chief of all creatures with shells; and the dragon, chief of all scaly animals. Of these four, it is deemed the most auspicious. It also represents the five cardinal virtues: Benevolence, Righteousness/Justice, Reverence, Wisdom, and Trust/Integrity. (The four Western cardinal virtues - Justice, Prudence, Fortitude and Temperance - and three theological virtues - Faith, Hope and Love - show some linkage with the five Chinese virtues.) Thus the phoenix is also linked to another important notion for Mme Clarkson, that the governor generalship must embody a balance of ethics, experience and compassion. Mme Clarkson's long career as a television journalist is represented by the lightning flash. The Royal Crown symbolizes her service as Governor General, and as the Sovereign's representative.



A loon (Gavia immer) calling proper naiant within a circlet of trillium flowers Argent seeded Or;


The helmet has mantling and a wreath in red and gold. The trilliums represent both Mme Clarkson's home province, Ontario, and the meaning of her Chinese first name, which is a metaphor for "ice flowering branch". The loon is commonly found around her island cottage on Georgian Bay. She and her husband, John Ralston Saul, have long admired the loon and participate in efforts to protect and conserve the local population of loons and other wildlife. She feels it also symbolizes the magnificent nature of the North and has resonance for many Canadians who admire its call and its beauty.





On a scroll at the base of the design is the phrase "VERUM SOLUM DICATUR . VERUM SOLUM ACCIPIATUR". This is derived from a prayer, "May only the truth be spoken, may only the truth be heard". Here it can also be translated as "May only truth be spoken, may only truth be received through hearing". This is a favourite phrase of Mme Clarkson's, which embodies a very important element of what she feels all Canadians should expect to receive and hear: truth and integrity. Translation assistance for the motto was provided by Professor Ian McDonald of the University of Toronto at Scarborough.



Two tigers Or and Argent embellished Sable each gorged with a ribbon Gules, pendant therefrom a plate surmounted by a cross Gules the whole upon rocks set with four wind-swept jack pines proper;


The tigers are Mme Clarkson's favourite animals. She was born in the Year of the Tiger according to the ancient Chinese astrological calendar, and she has long been fascinated by the grace, courage and power of this animal. The cross and white disc are a symbol of her faith, based on the badge granted to the Anglican Church of Canada in 1995. The rocks and trees represent the landscape of Their Excellencies' cottage at Georgian Bay, similar to the windswept pines and granite slopes immortalized by several of the Group of Seven. This setting also symbolizes her love for the North.



Canada Gazette Information

The announcement of the letters patent was made on July 22, 2000 in Volume 134, page 2265 of the Canada Gazette.

Letters patent granting heraldic emblems to Adrienne Clarkson, painted by Debra MacGarvie

Additional Information


Original concept of Robert D. Watt, Chief Herald of Canada, assisted by the Heralds of the Canadian Heraldic Authority


Cathy Bursey-Sabourin / Debra MacGarvie


Suzzann Wright

Recipient Type


Special Designation

Governor General