Find out more about the history and observance of Victoria Day, the celebration of the Sovereign’s birthday in Canada, a tradition unique to our country.
On this page
- History of the Sovereign's birthday
- Flying the Royal Union Flag
- Observance in Canada of the Sovereign's birthday
History of the Sovereign's birthday
The Sovereign's birthday has been celebrated in Canada since the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901).
May 24, Queen Victoria's birthday, was declared a holiday by the Legislature of the Province of Canada in 1845.
After Confederation, Queen Victoria’s birthday was celebrated every year on May 24 unless that date was a Sunday, in which case a proclamation was issued providing for the celebration on May 25.
After the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, an act was passed by the Parliament of Canada establishing a legal holiday on May 24 in each year (or May 25 if May 24 fell on a Sunday) under the name Victoria Day.
The birthday of King Edward VII, who was born on November 9, was by yearly proclamation during his reign (1901-1910) celebrated on Victoria Day.
It was not an innovation to celebrate the birthday of the reigning sovereign on the anniversary of the birth of a predecessor. In Great Britain, the birthdays of George IV (1820-1830) and William IV (1830-1837) were celebrated on June 4, the birthday of George III (1760-1820).
The birthday of King George V, who reigned from 1910 to 1935, was celebrated on the actual date, June 3 or, when that was a Sunday, by proclamation on June 4.
The one birthday of King Edward VIII observed during his reign, which lasted from January to December 1936, was also celebrated on the actual date, June 23.
King George VI's birthday, which fell on December 14, was officially celebrated in the United Kingdom on a Thursday early in June. Up to 1947 Canada proclaimed the same day but in 1948 and further years settled on the Monday of the week in which the United Kingdom celebration took place. George VI reigned from 1936 to 1952.
The first birthday of Queen Elizabeth II, in 1952, was also celebrated in June.
Meanwhile, Canada continued to observe Victoria Day. An amendment to the Statutes of Canada in 1952 established the celebration of Victoria Day on the Monday preceding May 25. It remains so to this day as per the Holidays Act.
From 1953 to 1956, Queen Elizabeth II's birthday was celebrated in Canada on Victoria Day, by proclamation of the governor general, with the Queen's approval. In 1957, Victoria Day was permanently appointed as Queen Elizabeth II's birthday in Canada. In the United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth II's birthday was celebrated in June.
Over the course of Queen Elizabeth II’s long reign, the observance of the Sovereign’s birthday on Victoria Day had become ingrained in Canadian custom. Despite this, it was not guaranteed that future Sovereigns’ birthdays would be celebrated on this day.
In May 2023, a proclamation fixed Victoria Day as the date on which the Sovereign’s birthday would be celebrated in Canada. The proclamation did not assign this date to the observance of King Charles III’s birthday specifically, even though it was issued in the early part of his reign. Rather, the language of the proclamation deliberately mentioned the Sovereign’s birthday, indicating that it would apply to all future monarchs of Canada.
This proclamation confirmed what had become established practice, but which is also a uniquely Canadian tradition.
Flying the Royal Union Flag
Where physical arrangements allow, the Royal Union Flag, commonly known as the "Union Jack", is flown along with the National Flag at federal buildings, airports, military bases and other federal buildings and establishments within Canada, from sunrise to sunset, to mark this day.
Physical arrangements mean the existence of at least 2 flag poles; the Canadian flag always takes precedence and is never replaced by the Union Jack. Where only 1 pole exists, no special steps should be taken to erect an additional pole to fly the Union Jack for this special day.
Observance in Canada of the Sovereign's birthday
Consult the list of dates chosen in Canada to celebrate the Sovereign's birthday since Queen Victoria.
|Sovereign||Official celebration||Natural birthday|
|May 24||May 24|
|King Edward VII
|May 24 (Victoria Day)||November 9|
|King George V
|June 3||June 3|
|King Edward VIII
|June 23||June 23|
|King George VI
|Wednesday, June 9, 1937
Thursday, June 9, 1938
Saturday, May 20, 1939 (Royal Visit)
Thursday, June 13, 1940
Monday, June 9, 1941
Monday, June 8, 1942
Wednesday, June 2, 1943
Thursday, June 8, 1944
Thursday, June 14, 1945
Monday, June 10, 1946
Tuesday, June 10, 1947
Monday, June 7, 1948
Monday, June 6, 1949
Monday, June 5, 1950
Monday, June 4, 1951
|Queen Elizabeth II
|Monday, June 9, 1952
As of 1953: Victoria Day (the Monday preceding May 25)
|His Majesty King Charles III
|Victoria Day (the Monday preceding May 25)||November 14|
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