EARLY LARGE CANADIAN RED ENSIGN FLAG, C.1870

of pieced wool construction, with Royal Union flag in the canton, crowned inset shield bearing coats of arms of the founding provinces, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario in the fly, and hemp halyard, 52" x 106" — 132.1 x 269.2 cm.

Note:
Many flags have flown on Canadian soil including Saint George’s Cross and the fleur-de-lys, testaments to our colonial past. The Union Jack was the emblem of the first British settlement in Nova Scotia, but during Confederation, a new flag honoured the creation of the Dominion of Canada. The present lot is a version of the Red Ensign, adopted for its visual associations to Britain and the recently created Canadian provinces. The Ensign was flown on land and at sea from the last decades of the nineteenth century into the twentieth. Several versions were produced bearing the arms of the provinces, adorned with wreaths of maples leaves, surmounted with beavers or crowns and including roses, thistles or shamrocks. The Red Ensign flag was even reportedly seen on the front lines of WWI, although Canadians were officially fighting under the Union Jack. In 1924 the government authorized the Red Ensign to be flown above government buildings within and outside of Canada, but in 1925 when Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie organized a committee to redesign it, they were unable to reach a consensus. The public had voiced their disapproval of retiring the Union Jack from the image. A series of unsuccessful attempts at redesign continued until 1964. Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson found himself in the Great Flag Debate, in which the central issue continued to be whether to keep the Union Jack. The flag was so controversial that Pearson set up a committee with members from all political parties, a move that pleased Diefenbaker, who was sure the endeavor would fail. Three final designs were chosen, the Pearson Pennant, the Maple Leaf flag and a third which contained the Union Jack and the banner of France. The Conservatives voted against Pearson’s choice, believing that the Liberals would do the same, but the results yielded a unanimous decision, 14 to 0 in favour of the Maple Leaf. After months of debate, and endless speeches, the Red Ensign was retired on February 15, 1965 and the eleven-point maple leaf was raised in its place.


Estimate: $30,000—40,000

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