SWAN, Conrad




The first Canadian appointed to the College of Arms and the first Canadian to hold the title of Garter Principal King of Arms (chief herald of England and Wales), Sir Conrad Swan was born in Duncan, British Columbia in 1924. In addition to his major work, Canada: Symbols of Sovereignty, he published his memoirs, A King of Canada (Durham: UK: Stanhope, The Memoir Club, 2005). According to Provincial Archivist Gary Mitchell, reviewing the memoirs for British Columbia History, "This publication is certainly a must read for all interested in heraldry generally and Canada specifically.... The book reveals Swan's involvement in secret meetings surrounding the creation of the Maple Leaf flag and the difficulties that some Royal authorities were mounting. The chapters on the establishment of the Order of Canada and the creation of the Canadian heraldic authority follow a similar pattern as the Maple Leaf flag. Here, with Swan's assistance and guidance, Canada was the first dominion to strike out on a uniquely national flag, the first dominion to create its own honours system, and the first dominion to consolidate its heraldic rights within its own borders--all unique ventures." Raised in a landed gentry family of Polish-Lithuanian descent, he later served in the Madras Regiment of the British Indian Army.

According to Wikipedia, "His voyages started in his early twenties, when he left for India to serve as a Captain in the Madras Regiment during World War II. Subsequently, Swan arrived in London as a student of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London before returning back to Canada to complete his bachelor's degree and master's degree at the University of Western Ontario. During this time, he developed a keen interest in Commonwealth affairs, which brought him back to Britain, where he acquired his doctorate from Cambridge University in 1955. Later in the same year Swan continued his academic career. He spent two years lecturing history at the University of Windsor before transferring to the University of Beadle in the United States of America. Since then Swan has been actively involved in teaching at some of the top United States and Canadian universities. His appointments include the Yale University in 1964, St Thomas More College, University of Saskatchewan in 1967, and the University of Alberta in 1987. In addition to his educational achievements, Conrad Swan developed an exceptional heraldic career. He was first appointed Rouge Dragon Pursuivant of Arms in Ordinary in 1962 and six years later became a York Herald of Arms in Ordinary. In these capacities he was among the Earl Marshal’s staff for the State Funeral of Sir Winston Churchill in 1965, the Investiture of HRH The Prince of Wales in 1969, and was Gentleman Usher-in-Waiting to HH Pope John Paul II during his visit to the United Kingdom in 1982. Swan was appointed Garter Principal King of Arms in 1992 on the retirement of Sir Alexander Colin Cole. His own retirement came in 1995, ostensibly for medical reasons. It seems, though that allegations were made that he had falsified records in relation to his son-in-law. He did not admit the allegations, saying that they had arisen from an honest mistake. Sir Conrad Swan was the first herald to execute official duties in-tabard across the Atlantic Ocean and in the southern hemisphere. He did so in Bermuda in 1969 and in Brisbane in 1977. He was instrumental in the creation of the Honours System of Antigua and Barbuda, and between 1964 and 1967, Swan was an adviser to the Prime Minister of Canada on the establishment of the National Flag of Canada and the Order of Canada. Swan also took a special interest in Saskatchewan, helping the province obtain a full coat of arms from the Queen in 1986 and a new Great Seal in 1991. He advised the province on the establishment of the Saskatchewan Order of Merit in 1985 and the Saskatchewan Volunteer Medal in 1995 and the recent expansion of the provincial honours system. A keen scholar and publicist, Sir Conrad Swan has written a number of books and articles on heraldic, sigillographic and related subjects. He is a member of several international societies and organisations and was a founder of the Heraldry Society of Canada and the Heraldic Garden in Britain."

[BCBW 2006]