Heads of State

The British monarch is Canada’s legal head of state. The governor general is the acting, or de facto head of state.

Heads of State of Canada

MONARCHTENURE
Queen VictoriaJun 20, 1837 - Jan 22, 1901
King Edward VIIJan 22, 1901 - May 6, 1910
King George VMay 6, 1910 - Jan 20, 1936
King Edward VIIIJan 20, 1936 - Dec 11, 1936
King George VIDec 11, 1936 - Feb 6, 1952
Queen Elizabeth IIFeb 6, 1952 -

In accordance with the Royal Style and Titles Act of 1985, the official title of the current Head of State of Canada is “Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom, Canada and Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.”

Governors General of Canada (British, 1867-1952)

GOVERNOR GENERALSERVED
4th Viscount Monck of BallytrammonJul 1, 1867 - Nov 14, 1868
Charles Ashe Windham (acting)Nov 14, 1868 - Feb 2, 1869
1st Baron Lisgar of Lisgar and BalieboroughFeb 2, 1869 - Jun 22, 1872
Charles Hastings Doyle (acting)Jun 22, 1872 - Jun 25, 1872
1st Earl of DufferinJun 25, 1872 - Nov 25, 1878
Marquis of LorneNov 25, 1878 - Oct 23, 1883
5th Marquis of LandsdowneOct 23, 1883 - Jun 11, 1888
1st Baron Stanley of PrestonJun 11, 1888 - Sep 18, 1893
7th Earl of AberdeenSep 18, 1893 - Nov 12, 1898
4th Earl of MintoNov 12, 1898 - Dec 10, 1904
4th Earl GreyDec 10, 1904 - Oct 13, 1911
1st Duke of ConnaughtOct 13, 1911 - Nov 11, 1916
9th Duke of DevonshireNov 11, 1916 - Aug 11, 1921
1st Baron Byng of VimyAug 11, 1921 - Oct 2, 1926
1st Viscount Willingdon of RattonOct 2, 1926 - Jan 14, 1931
Lyman Poore Duff (acting)Jan 14, 1931 - Apr 4, 1931
9th Earl of BessboroughApr 4, 1931 - Sep 28, 1935
Lyman Poore Duff (2nd time, acting)Sep 28, 1935 - Nov 2, 1935
1st Baron Tweedsmuir of ElsfieldNov 2, 1935 - Feb 11, 1940
Lyman Poore Duff (3rd time, acting)Feb 11, 1940 - Jun 21, 1940
1st Earl of AthloneJun 21, 1940 - Apr 12, 1946
1st Viscount Alexander of TunisApr 12, 1946 - Feb 28, 1952

Governors General of Canada (Canadian, 1952-)

GOV. GEN.TENURECHOSEN BY
Vincent MasseyFeb 28, 1952 - Sep 15, 1959Louis St. Laurent
Georges VanierSep 15, 1959 - Mar 5, 1967John Diefenbaker
Robert Taschereau (acting)Mar 5, 1967 - Apr 17, 1967N/A
Roland MichenerApr 17, 1967 - Jan 14, 1974Lester Pearson
Jules LegarJan 14, 1974 - Jan 21, 1979Pierre Trudeau
Edward SchreyerJan 21, 1979 - May 14, 1984Pierre Trudeau
Jeanne SauveMay 14, 1984 - Jan 29, 1990Pierre Trudeau
Ray HynatschenJan 29, 1990 - Feb 8, 1995Brain Mulroney
Romeo LeBlancFeb 8, 1995 - Oct 7, 1999Jean Chretien
Adrienne ClarksonOct 7, 1999 - Sep 27, 2005Jean Chretien
Michaelle JeanSep 27, 2005 - Oct 1, 2010Paul Martin
David JohnstonOct 1, 2010 -Stephen Harper

The full title of the Governor General is “Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada.”

Quick Facts:

  • Canada is a Commonwealth Realm, one of many nations that "shares" the British monarchy with the United Kingdom.
  • The Canadian Constitution recognizes the British monarch as the head of the state.
  • The governor general represents the British monarch for the purposes of day-to-day duties; he or she is often called the "de facto" head of the state.
  • From 1867 to 1952, Britain appointed British lords to be governor general of Canada; since 1952, the Canadian prime minister has appointed Canadian citizens.