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Rideau Hall

Rideau Hall
Main façade of Government House
General information
Architectural style Regency, Norman Revival, Florentine Renaissance Revival
Town or city 1 Sussex Dr.
Country Canada
Current tenants Monarch of Canada
Governor General of Canada
Construction started 1838
Cost $82,000 (1868)
Client Thomas McKay (1838), The Crown in Right of Canada (1865, 1872, 1899, 1906, 1914, 1925, 2004)
Owner The Queen in Right of Canada
Landlord National Capital Commission
Technical details
Size 9,500 m2 (102,000 sq ft)
Design and construction
Architect Thomas McKay, David Ewart, etc.
Designated 1977

Rideau Hall is, since 1867, the official residence in Ottawa of both the Canadian monarch and his or her representative, the Governor General of Canada, and has been described as "Canada's house".[1][2] It stands in Canada's capital on a 0.36 km2 (88 acre) estate at 1 Sussex Drive, with the main building consisting of approximately 175 rooms across 9,500 m2 (102,000 sq ft), and 24 outbuildings around the grounds.[3] While the equivalent building in many countries has a prominent, central place in the national capital (for example Buckingham Palace, the White House, and the Royal Palace in Amsterdam), Rideau Hall's site is relatively unobtrusive within Ottawa, giving it more the character of a private home.[1]

Most of Rideau Hall is used for state affairs, only 500 m2 (5,400 sq ft) of its area being dedicated to private living quarters,[3] while additional areas serve as the offices of the Canadian Heraldic Authority and the principal workplace of the governor general and his or her staff—either the term Rideau Hall, as a metonym, or the formal idiom Government House is employed to refer to this bureaucratic branch. Officially received at the palace are foreign heads of state, both incoming and outgoing ambassadors and high commissioners to Canada, and Canadian Crown ministers for audiences with either the viceroy or the sovereign, should the latter be in residence. Rideau Hall is likewise the location of many Canadian award presentations and investitures, where prime ministers and other members of the federal Cabinet are sworn in, and where federal writs of election are dropped, among other ceremonial and constitutional functions.

Rideau Hall and the surrounding grounds were designated as a National Historic Site of Canada in 1977.[4][5] The house is open to the public for guided tours throughout the year; approximately 200,000 visitors tour Rideau Hall annually.[6]


  • History 1
    • McKay villa 1.1
    • Royal and viceroyal home 1.2
    • Through the Second World War 1.3
    • Canadian viceregal residents 1.4
  • Name 2
  • Function 3
  • Architecture 4
  • Art and decoration 5
    • Centre block and Mappin Wing 5.1
    • Monck Wing 5.2
    • Art 5.3
  • Grounds 6
    • Other structures 6.1
  • See also 7
  • Notes 8
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11


McKay villa

The site of Rideau Hall and the original structure were chosen and built by stonemason Thomas McKay, who immigrated from Perth, Scotland, to Montreal, Lower Canada, in 1817 and later became the main contractor involved in the construction of the Rideau Canal. Following the completion of the canal, McKay built mills at Rideau Falls, making him the founder of New Edinburgh, the original settlement of Ottawa. With his newly acquired wealth, McKay purchased the 100 acre[2] site overlooking both the Ottawa and Rideau Rivers and built a stone villa where he and his family lived until 1855 and which became the root of the present day Rideau Hall.[7] Locals referred to the structure as McKay's Castle.[2]

Floor plan of the original McKay villa superimposed over the present day footprint of Rideau Hall
Floor plan of the main level of Rideau Hall, showing the various accretions onto the original McKay villa

Even before the building became a royal residence, the hall received noted visitors, including three Governors General of the Province of Canada: the Lord Sydenham, the Earl of Elgin, and Sir Edmund Head. It was said that the watercolours of Barrack Hill (now Parliament Hill) painted by the latter governor's wife, Lady Head, while she was visiting Rideau Hall, had influenced Queen Victoria to choose Bytown (now Ottawa) as the national capital. Also, on 2 September 1860, the day after he laid the cornerstone of the parliament buildings, Prince Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), drove through the grounds of Rideau Hall as part of his tour of the region.[8]

Royal and viceroyal home

In 1864, after Bytown was chosen as the new capital of the Province of Canada, Rideau Hall was leased by the Crown from the McKay family for $4,000 per year and was intended to serve only as a temporary home for the John A. Macdonald agreed, complaining that more had been spent on patching up Rideau Hall than could have been used to construct a new royal palace. Nonetheless, the gatehouse was enhanced by Rubidge and the entire property purchased outright in 1868 for the sum of $82,000.[9][10] Thereafter, the house became the social centre of Ottawa—even Canada—hosting foreign visitors (the first being Grand Duke Alexis, son of Tsar Alexander II), investitures, swearing-in ceremonies, balls, dinners, garden parties, children's parties, and theatrical productions in the ballroom (initiated by the Earl and Countess of Dufferin), in which members of the household and viceregal family would participate.[2][7] Probably the largest event held in the ballroom was a fancy dress ball hosted by the Dufferins that took place on the evening of 23 February 1876 and which saw approximately 1,500 guests attending.[11][12]

Still, despite the popularity of the events that took place in the building, negative first impressions of Rideau Hall itself were a theme until the early part of the 20th century. Upon arrival there in 1872, the Countess of Dufferin said in her journal: "We have been so very enthusiastic about everything hitherto that the first sight of Rideau Hall did lower our spirits just a little!"[13] In 1893, Lady Stanley, wife of Governor General the Lord Stanley of Preston, said "you will find the furniture in the rooms very old-fashioned & not very pretty... The red drawing room... had no furniture except chairs & tables... The walls are absolutely bare... The room which has always been the wife of the G.G.'s sitting room is very empty... There are no lamps in the house at all. No cushions, no table cloths, in fact none of the small things that make a room pretty & comfortable."[14] Echoing these earlier comments, the Marchioness of Aberdeen and Temair said upon her departure from Ottawa that Rideau Hall was a "shabby old Government House put away amongst its clump of bushes..."[15]

Prince George (later King George V) and his party at Rideau Hall in 1901
Princes Edward (later King Governor General the Earl of Willingdon, outside Rideau Hall's main door, August 1927

Various improvements were undertaken over the decades, seeing the first gas chandeliers and a telegraph wire put in, as well as the construction of the ballroom in the same year. By the time Rideau Hall was to live up to its role as a royal home, when its first royal residents—the Marquess of Lorne and his wife, Princess Louise—moved in at the beginning of 1878, many upgrades had been completed. Lorne stated of the hall: "Here we are settling down in this big and comfortable House [sic], which I tell Louise is much superior to Kensington, for the walls are thick, the rooms are lathed and plastered (which they are not at Kensington) and there is an abundant supply of heat and light."[16] The Princess was not long in Rideau Hall before Fenians posed themselves as a threat to her life and she was ushered back to the UK for both rest and protection. When she returned in 1880, with the Queen greatly concerned for her daughter's safety, it was felt necessary to post extra guards around the grounds of the hall.[17]

Thereafter, members of the Royal Family would stay periodically at Rideau Hall, if not as governor general then as guests of the Crown, so that the palace played host to Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, in 1929.

Through the Second World War

When King consort, Queen Elizabeth, arrived at Rideau Hall on 19 May 1939, during their first royal tour of Canada, official royal tour historian Gustave Lanctot stated: "When Their Majesties walked into their Canadian residence, the Statute of Westminster had assumed full reality: the King of Canada had come home." The King, while there, became the first monarch of Canada to personally receive the credentials of an ambassador, that being Daniel Calhoun Roper as the representative of the United States.[18] It was thought for a time, after the outbreak of the Second World War, that the King, Queen, and their two daughters—Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret—would move permanently to Canada for the duration of the conflict in Europe; though, Hatley Castle, in Colwood, British Columbia, was purchased by the King in Right of Canada for this purpose, instead of using Rideau Hall.[19] However, it was decided that the Royal Family leaving the United Kingdom at a time of war would be a major blow to morale and they remained in Britain.

During the war, the palace became the home in exile of a number of royals displaced by the invasions of their respective countries back in Europe.[20] Among the royal guests were Empress Zita of Austria and her daughters, as well as Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, her daughter, Princess Juliana (later Queen Juliana), and granddaughters, Princesses Beatrix (later Queen Beatrix) and Margriet. Though the resident governor general's wife, Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, could do little to add her personal touch to Rideau Hall, due to rationing and scarce supplies, she put many of the other royal ladies to work making clothing for those who had lost their homes in the Blitz.[20] It was then in 1940 that the governor general's office in the East Block of Parliament Hill was closed and moved to Rideau Hall and,[21] in December of the following year, Winston Churchill arrived at the hall, where he presided over British Cabinet meetings via telephone from his bed.[22]

At the end of the global war, the first peacetime ball at Rideau Hall was held for President of the United States Dwight D. Eisenhower, after which life within the household returned to normal. The transition from war to peace was marked by the appointment as governor general of the Viscount Alexander, whose son, Brian, reportedly used the portraits of former governors general throughout the hall as targets for his water pistol.[23] During Alexander's tenure, Government House's first post-war Canadian royal visitors were the heiress presumptive to the throne, Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh (later Queen Elizabeth II), and her husband, Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who came in late 1951 and, amongst other activities, took part in a square dance in the ballroom (replete with checked shirts). Churchill, once again Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, returned to Rideau Hall in January of the next year, where, sprawled on a sofa with a cigar in one hand and a brandy in the other, he persuaded Alexander to join the British Cabinet.[24]

Canadian viceregal residents

The first meeting of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada before the reigning sovereign; in the State Dining Room of Rideau Hall, Queen Elizabeth II is seated at centre, with Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, to her left, and Prime Minister John Diefenbaker at her right; 14 October 1957

With the death of the King only a month following Churchill's 1952 visit, the front of Rideau Hall was covered with black Vincent Massey as not only the first Canadian-born viceregal resident of his Canadian home, but also the first who was single, with Massey having been widowed two years prior to his installation; his daughter-in-law, Lilias, thus acted as Chatelaine of Rideau Hall. Massey spoke of Rideau Hall as "a piece of architecture that might be regarded as possessing a certain lovable eccentricity," in spite of "some of the most regrettable pieces of furniture I have ever seen."[25]

The number of formal occasions at Rideau Hall increased through the 1950s and 1960s, as Canada's diplomatic corps increased and the country gained greater international standing; visitors during Massey's tenure included Queen Juliana, President Eisenhower, Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia, Jawaharlal Nehru, and the presidents of Germany, Italy, and Indonesia. With the greater ease of travel, more members of Canada's royal family visited as well, including the Queen Mother; Princess Mary, Princess Royal; Katharine, Duchess of Kent; Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon; Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh; and, in 1957, Elizabeth was again in residence, though for the first time as queen.[26] The Queen also stayed in her Ottawa government house and held audience with an influx of 53 foreign heads of state and government during Expo 67, held in Montreal, and Canada's centennial celebrations.

Governor General David Johnston and his wife, Sharon Johnston (both at left) look on as President of the Philippines Benigno Aquino III delivers remarks in front of Rideau Hall, 7 May 2015

However, darker days fell on Rideau Hall during the October Crisis of 1970, when, under threat from the Front de libération du Québec, who had planted bombs and conducted kidnappings in Quebec, the palace was heavily guarded for a number of weeks.[27] The relatively free access to the grounds, which had been traditionally allowed since 1921 and had been previously enjoyed by tourists and local neighbours alike, ceased during Jeanne Sauvé's time as governor general; access was requested only through invitation, appointment, or pre-arranged tours on certain days. The decision to do so was based on concerns expressed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the National Capital Commission for the security of the vicereine, and brought Rideau Hall in line with other official residences, including 24 Sussex Drive and Buckingham Palace, that did not allow public access; however, Sauvé was reported to have also been personally worried about her safety, saying: "I'm worried about those crazy men out there." This caused controversy not only because Sauvé had contradicted her earlier statement about Rideau Hall, wherein she said: "oh yes, definitely, it has to be open," but also because it denied Ottawa residents the use of the palace grounds. One group formed under the name Canada Unlock the Gate Group and asserted the closure was more due to Sauvé's selfish desire for privacy than any real security risks; The Globe and Mail reported in 1986 that the group planned to boycott the Governor General's annual garden party because of what they called her "bunker mentality". Sauvé's successor, Ray Hnatyshyn, reopened Government House and its gardens to the public.[28]

The hall was designated as a classified heritage property by the Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office in 1986, giving it the highest heritage significance in Canada.[29]


The name Rideau Hall was chosen by Thomas McKay for his villa, drawing inspiration from the Rideau Canal which he had helped construct, though the house was also known colloquially as McKay's Castle.[30] Once the house became the official residence of the governor general, it was termed formally as Government House, but, as Rideau Hall stuck as the informal name, the existence of two names for the building led to some issue: in 1889 the viceregal consort, the Lady Stanley of Preston, was rebuked by Queen Victoria for calling the house Rideau Hall; it was to be Government House, as in all other Empire capitals.[31] Today, however, Rideau Hall is the commonly accepted term for the house, with Government House remaining only in use for very formal or legal affairs; for example, royal proclamations will finish with the phrase: "At Our Government House, in Our City of Ottawa..."[32]


Governor General the Earl Grey in the governor general's study of Rideau Hall, 1909

Rideau Hall's main purpose is to house the offices of the Governor General of Canada and his or her household,[33] including the Canadian Heraldic Authority. It is also the Ottawa residence of Canada's monarch,[34][35][36] where he or she will conduct state and ceremonial functions, such as holding audience with ministers or loyal opposition leaders,[37][38] when in the city. The majority of Rideau Hall's area is dedicated to affairs of state; only 500 m2 (5,400 sq ft) of the total 9,500 m2 (102,000 sq ft) being dedicated to private living quarters.[3] Some 200 events are held at Rideau Hall every year,[2] most being Canadian award presentations and investitures. Additionally, the palace is where prime ministers and other members of the federal Cabinet are sworn in and federal writs of election are dropped, among other constitutional functions of the governor-general. heads of state, both incoming and outgoing ambassadors and high commissioners to Canada, and Canadian Crown ministers are received at Rideau Hall for audiences with either the viceroy or the sovereign, should the latter be in residence.

The residence is also open to the public, running a visitors' program and free tours of the state rooms throughout the year,[39] as well as educational tours for students;[40] it is the only one of the six official residences in the National Capital Region that is publicly accessible.[41] A visitors' centre is located on the grounds, adjacent to the main gate.[42] Rideau Hall takes part annually in Doors Open Ottawa and children may trick-or-treat at the house each Hallowe'en.[43]


The original 1838 structure was relatively small; only two storeys tall with a full-height, central, curved bay, and an accordingly curved pediment on top, the villa was designed by Thomas McKay (who had also designed and built Earnscliffe[30]) in a Regency style, inspired by the work of architect Sir John Soane, who had himself designed a never realised government house for the then capital of Upper Canada, York, in 1818.[44] Unlike the present arrangement, the rooms of the McKay villa for entertaining, sleeping, and service were dispersed throughout the two floors of the structure, with the main parlour located on the second level, in an oval room behind the curved, south bay, which National Capital Commission Chief Architect David Scarlett said in 2014 was made in such a shape so as to display the advanced abilities of McKay's stonemasons.[2] The main entrance to the house was on the west side and opened into a hall with stairs to the upper floor directly ahead. Along the south front were a library, a dining room, and a boudoir, all with French doors opening onto a narrow balcony; the dining room was served by three of these doors, one of which now opens into the Tent Room's antechamber, one into the Long Gallery, and one that still opens to the outside. The French door originally opening from the boudoir is today the window of the Pauline Vanier Room.

The west face of Rideau Hall prior to the 1914 addition
Mappin Wing in 1915
An early proposal for a new front to Rideau Hall

Initially rented from the McKay family as a temporary accommodation for the Canadian viceroy, the house has since been expanded numerous times. The Viscount Monck oversaw the first addition to the villa in 1865: a long wing extending to the east and built in a style that, while attempting to be harmonious with the original, was intended to resemble the governor general's residence in Quebec, Spencer Wood, which Monck greatly preferred over Rideau Hall. The extension was thus done in an overall Norman style of design that was typical in Quebec at the time, and had a similar long, covered verandah,[6] a cross hall, and a new staircase capped by an ornate stained glass lantern. The exterior walls were clad in ashlar limestone masonry and the roof in cedar shingles until replaced by copper in 1913.[45]

In 1872, during the tenure of the Earl of Dufferin, the indoor tennis court and the ballroom were added to the western end of the house, arranged to the south and north, respectively, of the main entrance. The ballroom is a structure of heavy timber framing with brick infill and finished stone exterior.[45] Then, when the Earl of Minto arrived in 1898 with his large family and household, the Minto Wing was constructed on the east end of Rideau Hall and was completed in the following year, though this was again intended to only be a temporary measure until a proper government house could be built.[46] Minto's successor, the Earl Grey, added the governor general's study to the far east end of the Monck Wing, thus symmetrically balancing out the curved bay and pediment of the original McKay villa to the west.

One of the greatest alterations to the form of Rideau Hall came in 1913, with the construction of the Mappin Block as a link between the ballroom and Tent Room, along with a re-facing of the two latter structures to harmonise their windows, cornice heights, and cladding (in a limestone ashlar), all in an "adapted Florentine architectural style" designed by Chief Dominion Architect David Ewart.[47] The block is three stories in height, and its front is divided by pilasters into five bays, with the central one slightly wider than the equal other four. The windows on the main floor are each surrounded by smaller pilasters beneath a triangular pediment formed by keel moulding geisons, while the second level windows are each simply framed by astragal moulding broken at the top by a keystone. A heavy entablature separates the second and third levels, atop which sits less pronounced pilasters and simply framed windows, with the entire facade capped by a narrow cornice and a pediment with a tympanum that bears a bas relief of the Royal Arms of the United Kingdom (believed to be the largest rendition in the Commonwealth[29]). For formal arrivals, this addition also included a porte-cochere with three arched openings, the centre one topped with a carved stone rendition of the shield of the Royal Arms of Canada as it appeared between 1868 and 1921. All the arches were later fitted with permanent fanlights, under which glass doors are installed during the winter to provide an enclosed space in which to exit cars. Further projects that were completed by 1914 were the addition in 1912 of the Long Gallery to the east of the Tent Room, and the enlargement of the State Dining Room.

An accessible entrance—opened by Anne, Princess Royal, and named after her—was added in 1982[48] and the Minto Wing was eventually converted from residences to offices.[2] Then, beginning in 2006[2] and through the summer of 2007, the main facade of Rideau Hall underwent a major renovation by the National Capital Commission, prompted by Governor General Michaëlle Jean,[2] that saw the masonry treated and restored, the original sash windows rehabilitated and stripped of their lead paint, and the copper roof of the Mappin Wing repaired. This was the first time any considerable work had been done on the front façade since the 1960s.[29] A project began in 2012 to replace the building's climate control system—consisting of three large external chillers and multiple window-mounted air conditioners—with a geothermal heating and cooling system, expected to supply approximately half of the building's heating requirements during winter, until the geothermal system is expanded in future.[49]

Art and decoration

Rideau Hall has long been a collection point for Canadian art and cabinetry. As early as the first viceregal inhabitants, the hall has held pieces by prominent Canadian cabinet makers, such as Jaques & Hay of Adam and Palladian elements.[51] Until the 1960s, the contents and colours of the house changed with each successive royal and viceroyal family; the consort typically seeing it as her duty to update Rideau Hall to suit both her personal and contemporary tastes. As there were few paintings in the palace's permanent collection, the National Gallery would provide works on loan; a relationship that continues into the present.

Today the rooms are furnished both with elements from the history of the residence as well as art and other objects that showcase contemporary Canadian culture, including pieces by the Inuit sculpture.[1] Governor General Adrienne Clarkson and her husband, John Ralston Saul, not only oversaw the extensive repainting of the state rooms from a consistent white to more historically accurate and polychrome colours,[2] but also worked with Ontario potter Bill Reddick to develop Rideau Hall's first Canadian porcelain state dinner service.[53]

Since Vincent Massey's time as governor general, the viceroy has worked closely with the Department of Public Works and Government Services in repairing and refurbishing Rideau Hall; the department now provides a more systematic approach to the maintenance of the palace, with a full-time building manager in charge of the project. The National Capital Commission is charged with the decoration of the rooms; since 2004 the commission has undertaken a project to restore many of the salons and other state rooms to the period in which they were first built.[52] Many pieces—objets d'art, paintings, sculptures, books, furnishings, and rugs—are drawn from the Crown Collection,[54][55] so that, in Adrienne Clarkson's words, "the mix of furniture and other objects here now reflects the country, the people who came and settled here, and became part of the Canadian story."[53]

Centre block and Mappin Wing

The sole remaining part of the original McKay villa is the reception room on the ground floor and the royal suite directly above. The former was created in 1913 by removing the interior partitions of the villa; the baseboards, mouldings, and trims date from that era.[45] It is where small ceremonies and presentations take place, while the latter is an oval room that was previously the drawing room of the original McKay villa and was subsequently used as a ballroom, a studio, and a study before becoming the monarch's bedroom.[51] Some signs of the McKay house are still visible, notably in the now blanked window on the north wall of the reception room and the ornate plaster ceiling in the royal suite.

The new main entrance hall inside the 1914 addition

Directly west of these rooms is the Edwardian Mappin Wing, which contains the entrance hall. Its walls are partly panelled, partly clad in marble; the lower floor covered in mosaic tile and the upper with wood. The two levels are connected by a wide, white marble, central stair; to each side, at the upper landing, are marble guards with ornate, Neoclassical balustrades. Across from the top of the stair is a door (to the reception room) flanked with wood panels documenting the names and escutcheons of each of the governors general for New France, British North America, and Canada.[56] On the opposite wall, to the left of the entrance, is the Royal Window—a stained glass piece commemorating the 40th anniversary of the accession of Elizabeth II to the throne, displaying, between the Queen's Canadian royal standard above and the Great Seal of Canada below, the monarch's coat of arms for Canada surrounded by the shields of each of the provincial coats of arms. Additionally, in the top two corners are images of Elizabeth's royal cypher, balancing out representations of the Sovereign's badges for both the Order of Canada and the Order of Military Merit in the bottom two corners. Another stained glass window is found to the right of the entrance, marking the first appointment of a Canadian-born governor general; the viceregal position is symbolised by a crowned lion holding a maple leaf and surrounded by the shields of the arms of the first seven persons to hold the post.[57] In 2012, bronze and glass handrails, funded by a private donation from Rouge Herald Extraordinary Roger Alexander Lindsay,[58] were added to each side of the stair in commemoration of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.[59]

A presentation of letter of credence takes place in Rideau Hall's ballroom, 29 October 2009; at centre, Governor General Michaëlle Jean (right) and United States Ambassador to Canada David Jacobson

Book-ending the Mappin Wing are the Tent Room—used for slightly less formal gatherings—and the ballroom—the centre of state life at Rideau Hall. It is in the latter space that honours and awards ceremonies take place, members of the vaulted ceiling, from the centre of which hangs a Waterford Crystal chandelier, presented by the British government on Victoria Day in 1951 as a token of gratitude for Canada's role in World War II. Also, in an alcove to the south of the ballroom's main door is a stained glass window that celebrates the excellence of Canadian performing artists and the establishment of the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards.[60]

The present decor in the ballroom—powder blue walls with beige marblised pilasters, cream trim, and shades of peach, cream, and Old Gold on the ceiling, all with gilt highlights—was implemented by Adrienne Clarkson when she served as the Queen's representative between 1999 and 2005. By stripping away a more monochrome palette that had been applied to the room in the 1970s, this restored the ballroom to a scheme closer to the original that was in place when the room was first completed in 1872.[61]

The appearance of the Tent Room is drawn from the original use of striped fabric draped on the walls and hung in swaths from the ceiling in order to temporarily transform what was normally the tennis court into a dining hall.[7] The room today has a wall covering of vertically sriped red and gold fabric with a padded backing, which rises to meet the same fabric hung in a swag fashion outwards from a single coffer in the centre of the ceiling and trimmed around the perimeter of the room with a scallop edged valence of simple passementerie and tassels. This gives the space an overall resemblance to the interior of a large tent. The west wall of the room is broken by series of windows, each paired with a double door into the Long Gallery on the opposite wall, and between them a continuous frame and panel wainscotting. All this woodwork, including the door frames and other trim, is painted in a gloss white to contrast with the textured and patterned wall fabric.

Monck Wing

Within the Monck Wing, built between 1865 and 1866, are other living quarters and drawing and dining rooms generally for non-state affairs, such as the Pauline Vanier Room, a small sitting room where informal meetings are held with visiting heads of state and other officials. The room was originally created in the 1960s by Pauline Vanier out of an old aide-de-camp smoking room, giving the space pine panelling and filling it with antique furnishings from Quebec.[62] However, it was later again refurbished to remove the tongue and groove planks Vanier had installed and which were said to be reminiscent of suburban basement panelling popular in the 1970s. The Pauline Vanier Room today contains furniture and other cabinetry works by Canadian artisans.[63]

Large Drawing Room in the Monck Wing

For more formal gatherings both before and after state events, as well as for entertaining visiting heads of state and their party, the Large Drawing Room, on the south side of the Monck Wing, is used. Previously called the Red Salon, the space underwent thorough renovations in 1901, updating it to the Edwardian style that was popular at the time, giving it boiserie panelling formed from plaster mouldings, a layered crown moulding, as well as windows and doors with chambranled montants, the latter openings also equipped with moulded, classical overdoors. On the walls of the drawing room are hung portraits depicting the viceregal consorts of previous governors general.[64] Directly across the hall from the Large Drawing Room is the State Dining Room, which is reserved for state dinners for visiting heads of state with smaller parties, with the table seating a maximum of 42 guests. in 1909, the dining room too was renovated to a similar Edwardian look, but its present day layout did not emerge until the late 1940s, after various subsequent renovations.[65] The sterling silver sets on display in this room are on loan from Buckingham Palace.[1]

Governor General Adrienne Clarkson (right) meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) in the governor general's study

The governor general's study sits at the far east end of the Monck Wing's ground floor, next to another study allocated for the viceroy's consort. The former is panelled in carved wood that was installed when the room was constructed in 1906, with the names of each governor general applied in succession around the room,[2] below the dado rail and a rendition of the sovereign's arms for the United Kingdom as a focal piece above the fireplace (reflecting the era in which the room was fitted). When the prime minister arrives for an audience with the governor in the latter's study, he or she uses the dedicated Prime Minister's Entrance, which sits on the north side of the Monck addition, and opens into the east-most of the wing's two staircases, from which it is only a short walk to the viceroy's office. Across from the study, the library contains a complete collection of Governor General's Literary Award winning works.[n 1][2]

Further, the Monck Wing houses another, smaller drawing room, a library, and a billiard room. The viceregal suite, consisting of a study/living room, a large bedroom, and a kitchenette,[66] is at the far west end of the upper floor. Also on the second level is the royal suite (the bedroom being the former parlour of the McKay villa) and the other guest bedrooms, each being named for a former British governor. The descendants of these men were approached in the 1990s with a request for donations of historical memorabilia, to which, amongst others, the Devonshires—relations of the ninth Duke of Devonshire—responded with a Regency mirror that had been used at Chatsworth House.[1] On that floor is also a chapel, installed during the Michener period, and which was made ecumenical and opened on 2 July 1967, in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II, for both Anglican and Roman Catholic services.[67]


The state portrait of Crown Collection for Government House, either through gifts or purchases;[68] for instance, in 1946, Sir James Dunn presented the Crown with two paintings by Johann Zoffany. Today the collection of furnishing, art, and artifacts at Rideau Hall is composed of private gifts from the Canada Fund (a foundation created by the government of Canada) and the Friends of Rideau Hall.[69] The pieces, though predominantly Canadian in origin, also represent the Far East, Europe, and other regions,[68] and can be arranged thematically, such as the Asian influenced pieces in the Long Gallery, the portraits of Canadian governors general in the reception room.

The Crown Collection works on display are also usually augmented with approximately 100 art pieces and antiques on loan from various museums, galleries, and private collections; this continues a tradition started in the 1930s, when the National Gallery lent pieces to the viceroy at the time, National Post, as well as other journalists,[n 3] as having "demoted and ghettoized" history in order to "siphon off the great symbolic power of the monarchy, to further [the staff's] particular tastes and agendas," noting that Rideau Hall should not be used "primarily [as] an art gallery."[72]


Rideau Hall's 0.36 km2 (88 acre) property is surrounded by a 2,500 m (7,700 ft) long Victorian cast iron and cast stone fence put up in 1928[3] and contains uniquely Canadian landscapes designed in the natural style, including broad lawns, groves of trees, and meandering roads and pathways. The entire site is divided into five distinct areas: the wooded entrance park (trees, groundcover, daffodils, and lawn), the open parkland (meadow), the sugar bush, the ornamental gardens, and the farm (out-buildings and open area).[73] The last once included a herd of cattle and fields used to grow hay, but today the only remaining agricultural ventures are the working vegetable and herb gardens that have been present on the site since the time of the McKay family.[2] From these fields, plants, fruits, and edible flowers are used in the palace kitchens,[74] and a greenhouse and flower garden provide flowers for the hall and other government buildings in Ottawa. Further, during the early spring months, the maples throughout the property are tapped for syrup making. In total, more than 10,000 trees grow on the grounds.[75] Additionally, there is a one kilometer long honorary segment of the Trans Canada Trail on the property.[76]

An illuminated composite photograph of a tobogganing party on the grounds of Rideau Hall, c. 1872–75

As with the house that sits on them, the grounds too were transformed throughout the decades: Lady Byng created the existing John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, Kofi Annan, Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin, Vicente Fox, and Emperor Akihito.

The main gate of Rideau Hall flanked by sentry boxes
The skating rink at Rideau Hall, 2011

Throughout their history as a royal park, the gardens have hosted numerous activities and events. The earliest governors general added amenities such as a curling rink, a skating pond (which remains in operation, making it one of the oldest rinks in North America[2]), toboggan runs,[n 4] tennis courts, and the like, and many of the guests at Rideau Hall would partake in these outdoor activities, including prime ministers William Lyon Mackenzie King and Robert Borden, who would often skate on the iced over pond with the viceregal family. Of the tobogganing, Lieutenant William Galwey, a member of the survey team that laid out the Canada – United States border and later visited Rideau Hall in November 1871, said: "It is a most favourite amusement at Government House. Ladies go in for it. I think they like rolling over and over with the gentlemen."[80]

The grounds of Rideau Hall have been open to the public since 1921, when the Lord Byng of Vimy's aide-de-camp resolved to open Government House to "all who had a right to be there,"[81] a move that outraged the traditionalists. Today an expanded visitors' centre has been established to facilitate tours. Further, garden parties are held by the viceroy in the summer months, continuing the tradition started by the Lord Lisgar in 1869,[82] and each year the governor general holds a New Year's Levée, an event that traces its roots back to the French royal government and which welcomes guests from the public to attend and participate in skating, sledding, and refreshments.[1] The park also hosts the Rideau Hall Cricket Association and Ottawa Valley Cricket Council, which continues the tradition of cricket being played in the royal residence's gardens, beginning when the cricket pitch was laid out by the Viscount Monck in 1866. Matches continue to be played at the hall during summer weekends.[83]

Other structures

Other than Rideau Hall itself, there are 27 buildings around the property, including Rideau Cottage, offices for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, National Capital Commission, and Public Works and Government Services Canada, the Governor General's Foot Guards' house, the Gasometer or Dome Building (Rideau Hall offices), the visitors' centre, the Farm Building, and stables. Further, there are six greenhouses.[84]

Though not on the grounds of Rideau Hall, St. Bartholomew's Anglican Church is located across MacKay Street on property once belonging to the MacKay Villa estate. It is regularly used by governors general and their families and sometimes by the sovereign and other members of the Canadian Royal Family, as well as by viceregal household staff, their families, and members of the Governor General's Foot Guards, for whom the church also serves as a regimental chapel.[85] Also nearby is 7 Rideau Gate, which is a guesthouse for distinguished visitors of the Crown situated just outside and facing onto the forecourt of the main gate of Rideau Hall.

See also


  1. ^ See Governor General's Awards § Governor General's Literary Awards.
  2. ^ Fusade called the portraits "anachronisms" and said they "did not fit any more with the current role of the Governor General."[70]
  3. ^ Dan Gardner said in the Calgary Herald that "The idea behind all this is to ease the Queen out of the country's consciousness and Constitution."[71]
  4. ^ A toboggan run some 700 m in length was cut through the forest in 1897, allowing sleds to slide right down to the Ottawa River, and, in 1903, the Countess of Minto formed the Minto Skating Club and held amateur competitions at Rideau Hall each year.[79]


  1. ^ a b c d e f  
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Christie-Luff, Catherine; Clark, Catherine (2014). Rideau Hall – Inside Canada's House (Digital video). Ottawa: CPAC. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Conservation Architect > Restoration work at Rideau Hall, the Official Residence of the Governor General of Canada". Francois Leblanc. Retrieved 20 February 2009. 
  4. ^ Rideau Hall and Landscaped Grounds, Directory of Designations of National Historic Significance of Canada
  5. ^ Rideau Hall and Landscaped Grounds, National Register of Historic Places
  6. ^ a b Office of the Governor General of Canada. "Rideau Hall". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 20 February 2009. 
  7. ^ a b c Hubbard, R.H. (1977), Rideau Hall, Montreal and London: McGill-Queen's University Press, p. 3,  
  8. ^ Hubbard 1977, pp. 8–9
  9. ^ a b "Rubidge, Frederick Preston", Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada, Griscti, Verity; Hull, Joshua, retrieved 14 November 2011 
  10. ^ Pound, Richard W. (2005). Fitzhenry and Whiteside Book of Canadian Facts and Dates. Fitzhenry and Whiteside. 
  11. ^ Office of the Secretary to the Governor General, ed. (2002), A Visit to Rideau Hall: Teacher's Guide (PDF), Ottawa: Queen's Printer for Canada, p. 18, archived from the original (PDF) on 27 March 2009 
  12. ^ Banks, Margaret A. (2001). Sir John George Bourinot, Victorian Canadian: His Life, Times, and Legacy. McGill-Queen's Press. p. 186.  
  13. ^  
  14. ^ Villiers, Constance (22 May 1893). "Lady Derby to Lady Aberdeen". Aberdeen Papers. 
  15. ^  
  16. ^  
  17. ^ Hubbard 1977, p. 57
  18. ^ Galbraith, William (1989). "Fiftieth Anniversary of the 1939 Royal Visit". Canadian Parliamentary Review (Ottawa: Commonwealth Parliamentary Association) 12 (3). Retrieved 20 February 2009. 
  19. ^  
  20. ^ a b Hubbard 1977, p. 201
  21. ^ Office of the Secretary to the Governor General 2002, p. 1
  22. ^ Hubbard 1977, p. 202
  23. ^ Hubbard 1977, p. 212
  24. ^ Hubbard 1977, p. 218
  25. ^  
  26. ^ Hubbard 1977, pp. 223–224
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  28. ^ "Jeanne Sauvé, a Woman of Firsts > Closing off Rideau Hall". CBC. Retrieved 21 February 2009. 
  29. ^ a b c  
  30. ^ a b Bush, E.F. "Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online > McKay, Thomas". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 21 February 2009. 
  31. ^ Hubbard 1977, p. 67
  32. ^  
  33. ^ "Rideau Hall grounds open to public for Justin Trudeau's swearing-in Nov. 4". CBC. 31 October 2015. Retrieved 1 November 2015. 
  34. ^  
  35. ^ MacLeod, Kevin S. (2008), A Crown of Maples (PDF) (1 ed.), Ottawa: Queen's Printer for Canada, p. 34,  
  36. ^ MacLeod 2008, p. XVII
  37. ^ "The Queen tours Canada and celebrates the centenary of the Canadian Navy". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2 November 2015. 
  38. ^ Hume, Michael (2 July 2010). "'"Queen Elizabeth meets Michael Ignatieff on her 'day off. Toronto Star. Retrieved 2 November 2015. 
  39. ^ Office of the Governor General of Canada. "Tour Schedule". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 16 January 2015. 
  40. ^ Office of the Governor General of Canada. "Eduzone > On Site > Rideau Hall in Ottawa". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 16 January 2015. 
  41. ^ National Capital Commission. Queen's Printer for Canada Retrieved 16 January 2015. 
  42. ^ Office of the Governor General of Canada. "Visitor Centre". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 16 January 2015. 
  43. ^ Office of the Governor General of Canada. "Seasonal Activities". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 16 January 2015. 
  44. ^ Hubbard 1977, p. 5
  45. ^ a b c Christie-Luff, Catherine; Clark, Catherine (2014). Rideau Hall: David Scarlett (Digital video). Ottawa: CPAC. 
  46. ^ Hubbard 1977, p. 96
  47. ^ Hubbard 1977, p. 135
  48. ^ Office of the Governor General of Canada (10 November 2014). "Official Dinner in Honour of Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal and Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 23 November 2013. 
  49. ^ MacLeod, Ian (23 November 2012). "Rideau Halls goes greener with geothermal climate control". Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved 24 November 2012. 
  50. ^ Hubbard 1977
  51. ^ a b Hubbard 1977, p. 14
  52. ^ a b MacMillan, Margaret; Harris, Majorie; Desjardins, Anne L. (2004). Canada's House: Rideau Hall and the Invention of a Canadian Home. Toronto: Alfred A. Knopf Canada.  
  53. ^ a b Canadiana Fund (2006). "The Maple Leaf Service" (PDF). In the Know (Ottawa: National Capital Commission) 1: 3. Retrieved 14 January 2010. 
  54. ^ Canadiana Fund (2007). "The Canadiana Fund: Preserving Our Common Heritage" (PDF). In the Know (Ottawa: National Capital Commission) 1: 4. Retrieved 13 January 2010. 
  55. ^  
  56. ^ Office of the Governor General of Canada. "Rideau Hall > The Entrance Hall". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 24 February 2009. 
  57. ^ Office of the Governor General of Canada. "Rideau Hall > The Entrance Hall > Symbols in Glass". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 23 February 2009. 
  58. ^ National Capital Commission (11 July 2012). "Diamond Jubilee Handrails at Rideau Hall". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 13 August 2012. 
  59. ^ Office of the Governor General of Canada (25 June 2012). "Her Majesty The Queen's New Painting Arrives at Rideau Hall". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 28 June 2012. 
  60. ^ Office of the Governor General of Canada. "Rideau Hall > The Ballroom". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 23 February 2009. 
  61. ^ Cook, Maria (12 March 2003). "When Her Majesty comes for Thanksgiving". Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved 14 March 2009. 
  62. ^ Hubbard 1977, p. 230
  63. ^ Barrett, Maurie (October 2006). "The Great Hunt for Governor General's Literary Award Winners". Amphora (Vancouver:  
  64. ^ Office of the Governor General of Canada. "Rideau Hall > The Large Drawing Room". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 23 February 2009. 
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  66. ^ a b  
  67. ^ Hubbard 1977, p. 242
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  69. ^ Office of the Governor General of Canada. "Rideau Hall > The Long Gallery". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 24 February 2009. 
  70. ^ a b Smyth, Julie (7 April 2007). "Rideau Hall's new look". National Post. Retrieved 12 April 2007. 
  71. ^ a b Gardner, Dan (17 February 2009). "A stealth campaign against the Queen". Calgary Herald. Retrieved 26 February 2009. 
  72. ^ Editorial (11 April 2007). "What is becoming of Rideau Hall?". National Post. Retrieved 12 April 2007. 
  73. ^ Dicaire, Linda (2000). "Rideau Hall And Its Gardens". Yearbook (Ottawa: Ottawa Horticultural Society): 19. Retrieved 24 February 2009. 
  74. ^ Office of the Secretary to the Governor General 2002, p. 14
  75. ^ "Visit the Governor General's Official Residences at Rideau Hall and the Citadelle of Quebec" (Press release). Reuters. 15 May 2009. Retrieved 5 August 2009. 
  76. ^ "Honorary Trail opening at Rideau Hall and 24 Sussex a resounding success" (PDF), Trail Talk (Trans Canada Trail), 28 May 2013, retrieved 16 January 2015 
  77. ^  
  78. ^ a b Office of the Governor General of Canada. "Rideau Hall > Gardens and Grounds". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 26 February 2009. 
  79. ^ Office of the Secretary to the Governor General 2002, p. 13
  80. ^ Parsons, John E. (1963). West on the 49th Parallel: Red River to the Rockies. New York: William Morrow & Co. pp. 130–31.  
  81. ^ Willis-O'Connor, H.; Macbeth, Madge (1954). Inside Government House. Toronto: Ryerson Press. p. 15.  
  82. ^ Office of the Secretary to the Governor General 2002, p. 16
  83. ^ Office of the Governor General of Canada. "Rideau Hall > Rideau Hall Cricket Association". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 26 February 2009. 
  84. ^ "2008 May Report of the Auditor General of Canada > Chapter 6—Conservation of Federal Official Residences". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 19 January 2015. 
  85. ^ "The History and Architecture of St. Barts". St. Bartholomew's Anglican Church. Retrieved 15 December 2014. 

Further reading

  • Robin, Laura (11 September 2014). "A rare taste of Rideau Hall's kitchen garden". Ottawa Citizen. 

External links

  • Rideau Hall
  • Photo gallery of Rideau Hall
  • CPAC's interactive Rideau Hall: Inside Canada's House
  • Cricket matches played at Rideau Hall
  • Property record for Rideau Hall in the Directory of Federal Real Property
  • YouTube: Government House, Ottawa
  • YouTube: Gate Posting at the Governor Generals House in Ottawa
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