82 Facts About Georges Vanier


Georges-Philias Vanier was a Canadian military officer and diplomat who served as governor general of Canada, the first Quebecer and second Canadian-born person to hold the position.


Subsequently, Vanier returned to Canada and remained in the military until the early 1930s, when he was posted to diplomatic missions in Europe.


Georges Vanier was appointed to replace Vincent Massey as governor general in 1959 by Queen Elizabeth II, on the recommendation of Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, and he occupied the post until his death in 1967.


Georges Vanier proved to be a popular governor general, with his war record earning respect from the majority of Canadians; however, as a Quebecer, he was met with hostility by Quebec separatists.


Georges Vanier was descended from Guillaume Georges Vanier of Honfleur who moved to Quebec City around 1670 and in 1672 married Magdeleine Bailly, a fille du roi from Paris.


The Georges Vanier family resided in Quebec City at first and in the 18th century moved up the St Lawrence river to Montreal, the biggest and wealthiest city in New France.


Georges Vanier's father was a successful businessman and was one of the first people in Montreal to own an automobile, which he never learned how to drive, instead hiring a chauffeur.


Georges Vanier's father was wealthy enough to own two cottages, one on Lake Memphremagog and another on the St Lawrence.


Georges Vanier attended the Jesuit-run Loyola College, receiving in 1906 a Bachelor of Arts degree in church devotional fellowship.


At Loyola, Georges Vanier received the typical college classique education with a strong emphasis on Catholic theology, Latin, Greek, philosophy, the classics, literature and math with the only difference being that his education was in English instead of French, as was usually the case with the college classiques.


Georges Vanier was considered to be a very good student who excelled both academically and at sports such as boxing and especially hockey.


The most important intellectual influence on Georges Vanier at Loyola was a French Jesuit, Father Pierre Gaume, who taught French at the school.


Martin was an inspiring teacher and his influence on the teenage Georges Vanier was described as "enormous".


In 1906, Georges Vanier was the class valedictorian when he graduated from Loyola.


In May 1908, Georges Vanier wrote to Father Gaume to say that after much thought, he had decided that he lacked the calling to be a priest.


Georges Vanier then went on to earn his Bachelor of Laws degree in 1911 from the Montreal campus of the Universite Laval.


Georges Vanier was called to the Quebec bar that year and, though he took up the practice of law, he considered entering the Catholic priesthood.


Georges Vanier considered Montreal to be a somewhat provincial city that lacked the glamour of Paris, and as a young man, he was a member of a group of intellectuals called Ecole litteraire de Montreal that were sought to bring French-Canadian literature up as they saw it the standards of French literature.


In January 1912, Georges Vanier first visited Paris, where he attended a number of literacy salons to hear the readings of the latest in French poetry.


Georges Vanier took on a prominent role in recruiting others, eventually helping to organise in 1915 the French Canadian 22nd Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, of which he was commissioned as an officer, and which later, in 1920, became the Royal 22 Regiment.


On 14 October 1914, Georges Vanier attended the rally in Montreal's Parc Sohmer organized by a Canadian militia doctor, Arthur Mignault, where the lead speaker was the former prime minister, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, that led to the formation of the 22nd Battalion.


On 15 February 1915, Georges Vanier passed the officers' exam and was commissioned as a lieutenant.


On 20 May 1915, Georges Vanier boarded in Halifax the ship HMT Saxonia that took him and the rest of the battalion across the Atlantic to Plymouth.


On 2 January 1916, Georges Vanier led a trench raid at night that took out a heavily fortified German machine-gun post as Georges Vanier led his men across no-man's land, captured the post, blew it up, and then led his men back to the Canadian trenches.


Georges Vanier sent his family a postcard where he wrote: "Affectionate greetings from Paris, the center of civilization".


On 10 June 1916, Georges Vanier was wounded by the explosion of a German shell, which led him to being assigned to a Trappist monastery that had converted into a hospital to recover.


Georges Vanier endorsed the claims made in the article, telling his brother that the article perfectly explained why he had chosen to fight in the war.


In September 1916, Georges Vanier visited Windsor Castle where the king personally awarded him the Military Cross.


Georges Vanier took part in the action that saw the Canadian Corps take Vimy Ridge on 9 April 1917.


Georges Vanier's recovery was lengthy, though he spent it in France, refusing to be evacuated while his fellow soldiers remained fighting.


Georges Vanier was first seriously wounded in the side, but carried on until severely wounded in both legs.


Georges Vanier was further appointed to the Distinguished Service Order :.


Thereafter, Georges Vanier returned to Montreal and once more found employment practicing law.


For four years beginning in 1921, Georges Vanier acted as aide-de-camp to Governor General the Viscount Byng of Vimy, leaving this post when he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel and took command of the Royal 22 Regiment at La Citadelle.


Georges Vanier occupied that position for only one year before again becoming aide-de-camp for Byng's viceregal successor, the Marquess of Willingdon.


Georges Vanier then went to England where he attended the Staff College, Camberley from 1923 to 1924, where Harry Crerar, later Chief of the General Staff and commander of the First Canadian Army during World War II, was a fellow student and J FC Fuller was an instructor.


In 1928, Georges Vanier was appointed to Canada's military delegation for disarmament to the League of Nations and in 1930, he was named secretary to the High Commission of Canada in London, remaining at that post for nearly a decade, approximately half of which he spent serving the man who would eventually immediately precede him as governor general of Canada, Vincent Massey.


Georges Vanier's relations with Massey were described as "cordial", through never close as Georges Vanier found Massey to be a snob who was inordinately proud of the fact he was a scion of the famous Massey family and that he attended Balliol College at Oxford.


In 1935, when Byng died, Georges Vanier wrote a tribute for him that appeared in The Times of London that praised him as the victor of Vimy and as the governor-general of Canada.


In January 1939, Georges Vanier was elevated to the position of the King's Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to France.


On 26 August 1939, Georges Vanier sent a dispatch to Ottawa simply saying "it looks like war" was inevitable.


On 10 May 1940, Germany invaded France, but Georges Vanier expected the offensive to be halted.


On 16 May 1940, Georges Vanier was informed by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs that he should burn all of the secret documents at the Canadian Legation as there was a real possibility that the Wehrmacht might take Paris at any moment, leading Georges Vanier to toss all of the secret papers into the basement furnace of the legation later that day.


Georges Vanier had the staff of the legation prepared to leave Paris at any moment.


Many of the people waiting outside of the legation were Jewish refugees from Germany who had settled in France and on 24 May 1940, Georges Vanier wrote to Mackenzie King that "there is a wonderful opportunity for Canada" to take action by providing financial assistance and asylum for the refugees.


Georges Vanier was informed by Mackenzie King that "it would possible to take in a certain number of children of French descent" became "some thousands" of French children could be settled in Quebec without causing any controversy in la belle province.


On 9 June 1940, Georges Vanier met with General Maxime Weygand who told him that Paris would probably fall within the next week.


On 10 June 1940, it was announced that the French government was relocating to Tours, and as such Georges Vanier ordered the legation staff to leave Paris.


Georges Vanier's last act in Paris was to see the American ambassador to France, William Christian Bullitt Jr.


Georges Vanier attached a poster to the front door of the legation saying "All Canadian government services have been evacuated from Paris", and then boarded the automobile that was to take him to Pernay, where he decided the legation would be relocated.


On 14 June 1940, Georges Vanier learned that the Wehrmacht had taken Paris and had almost reached Tours, leading him to tell his wife Pauline to take herself and their children to Bordeaux.


The Georges Vanier family boarded a boat at Le Verdon-sur-Mer that took them to Britain.


The next year Georges Vanier was promoted to the rank of major general and then made the Canadian Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the governments of Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, and Yugoslavia, as well as the representative of the Canadian government to the Free French and later the Conseil National de la Resistance, all of which were governments in exile.


Georges Vanier was in disagreement with Mackenzie King's policy of recognizing Vichy and several times suggested that Canada should recognize the Free French movement led by Charles de Gaulle.


The Georges Vanier family was so close to Leclerc that the Georges Vanier children took to calling him "Uncle Philippe".


Georges Vanier commented that President Edvard Benes of Czechoslovakia "had the genius for being everywhere" as Benes was very active in various committees for planning a post-war Europe.


Georges Vanier found that Benes was a deeply embittered and angry man obsessed with the "betrayal" of the Munich Agreement.


Georges Vanier had a strong liking for the romantic young King Petar II of Yugoslavia, whose restoration he supported, through he felt the Yugoslav prime minister, Bozidar Puric, was not a leader.


Georges Vanier saw parallels between Yugoslavia and its various peoples with Canada, and thought the King Petar could serve as a rallying figure to hold his nation together.


Georges Vanier found the Greek cabinet, which was torn by endless in-fighting between Royalists and Venezilists, to be tiresome and troubling.


Georges Vanier was a friend and admirer of Charles de Gaulle, whose cause he championed over the opposition of Mackenzie King, who made little effort to hide his dislike and distrust of de Gaulle.


Georges Vanier often pressed Mackenzie King to support the Free French and not to worry so much about American objections.


Mackenzie King told Georges Vanier that he would only recognize de Gaulle's government if the United States did so first, much to Georges Vanier's vexation who warned that de Gaulle was a proud man who would not forgive such a slight.


Together with Alfred Duff Cooper, the British ambassador in Algiers, Georges Vanier pressed very strongly for a greater French role in Operation Overlord, wanting a French division under the command of Leclerc to take part.


Georges Vanier was in Algiers when he heard the news that Operation Overlord had begun on 6 June 1944 with the Allies successfully landing in Normandy.


Georges Vanier reported a mixture of feelings at the news with relief that the liberation of France had finally begun together with a feeling of sadness as the old soldier Georges Vanier knew the Normandy campaign would bring death and suffering to both soldiers and civilians as indeed it did.


On 2 September 1944, Georges Vanier left Algiers for a brief visit to London and then returned to Paris, a city that he had not seen since 1940.


Georges Vanier had been sent to Buchenwald to investigate reports that three Canadians serving with the Special Operations Executive had been executed there, but reported to Ottawa that he saw "naked bodies piled like so much cord wood and on which lime was thrown".


Georges Vanier reported that the survivors were emaciated "walking skeletons" whose bones that protruded through their skin made it impossible for them to stay in one position for very long and that he could see "how their knee and ankle joints held together".


Georges Vanier strongly supported Canadian recognition of the State of Vietnam, arguing that recognizing Bao's government would assist the French with obtaining funds from "a US military aid bill" that was being debated in Congress.


Georges Vanier sat as a director of the Bank of Montreal, the Credit Foncier Franco-Canadien, and the Standard Life Assurance Company, and served on the Canada Council for the Arts.


Georges Vanier was the first Quebec-born governor general of Canada, his bilingualism proving to be an asset to his mandate of fostering Canadian unity.


Georges Vanier was sworn in the Senate Chamber on 15 September 1959 in the presence of Prime Minister John Diefenbaker.


Georges Vanier had presided over a farewell dinner for his predecessor the previous evening.


Georges Vanier was given a royal salute following the proceedings, provided by the 1st Battalion, Canadian Guards and the Band of the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps.


Georges Vanier had a fiercely protective attitude towards Queen Elizabeth II, whom he called "our little queen", seeing it as his duty to serve and look after.


Georges Vanier's attitude was in large part based on the fact that Elizabeth was the third generation of the House of Windsor that he had served, as he previously served George VI and George V, leading to see himself as an elderly "knight" whose duty was to offer the monarch all of the expertise he had acquired during his life.


Georges Vanier used as his guide the 1867 book The English Constitution by Walter Bagehot as to what were the powers of the governor-general as the representative of the monarch in Canada.


Georges Vanier was active in encouraging children to achieve, using his role as The Boy Scouts Association Canadian branch's Chief Scout of Canada to this end.


On 4 March 1967, before watching a Montreal Canadiens game on television at Rideau Hall, Vanier had conversed with his prime minister at the time, Lester B Pearson, and had expressed to him that he was willing to continue on as governor general until the end of the centennial year.


When, in 1999, Maclean's compiled a list of the 100 most influential Canadians of all time, Georges Vanier was placed by the editors at position number one.


Georges Vanier was an avid fan of sport and, though his favourite was hockey and specifically the Montreal Canadiens, Vanier instigated in 1965 the Governor General's Fencing Award and the Vanier Cup for the university football championship in the Canadian Intercollegiate Athletic Union.