The title and style of the Canadian sovereign is the formal mode of address of the monarch of Canada. The form is based on those that were inherited from the United Kingdom and France, used in the colonies to refer to the reigning monarch in Europe. As the possession of various Canadian territories changed ownership and then the country gained gradual independence, the style and title of the monarchs changed almost as often at the kings and queens themselves. The mode of address currently employed is a combination of a style that originates in the early 17th century and a title established by Canadian law in 1953.
The monarch's title is set out by the Royal Style and Titles Act, passed by the Canadian parliament in 1953, a year following the accession of Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh, to the throne as Queen Elizabeth II, and granted Royal Assent the day before her coronation. It was later amended in 1985, amd sets out the sovereign's title as, in English:
And in French:
The title was composed to distinctly mention Canada so as to highlight the monarch's shared status, being both Queen of Canada and, separately, Queen of the United Kingdom, as well as of 14 other Commonwealth realms; with emphasis showing the distinct title Queen of Canada as embedded in the longer formal title: 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. When composed in 1953, this format was consistent with the monarch's titles in all her other realms; after 40 years of Elizabeth's reign, however, only Canada and Grenada retained this title, all others, aside from the UK, having dropped the reference to the United Kingdom. The sovereign will allude to herself as Queen of Canada when in or acting abroad on behalf of that country. For example, Elizabeth II said in 1973: "...it is as Queen of Canada that I am here, Queen of Canada and of all Canadians, not just of one or two ancestral strains." Since the title was adopted, the federal government has promoted its use as a signifier of Canada's sovereign and independent status; Prime Minister John Diefenbaker said of the title in 1957: "The Queen of Canada is a term which we like to use because it utterly represents her role on this occasion." The title is also included in the Oath of Allegiance, which forms a part of the Oath of Citizenship, and can be found as ELIZABETH II DEI GRATIA REGINA CANADA – Latin for Elizabeth II, by the Grace of God, Queen of Canada – on the obverse of various medals in the Canadian honours system.
Although the Queen's Canadian title includes the phrase Defender of the Faith/Défenseur de la Foi, neither the monarch nor any of the viceroys have an official religious role in Canada. Unlike in the United Kingdom, where the term (Fidei defensor, in Latin) signifies the sovereign's position as Supreme Governor of the Church of England and a member and defender of the security of the Church of Scotland, there have been no established churches in Canada since before its confederation in 1867. Defender of the Faith thus has a more vague meaning in the Canadian title, alluding only to the monarch's belief in a higher power. Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent stated on this matter in his 1953 contribution to the debate on the Royal Style and Titles Act in the House of Commons: "The rather more delicate question arose about the retention of the words defender of the faith... In our countries [Canada and the other non-British monarchies of the Commonwealth] there are no established churches, but in our countries there are people who have faith in the direction of human affairs by an all-wise Providence; and we felt that it was a good thing that the civil authorities would proclaim that their organization is such that it is a defence of the continued beliefs in a supreme power that orders the affairs of mere men, and that there could be no reasonable objection from anyone who believed in the Supreme Being in having the sovereign, the head of the civil authority, described as a believer in and a defender of the faith in a supreme ruler.
Also, while the sovereign holds the nominal title Head of the Commonwealth, this does not imply any political power over member states of the Commonwealth of Nations. In keeping, however, with the declaration of the prime ministers of the Commonwealth in London in 1949 of "the King as the symbol of the free association of its independent member nations and as such the Head of the Commonwealth," the title will pass to the next monarch upon the demise of the Crown.
The use of the styles Highness and Majesty originated in the United Kingdom, where they were used from the 12th century onward. During the reign of James VI of Scotland and I of England and Ireland, however, Majesty became the official style, to the exclusion of all others, and was then brought to North America during colonial times through usage in reference to the British monarch, who then had sovereignty over the colonies on that continent. Its usage has continued since Canada became a kingdom in its own right in 1867, and after a process of constitutional evolution ending with full sovereignty from the United Kingdom, is now applied to the Canadian monarch. Unlike in the United Kingdom, where the sovereign is referred to in treaties and on British passports as Her [His] Britannic Majesty, the sovereign in Canada is referred to simply as Her [His] Majesty (Sa [Son] Majesté). However, from time to time, the style will be Her [His] Canadian Majesty so as to differentiate from foreign sovereigns.
Following Canadian Confederation, Prime Minister of Canada John A. Macdonald, having been denied the name Kingdom of Canada for the new country, was repeatedly heard to refer to Queen Victoria as the Queen of Canada, and, similarly, in the lead up to the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902, Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier desired to have the words King of Canada included in the royal title by the time of the ceremony. This wish was not fulfilled, however, and Canada inherited the full British title when the country gained legislative independence from the United Kingdom in 1931. Only in 1948 was that form of address changed, when the Canadian parliament passed in 1947 its own Royal Style and Titles Act and an Order-in-Council was issued on 22 June the following year to remove the term Emperor of India from the sovereign's Canadian title. In 1949, it was suggested by Cabinet that the King's title be altered so that in Canada it would be George the Sixth, by the Grace of God, of Canada and the other nations of the British Commonwealth, King, but, again, nothing came of the proposal.
The proclamations of Elizabeth II's accession to the throne in February 1952 differed between Canada and the United Kingdom; in the latter, the new queen was referred to unconventionally as Queen Elizabeth II by the Grace of God, Queen of this Realm, and of Her other Realms and Territories, while the Canadian Privy Council adhered to the letter of the law, calling the sovereign Elizabeth the Second by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas. The discrepancies between independent countries sharing one person as sovereign prompted discussions amongst the Commonwealth prime ministers before a meeting in London, England, in December 1952; Canada's then Prime Minister, Louis St. Laurent, stated that it was important a new composition for the royal title be agreed upon by all realms involved, to "emphasise the fact that the Queen is Queen of Canada, regardless of her sovereignty over other Commonwealth countries." Canada's preferred format was: Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of Canada and of Her other realms and territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith. However, as Australian ministers wished to have the United Kingdom mentioned in all the Queen's titles, the resolution reached was a designation that included the United Kingdom as well as, for the first time, reference to Canada and the other Commonwealth realms separately.
When the act to alter the Queen's title was in 1953 debated in the House of Commons, Louis St. Laurent asserted on the nature of the separate and shared characteristics of the Crown: "Her Majesty is now Queen of Canada but she is the Queen of Canada because she is Queen of the United Kingdom... It is not a separate office." Parliament then unanimously passed the new Royal Style and Titles Act, which was granted Royal Assent and proclaimed by Governor General Vincent Massey on 29 May 1953, just four days before Elizabeth II was crowned. The new legislation conferred publicly and legally the concept of a unique constitutional monarchy for Canada, thereby fulfilling the vision of the Fathers of Confederation. A subsequent Royal Style and Titles Act was passed in 1985, though it did not alter the Queen's title in any way.