Missing Lions from the War of 1812
It seems as Lions we all try to emulate the positive attributes of this noble beast. I guess the positive might be brave and of good bearing. We think of Lions as noble as well and have added generous and caring. All through history peoples have looked to this animal for inspiration. It becomes our duty to help fellow Lions and come to their aid if they are missing.
The British as a nation and essentially us as we were in those times have an attachment to Lions. Richard the Lionheart was aptly named in this respect and the Lions Rampant still appear on the Royal Standard as it did for King George who was the Elector of Hanover at the time. It was quite symbolic to have Lions present at official functions and public buildings.
At Toronto 2014 many more Americans will “invade our Queen City” than did some 200 years ago and on much friendlier terms. You see they quite literally invaded the town of York in April of 1813, raised American flags, burned and pillaged our public buildings and many private homes.
We had already seen their resolve at Queenston Heights the year before and would later send them packing for good at Stoney Creek. Our great war heroes of Brock and Tecumseh gave their lives in protecting our freedom. Other great heroes such as Laura Secord and John Strachan also help us through these anxious times
Our little Parliament buildings were not very old when they were overrun by American soldiers who claimed to have discovered a scalp on its premises and used this as sufficient grounds to burn it to the ground. Inside were the Mace of Office and two symbolic Lions that were spirited away as war booty.
The Royal Standard that hung behind the speaker’s chair bore the image of a Lion. Throughout British history it remains the only captured royal standard that has never been recovered. The other Lion was a sculpture with its front foot on a sphere that used to sit beside the Speaker’s Chair.
Well it turns out those nasty Americans became some of our best friends and back in 1934 they returned the Mace as a goodwill gesture. It now resides in the lobby of the Legislative Assembly Building at Queens Park.
After all they were pretty mad about the British burning down their White House, Capitol Building and bombarded Fort McHenry at Baltimore even if it did inspire their National Anthem.
Well whatever happened to those missing Lions?
Since the attack on York was for all intents and purposes a naval attack it made sense to start looking at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, where they keep a museum. Well “lo and behold” there they were and a very kind curator says would you like some pictures.
While they are not likely to return to us any time soon we can see them on display and as a matter of fact the statue of a Lion is on loan to the War Museum in Ottawa for War of 1812 commemoration.
By the way it turns out those Brits took a few things themselves. They found a pair of portraits of King George and Queen Charlotte in a warehouse in Washington and took them to Bermuda where they now sit behind the Speaker in the Session House at Hamilton.
For The Good of Lionism
Ray Charbonneau MD”A” Historian