Many of our guests are confused with ‘government house’ and it’s relation to our parliamentary system and buildings. I am happy to give a little insight on the Rockland mansion that is Government House, Victoria BC. With it’s sweeping view of the Juan de Fuca Straight and 36 acres of breathtaking grounds and gardens, this perfect perch of land has been home to the Governors of British Columbia since 1865. The arrival of Joseph William Trutch in 1871 established this property and its notoriety; for Mr. Trutch was the first Lieutenant Governor of the newest Canadian Province – British Columbia.
The Lieutenant Governors Role
The Sovereign, Queen or King, of the British Empire is Canada’s formal head of state. The Governor General appointed at our national level represents the Crown in the constitutional monarchy that is Canada. The Lieutenant Governors appointed at our Provincial levels have the distinctive task of personifying the state. Appointed by the federal government of the day, their non-partisan and apolitical roles are dictated by the Canadian constitution, the most important of duties is ensuring a fully functioning democratic government at all times. Swearing in newly elected Premiers, giving authority to new legislatures, and setting governments plans for each new legislative session are just a start. They must also assent to all acts passed before they can become law, and have the authority to withhold that assent if there is a belief the current government is unconstitutionally departing from the law. These appointed Lieutenant Governors also enjoy their ceremonial and social roles; the hosts of visiting royalty and diplomats as well as lending their prestigious presence to all provincial award ceremonies.
Established in 1871 Government House has weathered its personal rebuildings, two worlds wars, the great depression, and the amazing years of west coast prosperity. Through all the years this home has always been the peoples house of British Columbia, representing a long and distinguished public tradition. Proudly located in our city of Victoria, Vancouver Island, the capital of British Columbia. Government House itself succumbed to 2 separate catastrophic fires and subsequent rebuildings, fire engulfed the house in 1899, and again in 1957. The ‘new’ home of our Queen’s representative was completed in 1959, funded by the government of British Columbia at a cost of about 1.5 million dollars. A walk around the new contemporary exterior will quickly showcase the local resources of building materials, such as the hand hewn stone and granite exterior and artful stained glass windows. There were many opinions about how and even where the new home would be built yet in the end the site remained in its prestigious Rockland location. The house was designed with a more modern facade and an interior built as close to the original property plans that was available.
The Gardens of Government House
Government House in Victoria BC is worth the visit while you are exploring Victoria’s historic neighbourhoods. The Rockland district of Victoria is a grand architectural tour in itself, but the stroll through the gardens of Government House is not to be missed. Famous for their roses your senses will be as delighted as your eyes. As for these famous gardens, this is truly a community effort. The evolution of these amazing grounds are an inspiring tribute to the dedication of of nearly 275 volunteer members of The Friends of the Government House Gardens Society. Formed in 1992 ‘The Friends’ work tirelessly to enhance and improve the beautiful grounds surrounding the house as well as ensuring care of the library and archives, guiding tours, special events and education, and much more. You may even find your visit perfectly timed to enjoy one of the popular ‘music and the lawn’ concerts, a summer tradition!