Happy Victoria Day!

Posted by Daniel on May 24, 2010 - 3 comments

Since 1901, the year of her death, Canadians have celebrated Queen Victoria's birthday, May 24 or the closest Monday to it, as a national holiday. In Quebec they call it National Patriots' Day but out here we still go with Victoria Day.

According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, Canadians have named more places, streets, features, etc. after the Queen than any other individual. But British Columbians enjoy a special association. Not only is our capital city named for her, but she personally chose the name of the province.

In 1858, when the Brits wanted to create a new colony out of the Fraser River goldfields and surrounding area, they originally thought to call it New Caledonia. This is what traders had been calling the interior fur country for years. But there was already a French colony bearing that name.

The Queen expressed her preference in a letter to Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton, the British colonial secretary. "The only name which is given to the whole territory in every map the Queen has consulted," she wrote, referring to herself in the customary third person, "is 'Columbia', but as there exists also a Columbia in South America, and the citizens of the United States call their country also Columbia, at least in poetry, 'British Columbia' might be, in the Queen's opinion, the best name." And so it was done.

In 1866, when the two colonies, British Columbia and Vancouver Island, merged, the name British Columbia was retained for the united colony.