- 150 Stories: A collection of new stories and images that speak eloquently about what it means to be Canadian in Ontario (February 2017–)
- Other Worlds: Featuring works by 19 contemporary Ontario artists affiliated with OCAD University (July 2016–January 2017)
- Identity: Art inspired by the Great Lakes (June 2015–July 2016)
- Lest We Forget: Commemorating the 100th anniversary of the First World War through the power of contemporary art by Charles Pachter (June 2014–June 2015)
- About Face: Celebrated Ontarians then and now: A collection of portraits vividly illustrating our province’s dramatic cultural and demographic evolution over the past century (September 2013–June 2014)
- 60 in 60: Celebrating The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee (May 2012–September 2013)
May 2013 marked the 75th anniversary of the Lieutenant Governor’s Suite at Queen’s Park. The first public event was hosted there on May 4, 1938 by the Hon. Albert Matthews, 16th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. Since that time, Lieutenant Governors have used the suite to preside over events in the constitutional, political, social, and official life of the province. This is longer than the life spans of the two previous Government Houses.
When Queen’s Park was officially opened on April 4, 1893 by the seventh Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, the Hon. George Kirkpatrick, there was no office or suite for the Crown’s representative in the building. Ontario’s Lieutenant Governors lived, worked, and hosted public events in Government House, which was a Second Empire style edifice at King and Simcoe Streets in downtown Toronto. In 1915, the Lieutenant Governor moved to Chorley Park in Rosedale, a residence built by the provincial government in the French Renaissance style of the Loire. In 1937, after less than 22 years and seven Lieutenant Governors, Chorley Park ceased to be Government House and its contents were auctioned off.
Ontario’s third and last Government House was closed after an acrimonious dispute between Prime Minister Mackenzie King and Ontario Premier Mitchell Hepburn. Hepburn had also campaigned on closing the residence as part of a reduction in government expenditures in the election of 1934. While the appointment of Lieutenant Governors is made federally, their support is provided by the provinces. The end of Chorley Park and the dispute over the appointment of the next Lieutenant Governor soured the political relationship between the two political leaders, who were from the same party.
Almost all jurisdictions of the Commonwealth Realms maintain a Government House for the representative of the Sovereign. This provides an official and often historic venue for government business, ceremonies, receptions, and accommodations for official guests as well as the metaphorical home for the province or state. By contrast, the building in which the Legislative Assembly meets is presided over by its Speaker and is focused on the political activities and parliamentary events of the day. In Canada, four provinces provide offices for their Lieutenant Governors at their legislatures, of these only Québec and Ontario have facilities for official hospitality in their parliamentary precincts and do not have a Government House.
With the closing of Chorley Park, the Government of Ontario offered the Speaker’s apartment and Cabinet Dining Room for the use of the Lieutenant Governor, and the Speaker was accommodated in the third floor flat of the Sergeant-at-Arms. Some of the most impressive features of Chorley Park were moved to Queen’s Park, including six crystal chandeliers, a collection of paintings of Ontario’s Lieutenant Governors, as well as furniture that had been purpose-built for the residence and provided by the T. Eaton Company. These fixtures are all prominent in the suite and are important parts of our heritage.
In 1939, Lieutenant Governor Albert Matthews received King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in the suite on their historic visit and presented the Dionne Quintuplets in the Music Room. Since then, The Queen and most other members of the Royal Family have been frequent visitors when in Toronto. Over the years the suite has played a prominent constitutional role as Premiers were commissioned to form governments there by the Lieutenant Governor after their predecessors visited to offer their resignations. Traditionally, new governments were sworn to office privately either in the Lieutenant Governor’s private office or the Music Room. Since 1971, new Premiers and their Executive Councils have usually taken their oaths publicly in the chamber of the Legislative Assembly, on the grand staircase or on one occasion, outdoors. Individual ministers continue to take their oaths in the suite when part of smaller Cabinet shuffles or on an individual basis.
Lieutenant Governors also host MPPs and their guests to mark the opening of new parliamentary sessions and, since 1973, most royal assent ceremonies. Foreign royalty, Presidents, Prime Ministers as well as their diplomatic representatives are received by the Lieutenant Governor during their visits or consuls-general when they take up their post. Many charitable and community groups are offered support and profile when the Lieutenant Governor receives their members and supporters for receptions or meetings in the suite. The Lieutenant Governor also presents honours and awards in the suite to deserving citizens. Many Ontarians have visited the suite for these events or for the New Year’s Levee or during tours of Queen’s Park. To improve accessibility for persons with impaired mobility, an elevator was added in 2009. The northwest corner of the building is now synonymous with the Crown in Ontario.
Over these past 75 years, the Lieutenant Governor’s Suite at Queen’s Park has proven to be a dignified setting for the province’s major ceremonies and government functions. By providing space for the Lieutenant Governor in the building housing the Legislative Assembly, we are reminded of the Crown’s role in Parliament and government, as well as providing a neutral space in which all citizens are able to visit to celebrate other events in the life of the province.
The foyer features a grand staircase lined with portraits of former Lieutenant Governors. A large portrait of Upper Canada’s first Lieutenant Governor, John Graves Simcoe, painted posthumously by Sir Edmund Wyly Grier, is on loan from the Toronto Public Library. The oak hall table, console tables, and crystal chandelier—one of five that grace the suite—come from Ontario’s former viceregal residence, Chorley Park. Doorways lead to the lounge, drawing room, and dining room.
The lounge features comfortable seating arranged around a fireplace. The Lieutenant Governor hosts official and informal meetings in this warm and inviting room. Members of the Royal Family, heads of state, and government leaders sign the guest book at the corner desk. High commissioners, ambassadors, and consuls-general are received here, as well as citizens from all walks of life. Most furnishings in this wood-panelled room come from Chorley Park.
(Photos courtesy Angela Durante)
The drawing room is an elegant venue for receptions hosted by the Lieutenant Governor in honour of guests from Ontario and around the world. The settees, armchairs, side chairs, and window seat, designed in the Louis XVI style, were purchased in 1915 from the T. Eaton Company for the former viceregal residence at Chorley Park. During the end-of-year holiday season, a decorated evergreen tree is displayed in this room.
The upper hall serves as an informal sitting area for guests. On display is a painting depicting Alexander Mackenzie’s expedition towards the Pacific. Doorways lead to the music room and staff offices.
The large red banner with the cypher and arms of George IV dates from the 1820s. The banner was originally created for George III, and was already en route to North America at the time of his death. Rather than replacing the expensive gilded wire, an additional roman numeral I was added, rendering the cypher as G IIII R.
The dining room is a gracious setting for formal luncheons and dinners hosted by the Lieutenant Governor to honour royalty, visiting dignitaries, and leading citizens. Sliding doors can be opened so that large dinners and receptions can extend into the adjacent drawing room. The oak table, chairs, and sideboard, all designed in the 17th-century Jacobean style, were made in 1915 for Chorley Park.
The music room, the largest room in the Lieutenant Governor’s Suite, is the setting for the New Year’s Levee, a traditional open house hosted by the Lieutenant Governor and held at Queen’s Park in even-numbered years. Receptions, investitures, awards presentations, and swearing-in ceremonies are held here throughout the year.
Portraits of the last 11 Lieutenant Governors hang on the walls along with the those of the first Lieutenant Governor, John Graves Simcoe. The newest portrait of Her Majesty The Queen occupies the most prominent position in the room, placed above the grand fireplace.
Furnishings in the music room include a piano, which gives the room its name. Most furnishings, including the round table and chandelier, came from Chorley Park. The colourful wool carpet was installed by hoisting it in through the alcove window. The fireplace has an oak mantelpiece with a Latin inscription meaning “These things one day it will be pleasant to remember”.
On special occasions of a less formal nature, this room is adorned with couches and coffee tables, sometimes with a DJ or live musician providing entertainment.
Lieutenant Governor’s private office
The office is the venue for official business and informal gatherings. In this room, the Lieutenant Governor may grant royal assent to bills passed by the legislature, approve orders-in-council, dissolve or prorogue the legislature, or commission a new government to be formed on the resignation or defeat of the sitting ministry. The office is adorned with art from the Government of Ontario Art Collection. The viceregal standard is displayed along with the flags of Canada and Ontario.