First Canadian-Born Governor General
Until 1952, every Governor General of Canada had been an appointed British citizen. In 1952, however, Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent appointed Vincent Massey, a well-connected former diplomat, to the position of Governor General.
Vincent Massey was from a prominent Canadian family who headed the agriculture company Massey-Harris. Massey was a great patron of the Arts, and used his position as Governor General to promote Canadian identity and unity. Before being appointed Governor General, Massey was made the first Canadian Minister to Washington in 1926, and in 1935 became Canadian High Commissioner to London. In that position, he made an incredible impression upon the British diplomatic scene, and King George VI invested Massey with the Companion of Honour in 1946. However, Prime Minister Mackenzie King did not share King George VI's confidence in Vincent Massey, and the two maintained a very strained relationshhip. Massey also held the position of Chairman of the National Gallery in London, England, for three years, as well as Chancellor of the University of Toronto and Chairman of the National Gallery of Canada. As Governor General, Vincent Massey promoted a national arts festival, leading to the formation of the National Arts Centre. He used his role as Governor General to emphasize the need for Canadians to speak both English and French, and promoted Canadian unity and the emerging Canadian idenity.
Vincent Massey was not only a strong diplomat, but also a powerful force in the movement towards Canadian autonomy and identity. His efforts in his many prominent roles are reflected in every aspect of today's society.