For nearly 250 years, Quebec City was the political capital and place of residence of the colony's governors. After Confederation, in 1867, Rideau Hall in Ottawa became the new official residence of the Governor General of Canada.
In 1872, Lord Dufferin decided to occupy quarters at the Citadelle of Québec. In so doing, he re-established the tradition of a residence for the Governor General in Quebec City, which dated back to the beginning of New France. Ever since, all Governors General have spent part of each year there in the course of their official duties.
Steeped in 300 years of military history, the Citadelle is part of the historic district of Québec, one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites. Built between 1820 and 1831, it was occupied by the British until 1871, when it was transferred to the Canadian government. Since 1920, it also serves as the home of the Royal 22e Régiment.
When Lord Dufferin moved in, the residence was simple and modest. Over the years, additions were made to the original building (1831) including a ballroom and a sunroom.
In February 1976, a fire destroyed the east wing of the residence. The Governor General's private quarters located in the original section of the residence, while spared, were heavily damaged by smoke and water.
Repairs to the wing began immediately. A contemporary (1984) interior design concept was developed, inspired by the cool colours of the Quebec winter. Canadian materials figure prominently: walnut, granite, aluminum and wool. The major architectural feature is the "fleuve de lumière" or "river of light". Inspired by the Saint Lawrence River, this spectacular lighting system is approximately 30 metres long.
The Canadianness of the furnishings and works of art enriches the residence's heritage value. The marriage of period furniture and contemporary artwork creates a decor that reflects the country's history and its various artistic and cultural traditions.
Throughout the residence, tribute is paid to Canadian artists. Visitors can admire such paintings as Les 24 heures de l'Isle-aux-Oyes, by the renowned Jean-Paul Riopelle, a collection of Inuit artworks and the Grant de Longueuil epergne, a superb heritage treasure created in 1759.
The institution of Governor General is Canada's highest and oldest public office, dating back to the earliest days of New France. Today, the Governor General represents the Canadian Crown and carries out the responsibilities of Canada's Head of State.
The Governor General plays an active part in the country's democratic life by performing such functions as the summons, prorogation and dissolution of Parliament and by ensuring that the country always has a prime minister. The Governor General also receives leaders from around the world, meets Canadians in their community and serves as the Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Forces.
Both at Rideau Hall and at the Citadelle of Québec, the Governor General presents Canadians with the country's highest national honours, in recognition of acts of bravery and devotion or exceptional achievements in the arts, literature and community service.
During World War II, Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and William Lyon MacKenzie King were welcomed there by Governor General Athlone as part of the Quebec Conferences of 1943 and 1944. It was during these meetings that D-Day was conceived and the plans to rebuild Europe were developed.