Chapters in our history

Royal Roads University is the only university in Canada located within a national historic site, and we act as stewards of the property.

We recognize four different chapters in the history of these unique lands. With deep appreciation, we continue to write our next chapter.

Traditional Lands of Xwsepsum and Lekwungen people (8,000 BCE – present)

The property known today as Hatley Park was originally part of the ancestral homelands of the Coast Salish people. Oral tradition and archaeological evidence indicate the region has been used by ancestors of the Xwsepsum (Esquimalt) and Lekwungen (Songhees) nations for thousands of years.

The lagoon provided shelter, and the intertidal clam beds were harvested extensively for food. The area was ideal for building a community, providing herbs for medicine, a beach and lagoon for fishing, and an immense forest for building materials. You can still find evidence of traditional uses by Indigenous people. Long, narrow strips of cedar bark were harvested from trees and could be used for weaving clothing and blankets, as well as rope and nets.

Royal Roads works in partnership with the Xwsepsum and Lekwungen nations to honour the history of their ancestral lands, incorporate Indigenous ways of knowing into our program curriculum and support Indigenous students in our school community. Read more about the Indigenous history of these Lands.

Dunsmuir estate (1907–1937)

BC's Lieutenant-Governor James Dunsmuir purchased the oceanfront property, which he envisioned as a country estate for his family. He commissioned architect Samuel Maclure to construct Hatley Castle and eventually built the Italian Gardens, farm and service buildings. James Dunsmuir lived on the property until his death in 1920; his wife, Laura, lived on the property until her death in 1937.

Military and naval training (1940–1995)

In 1940 the property became a training place for naval sub-lieutenants. It evolved to train Canadian naval and military service people through the establishment of HMCS Royal Roads, the Royal Canadian Naval College, RCN-RCAF Royal Roads, the Canadian Services College Royal Roads and eventually the Royal Roads Military College.

The final class of the Royal Roads Military College graduated in 1995, after which the military college was closed.

Royal Roads University (1995–present)

Royal Roads University was established as a public, applied research university in 1995. Since then we have offered relevant professional programs that allow students to transform their lives, advance their careers and tackle challenging global issues.

In 2020 we celebrated 25 years of delivering life-changing education. We look forward to our next 25 years with our updated strategic vision.