In order to meet the requirements of James McGill's bequest, the RIAL had to secure a charter for the incorporation of the College. Following the transfer of the Burnside estate to the RIAL by the Trustees in 1820, a Royal Charter was granted by Lord Dalhousie, the Governor General of Canada on March 31, 1821, providing for the establishment of "McGill College." The Charter provided that the College should be deemed and taken as a University with the power of conferring degrees, and the Visitors of the College were the members of the RIAL.
Certified copies of the 1821 Charter, issued in 1833 by the Secretary and Registrar of Lower Canada, were transferred to the McGill University Archives in 1967. The copies were found in the Christ Church Cathedral vault (Montreal Gazette, May 17, 1940) and returned to then Principal James. The article speculates that Rev. John Bethune, Rector of Christ Church and Principal of McGill University (1835-1846), would have secured the Charter with the Church.
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