Queen's was granted its Royal Charter on October 16, 1841 and later that year, the university established that date as University Day to commemorate the occasion. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, University Day was celebrated with a series of track and field competitions for students (including some traditional Scottish events such as the caber toss) and was a much anticipated date on the university calendar.
The festive atmosphere of those competitions is captured in the old novel Miriam of Queen's which describes university life in the early 20th century. Despite periodic attempts to revive the holiday, it has not been widely or enthusiastically celebrated since the Second World War.
During Queen's sesquicentennial celebrations in 1991, University Day was the occasion of numerous festivities, including a visit from then Governor General Ray Hnatyshyn.