The ancestor of the regiment was formed in the early days of the First World War, when volunteers from all over Canada were being massed for training at Valcartier, Quebec, just outside of Quebec City. The first contingent of 30,000 volunteers, which became the 1st Canadian Division of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, were grouped into numbered battalions, regardless of origin. The existing reserve regiments were not mobilized, due to the belief of the Defence Minister, Sam Hughes, that a new "efficient" structure was required. In the process, the new structure failed to create French-speaking units, such as those that had existed in the reserves. Over 1000 French-Canadian volunteers were scattered into different English-speaking units. This was not an oversight. Ontario (Hughes's political base) was in the process of forbidding teaching in French, or of French, in the school system (Regulation 17), causing outrage in French Canada and a lack of support for the war of the "king and country" that was perceived as seeking to destroy the Francophone community in Canada.
The second contingent was based, more logically, on battalions raised and trained in the various military districts in which they had been recruited, but still on an impersonal numbered basis (with the exception of some with a Highland or Irish identity). Considerable political pressure in Quebec, along with public rallies, demanded the creation of French-speaking units to fight a war that many viewed as being right and necessary, despite the infamous Regulation 17 in Ontario. When the government relented, the first such unit was the 22nd (French Canadian) Infantry Battalion, CEF. The 22nd went to France as part of the 5th Canadian Brigade and the 2nd Canadian Division in September 1915, and fought with distinction in every major Canadian engagement until the end of the war. While other French-speaking units were also created, they were all broken up upon arrival in France to provide reinforcements for the 22nd, which suffered close to 4000 wounded and killed in the course of the war. Two members of the 22nd were awarded the Victoria Cross in that war, Lieutenant Jean Brillant and Corporal Joseph Kaeble.
After the war, the 22nd Battalion was disbanded on May 20, 1919, sharing the fate of the other numbered battalions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. However, in the post-war reorganizations of the army, public pressure, such as resolutions by the Legislature of Quebec as well as the City Council of Quebec City, demanded that a permanent French-language unit be created in the peace-time Regular Force, and accordingly a new regiment was created, made up of veterans of the 22nd Battalion, on April 1, 1921. Initially the regiment was simply the 22nd Regiment, but in June King George V approved renaming it The Royal 22nd Regiment. In 1928 the anomaly of a French-language unit with an English name was resolved, and the regiment became the Royal 22e Regiment.
In 1940, the regiment became the first Francophone Canadian unit to mount the King's Guard in London, and was the first of the three current Regular Force regiments to do so.
In the Second World War the regiment was part of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Brigade and the 1st Canadian Infantry Division and was involved in intense combat in Italy, (where Captain Paul Triquet earned the Victoria Cross) and later in the Netherlands and northwest Germany.
During the Korean War, 1951-1953, the regiment expanded to three battalions, each serving in turn as part of the Canadian brigade in the 1st Commonwealth Division. Thus the "Van Doos" represented one-third of Canada's infantry contingent throughout the war.
Pte. Patrick Cloutier, a 'Van Doo' perimeter sentry, and Mohawk Warrior Brad "Freddy Krueger" Larocque, a University of Saskatchewan economics student, face off.
During the Cold War the regular battalions of the regiment served, in turn, in West Germany for most of the period.
The regiment also served during the Oka Crisis. (see photo, right)
During the life of the Canadian Airborne Regiment (1968-1995) the 1er Commando was manned as a French-speaking sub-unit by soldiers of the Royal 22e Regiment.
In the 1950s, the Canadian Army promoted a scheme of administratively associating reserve infantry regiments with a regular one. Although this project did not make much progress in most of the army, three reserve regiments did join the Van Doos, becoming battalions of the Royal 22e Regiment:
In the case of Les Fusiliers du Saint-Laurent, the battalion designation was in a subsidiary title, but it became nevertheless, administratively, part of the Royal 22e Regiment. However, in 1968, Les Fusiliers du Saint-Laurent dropped the subsidiary title, and ended their administrative association with the R22eR.