Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Leonard Calvert (ca. 1606-1647)
MSA SC 3520-198

Founding of Maryland - Educational Project for Elementary and Middle School Students
Maryland Public Television and Maryland State Archives (January-February 2003)
written by Maria A. Day, MSA Archival Intern

Leonard Calvert led the expedition of the ships Ark and Dove to Maryland in 1633. Leonard's older brother, Cecil Calvert, Second Lord Baltimore, had appointed Leonard to be Maryland's first Governor. Leonard carried with him a letter containing Cecil's "Instructions"  These "Instructions" described how to establish Maryland's first elected Assembly and provided a set of laws for the colony. As governor, Leonard was in charge of Maryland's militia, sea forces, court system, and finances.1 When the colonists landed in Virginia, Leonard hired Captain Henry Fleet to act as a guide. Leonard knew that Fleet would be a good guide, because Fleet had lived with Native American groups and spoke their languages.2  After the two ships anchored off St. Clement's Island in the Potomac River, Leonard Calvert and Captain Fleet met with the head chieftains of the Native Americans to obtain permission to settle. Calvert met first with the tayac of the Piscataway confederation and then with the lesser chieftain, or werowance, of the Yoacomoco Indians. The Yoacomoco werowance agreed to sell a village to the Calverts in exchange for gifts, trading guarantees, and protection from their enemies, the Susquehannock and Iroquois Indians. The Yoacomoco village land purchased by Leonard became the English settlement of St. Mary's City on March 27, 1634.3

Leonard's years as governor of the new colony were often difficult. William Claiborne went to King Charles I of England and claimed that the Calvert family had no right to land in Maryland because Claiborne and his fellow Kent Islanders had settled there and established a trading post with the Indians in 1631. The king ruled in favor of the Calverts and this made Claiborne and other Virginians enemies of the Maryland colony. The Susquehannock Indians also raided and attacked English settlements as well as Piscataway Indian villages during the 1630s and early 1640s.

Leonard did not stay in Maryland throughout the time he was governor. Twice he left the colony to visit England, in 1641/42 and 1643/44. He had a family in England, but because Catholic marriages were kept secret in England we do not know for certain whom he married. Some historians believe that Leonard's wife was Ann Brent, sister of Margaret and Giles Brent.4  We do know that Leonard had a son named William and a daughter named Anne who grew up in England.

To make matters worse for Leonard, the English Civil War came to the shores of the Chesapeake Bay in the 1640s. Parliamentary supporter, Captain Richard Ingle, and his men attacked and plundered St. Mary's City in 1645. Ingle captured some of Maryland's leaders. Some historians believe that Ingle coordinated his attack with William Claiborne.5  Certainly, Ingle wanted to claim the Maryland colony for England's Parliament. Leonard escaped capture by fleeing to Virginia, where he rallied other Maryland refugees and recruited Virginians as well. Leonard and his militia restored Proprietary control over the Maryland colony in 1647. However, Leonard died of an illness in the summer of the same year. Before he died, Leonard made a verbal will in front of witnesses, in which he named Margaret Brent to be the executor of his estate and commanded her to "Take all & pay all."  Margaret used money from both Leonard's estate and that of his brother, Lord Baltimore, to pay the men who had helped him regain control of Maryland. Leonard also named Thomas Greene as the new governor of Maryland.

1. Timothy B. Riordan, The Plundering Time: Maryland in the English Civil War, 1642-1650 (Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society, 2004), 2-7.
2. Frederick J. Fausz, "Present at the 'Creation'," Maryland Historical Magazine vol. 79 (Spring 1984), 15.
3. Fausz, 15.
4. For example, see Edward C. Papenfuse, et al, Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature, 190.
5. Rioridan discusses evidence for Richard Ingle and William Claiborne's collaboration on the attack, see 10-17.  For a general description of the attacks on Maryland during the English Civil War, see Aubrey C. Land, Colonial Maryland--A History (Millwood, NY: KTO Press, 1981), 45-49.
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