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Land Office and Prerogative Court Records of Colonial Maryland
Volume 415, Page 85   View pdf image (33K)
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that the name, "Prerogative Court," was used in the records of the
Court for the first time.15


Talbot was the last Secretary to have jurisdiction in probate
matters. When Philip Calvert received a commission as Chan-
cellor and "Judge or Commissary Generall for Probate of wills" on
November 20, 1672, the office was divorced from that of the Secre-
tary forever.16 Calvert apparently did not like the term "Prerogative
Court," because from the time he was sworn in on April 24, 1673
until his death in 1682, it was never used in the records of the
Court. A few years after his death, the term reappeared in the
records and was used continuously until the end of the Court.
Col. Henry Darnall and Col. William Digges succeeded Philip
Calvert,17 both in his capacity as Commissary General and as
Chancellor. But with the appointment of Kenelm Cheseldyn, in
1693, the Commissary General became established as an officer in
his own right. In a few years, the office became one of the most
lucrative in the Colony and was eagerly sought after. It was not
unusual for two or three men to hold the office together and in 1722
four judges were named in the same commission.18 Usually, how-
ever, only one judge was appointed. The duties of the Commissary
General were similar to those of the Secretary in so far as he had
been concerned with probate matters. But as time passed the
Commissaries tended to confine their attention mainly to the hear-
ing of disputes and to leave the ordinary probate work of the Court
to the Chief Clerk and Register.


The office of Chief Clerk and Register of the Prerogative Court
appears to have had its origin in the office of "Clerke of the Secre-
taryes Office and the provinciall Courts." The first such clerk
to appear in the records of the Province is William Bretton, who
was serving in this capacity as early as 1647.19

15 Testamentary Proceedings 4A, 11.
16 Ibid., 5, 425.
17 Ibid., 13, flyleaf.

18 Ibid., 26, 71.

19 Arch. Md., IV, 324.


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Land Office and Prerogative Court Records of Colonial Maryland
Volume 415, Page 85   View pdf image (33K)
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