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Calvert Arms/King's Colors (U.S.)


Last modified: 2016-02-27 by rick wyatt
Keywords: calvert arms | grand union | king's colors | maryland | united states |
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[Calvert Arms Flag] image by Rick Wyatt, 31 July 1997

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Description of the flag

The Calvert Arms/King's Colors has the antique gold and black diamonds of the Calvert coat of arms as the field. The Calverts were the Lords Baltimore, lords proprietors of the Royal Colony of Maryland. This is the same design that is used in the first and fourth quarters of the flag of the State of Maryland. The King's Colors of 1606 is used as the canton, yielding a black, gold, red, white, and blue flag.
William M. Grimes-Wyatt, 24 January 1996

The use of the king's colors as a canton on the Calvert color has no documented use. While this may have been ordered from London in 1755 there is no documentation that it was ever produced and or received and used here during any period. This flag, sometimes called incorrectly as the "Maryland Colonial" flag is a creation that was ordered by the governor of Maryland in 1976 for the bi-centennial at the WHC (Women's House of Correction) in Jessup, as the design he liked with no historical proof that it was ever flown in Maryland. As others have stated and the only documentation or mention of a Maryland flag during the revolutionary period and earlier almost always refers to the Black and Gold Calvert arms.

The Calvert/Kings Colors is therefore only a subjective rendering at best and not a flag that was actually used. Even the State park historian at Fort Frederick Md. will tell you that the flag being flown today at the fort has no historical provenance.
Karl Feldmeyer, 7 October 2015

History of the flag

The earliest use and display of this flag is unknown at this time. A description appears in the minutes of the Governor's council of 1755 when Maryland ordered guns and powder from London, for the campaign against the French. Lord Braddock, with his Aide, Col. G. Washington, and 1,200 regulars and provincial troops from Maryland and Virginia were ambushed and defeated by the French and their Indian allies near Fort Duquesne (now Pittsburg) in July, 1755. The Maryland Militia fought under the Calvert Arms/King's Colours. I have not been able to locate any reference to any flags, other then the British flag, that was flown by the Virginia militia in their expedition of 1754. This may have been the first non-British flag to go into battle with George Washington.
William M. Grimes-Wyatt, 24 January 1996

No original example or painting exists today.
William M. Grimes-Wyatt, 7 February 1996

Calvert Arms/King's Colours were two separate colors or flags. There is no documented proof either in period documentation or existing original colors to support the statement that this was the earliest color to have been used in battle only by American forces.
Karl Feldmeyer, 7 October 2015

Calvert Arms/Grand Union

Scooter refers to the Maryland colonial flag as the Calvert Arms/Grand Union flag. I prefer to use the name Calvert Arms/King's Colors. The Grand Union flag had the King's Colors in the canton of a 13 red and white striped flag. It was said to have been made by adding 6 white stripes to the red ensign of the day during the American Revolution. This is depicted in a painting of Philadelphia some 20 years prior to the revolution. It was also used (with possibly another number of stripes) by the East Indies Company.
William M. Grimes-Wyatt, 9 May 1996

In my research of the flags of Maryland, there is a flag mentioned in the state's annals of 1755 as being ordered from London to be flown by Maryland troops in the French and Indian War. This flag is a banner of the Calvert arms with the British Union in the canton. It is named in every source I have read, as the Calvert Arms-Grand Union flag.

To an American, the Grand Union is the name of a specific flag which does not appear in any Maryland flag. The Grand Union is the name commonly given to the flag of the American colonies of Britain pre-1776; there is some disagreement on its official status (at least in my source), but it was believed to have been used about 1775. This is a flag of 13 red and white horizontal stripes with the British Union in the canton, and is generally taken to be the precursor to the flag of the United States.

However, my feeling -- no source here, just speculation -- is that the Union Flag of 1603, representing the rule of James VI (Scotland)/James I (England), may in fact have been referred to as the "Grand Union" before ending up with the now more common (if technically incorrect) appellation of the "Union Jack". So, in fact, the Maryland flag of 1755, which predates the "Grand Union" of the U.S., was named after the British style (the request from the Governor of Maryland describes it as "...with the Union in one corner.")
Steve "Scooter" Kramer, 1 July 1996

Steve (Scooter) Kramer refers to the Maryland Militia flag of the French & Indian War era as the Calvert Arms-Grand Union flag. It was ordered from London in 1755 together with arms and powder for the conflict with the French and their Indian allies. The Society of Colonial Wars in the State of Maryland had less than 100 reproduced at the women's prison in 1976. They recently had another batch reproduced by a local manufacturer. I had 500 reproduced in Taiwan and sell them for 1/4 the price of the other ones. I list them as "CALVERT ARMS/KING'S COLOR" because that is what they are and what the Governor of Maryland ordered in 1755. He ordered a "black and gold flag" (to Marylanders this would have been the coat of arms of Lord Baltimore, the proprietor of the Province of Maryland) with the Union in the corner (this would have been the union flag commonly called the "King's Colors". If anyone has any evidence that the flag now called the "King's Colors" was indeed known as the "Grand Union", I would appreciate being informed. BTW Maryland may be unique in that it was not founded as a colony, but was a province of the United Kingdom and the governor was appointed by the Baron Baltimore, not by the crown.
William M. Grimes-Wyatt, 3 July 1996