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


Last modified: 2011-10-21 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

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.

The Calvert Arms/King's Colors was the earliest one that I know to have been used in battle only by American forces. Endicott's flag of 1634, the New England flag of 1737 and the escutcheon ensign of 1701 were used by merchant vessels. The Three County Troop flag of Massachussets may have been used in King Philip's War of 1675 and 1676.

The last official use of this is unknown. The Third Maryland Regiment used the flag now also known as the cowpens flag at the battle of Cowpens, S. C. in the revolutionary war. The current Maryland flag was officially adopted in 1904. To the best of my knowledge, no other flag was used only by American colonial troops.

William M. Grimes-Wyatt, 24 January 1996

No original example or painting exists today. During the bi-centenial celebration in 1976, the Society of Colonial Wars in the State of Maryland had 100 hand sewn according to the minutes of the governor's council of 1755 when supplies were ordered from London for the war against the French and their Indian allies. Several others were hand sewn recently (at a fairly high cost, I might add). I had 500 mass produced in Taiwan on 240 denier polytex, a shiny silky material. The dates of the earliest and most recent usage are unknown other then the reproductions. I do not know if this flag was used on Maryland ships or just carried by troops in the field.
William M. Grimes-Wyatt, 7 February 1996

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 revolutiion. It was also used (with possibily 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