The Great Seal of Charles County
By John T. Marck
Charles County was created by an Order in Council of 1658. It is not to be confused with an earlier Charles County (1650-1653) known as Old Charles County. The County was named for Charles Calvert, Third Lord Baltimore, son and heir of Cecil Calvert, Second Lord Baltimore.
Charles County is well-known as historic tobacco land, and today carries out many customs of centuries ago. Charles County has a total area of five hundred two square miles; four hundred fifty-eight land and forty-four water. Its boundary extends to Prince George's County on the north and northeastern corner, and below that the Patuxent River and the northwestern section of St. Mary's County. To the South and West its boundary is the Potomac River, including the river itself to the Virginia shore. Generally the land surface is flat, ranging from one hundred to two hundred twenty feet above sea level.
In 1669, the General Assembly passed an act to prevent servants from running away. This act required that "there be a Seale devised and provided for Each County Court... with which Seale all writs and process of the Said Several and Respective County Commissioners and all passes for people departing out of the Said Counties for Foreign parts shall be sealed."
As Charles County did not have a seal from its beginning in 1658, it is speculated that one must have been acquired shortly after the passage of this act. To this day, no one has been able to locate an impression of this first seal. Evidence that the County Seals were changed when Maryland became a royal colony is found in the following item recorded in the Proceedings of the Governor and Council in 1692. It read, "Sir Thomas Lawrence humbly moves the Board for their advice and opinion what Seals to provide each County of the Providence, Resolved that the King's Arms with the names of the County inscribed be made for each County."
Impressions of this seal are found on the transcripts of records of two cases appealed from the Charles County Court to the Provincial Court in 1707 and 1712. Presumably, the use of the royal seals was discontinued after Maryland was restored to the Lord Proprietary, for the Seal affixed to a transcript made in 1721 bears the coat of arms of Lord Baltimore. It is likely this seal was the same or similar to the one in use before the royal seal was adopted.
By the year 1752, the Charles County Court was using another seal, that bears the Lord Baltimore coat of arms, but was slightly different in size and detail of the ornamentation. History indicates that this was the seal in use at least until the Revolution, when the colonists developed an aversion to all things British and devised other seals.
The present seal of Charles County was designed by Frederick Tilp, using the Great Seal of Maryland as the main motif. The seal is described as: "An earl's coronet on which the shield was surmounted borne by the Lords Baltimore only in relation to their American Province, to which was accorded by royal charter the rank of County Palatine."
A description of the coronet is a silver gilted band, covered with yellow lacquer. Five spheres atop the crown are plain silver balls. Between the silver balls are gold strawberry leaves. The white ermine between the crown and the shield has the characteristic black spots. The red and white colored cross in the shield symbolizes the arms of the Crossland family of the mother of the first Lord Baltimore. The date "1658" on the bottom of the County Seal is the date of the order of erection by the Colonial Governor, with the assent of the Council at the urging of the Proprietary.
In 1650, there was another Charles County in Maryland instigated by Lord Baltimore, which was located on the south and west shores of the Patuxent River, and included parts of what are now St. Mary's, Charles, and Prince George's Counties.
Copyright © 1990-2022 by John T. Marck. All Rights Reserved. This article and their accompanying seals, may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from the author. Maryland County Seals and Baltimore City Seal and their respective origin histories from: Maryland The Seventh State A History, © John T. Marck. All Rights Reserved. All Seals courtesy of the respective county, Office of the County Executive, Office of the County Commissioners and/or the Department of Tourism. Reprinted with permission.
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