Letter from Sir George Calvert to the Marquess of Buckingham

Item author: Sir George Calvert
Item date: 16th November 1622
Grant Value: £1,200 [Smaller Libraries Fund]
Item cost: £3,120
Item date acquired: 2016
Item institution: Kiplin Hall

In June 2016 the Curator was alerted to a document being sold at Sotheby’s in July; this was a letter written to the Marquess of Buckingham by Sir George Calvert in November 1622, when Calvert was one of the two principal Secretaries of State to James I, with responsibility for external affairs. George Calvert was born on the Kiplin estate in 1579 and built Kiplin Hall in the early 1620s. In 1620 he founded a colony in Newfoundland, which he named Avalon. He was created 1st Baron Baltimore in 1625 and founded Maryland in 1632, just before his death.

Except for the original building, Kiplin Hall’s collections had nothing directly linked to George Calvert, which was a huge gap. The Maryland Historical Society bought the Calvert archives in the 19th century and they are kept at its headquarters in Baltimore. Kiplin’s archives have material relating to the 18th, 19th and 20th century families who owned the Hall and estate. This 3-page letter was written from George’s house in St Martin’s Lane in London and is full of fascinating references to current events and politics. It begins with the ‘rendring of Manhiem’ and events during the early years of what turned out to be the Thirty Years’ War, with mentions of the military leaders on both sides, the surrender of the British garrison towns in the Palatinate, regional rulers and British diplomats. Diplomats involved in negotiations for a possible marriage between the Spanish Infanta and the Prince of Wales, later Charles I, also feature, along with the new Lord Deputy of Ireland. The letter is now on display to visitors in Kiplin’s ‘Families’ Exhibition Room’ and has given us an excellent means of telling visitors about George Calvert’s political career. It also enables us to focus more on the Calvert period of Kiplin’s history and on our links with Maryland.

We are most grateful to the Friends of the National Library for their generous grant.  In tandem with our application to FNL, the Curator led a campaign to raise funds to enable us to purchase the letter. Pledges of support from the Friends and volunteers of Kiplin Hall, along with supporters in Maryland and other parts of America, brought in an extraordinary £4,000, plus Gift Aid on UK donations. This process was a great opportunity to involve Kiplin’s local and wider communities in this exciting acquisition. We have also been able to put the surplus funds to excellent use, purchasing a new laptop for our cataloguing volunteers and a sampler stitched by 10-year-old Ann Calvert in 1807, which was sold at auction locally. Most exciting, in mid-November, we purchased a further Calvert document from Swann Galleries in New York! This is an appendix from Richard Whitbourne's A Discourse and Discovery of New-Found-Land, published in November 1622, containing the text of letters written to George Calvert by Captain Edward Wynne, reporting from his colony of Avalon. This document will be displayed with the letter.

The Calvert letter, pages 2 & 3.
The Calvert letter, pages 2 & 3.
The letter on display at Kiplin Hall.
The letter on display at Kiplin Hall. Images courtesy of Kiplin Hall.