Md. memorial to Calvert in England fulfills request made 35 years ago

May 11, 1996|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

LONDON -- In 1961, the Rev. Gordon C. Taylor came to Baltimore to spin a marvelous tale for the Maryland Historical Society. He spoke of searching through records to discover that Maryland's founder was buried in an unmarked grave on the site of a gorgeous old church named St. Giles-in-the-Fields.

Taylor, the rector of St. Giles since 1949, figured he might entice Marylanders to create a memorial to Cecil Calvert, the second Lord Baltimore. He just didn't count on it taking so long.

Yesterday, more than 300 people, including Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Adm. William J. Crowe Jr., U.S. ambassador to Britain, gathered at St. Giles to dedicate a memorial to Calvert more than 320 years after his death.

"I was rather mystified over the years on why nothing had happened," Taylor said.

In the 1950s, Taylor searched the church's burial records to compile a "list of worthies" to compete with Westminster Abbey.

A few writers, businessmen and politicians popped up in the St. Giles church records. Calvert's name also emerged.

Taylor gently lobbied most anyone from Maryland who would listen, saying his church had an exclusive tie to the state.

"By 1980, no one had taken it up, so I gave it up," he said.

But a year ago, Graham Thornton, of Maryland's tourism department, saw Calvert's name in the St. Giles burial registry and pushed for overdue honor.

It ended in style yesterday as Calvert was remembered in a church built about 40 years before the American Revolution.

There were prayers, songs and speeches celebrating Calvert's life and legacy. Members of the St. Mary's City (Md.) Militia were on hand, in 17th-century costume.

But there also was a monument, placed on the west wall of the church, near a World War I memorial. Joseph Moss of Edgewater, Md., sculpted the memorial out of slate and marble from the steps of a Baltimore rowhouse.

"At first, it was just another job," Moss said. "But as I was doing it, the project became more meaningful."

State officials could have easily shipped the 200-pound-plus memorial by air to Britain. But the memorial was brought across the Atlantic aboard the Pride of Baltimore II replica clipper ship before being transported on a horse-drawn carriage through the streets of central London.

In a few sentences, the memorial described the life and legacy of Cecilius Calvert, the "first proprietor of Maryland by charter from King Charles 1st."

The Calverts, a Catholic family, established a colony in 1634 in Maryland where settlers would be free from religious persecution.

"Cecil Calvert was a man of vision and a man of faith," Glendening said. "He believed in the future of American colonies. He supported religious tolerance both in England and in the colonies."

Glendening said Calvert represented the shared values that have bound the United States and Great Britain for centuries.

"These are the two great democracies of the world," he said. "To stand there in that church and honor Calvert was exciting and moving. But I hope people understand these shared values are always in a precarious position and we have to be on guard that these values are maintained."

A Calvert descendant said the memorial reaffirmed his faith in America.

"I'm overwhelmed," said George Henry Calvert of west England. "I thought America didn't like us because of the War of Independence. This proves it to me -- though the gesture for Cecil Calvert is a little bit late."

Pub Date: 5/11/96

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