The state of Maryland is obviously named after a Mary, but which one?
It’s Henrietta Maria (1609-99), queen-consort of King Charles I. The colony was so named in the royal charter of 20 June 1632 establishing it.1
The founders of the colony, George and Cæcilius Calvert, the 1st and 2nd Lords Baltimore, were staunch Roman Catholics and sought to establish a Catholic colony in the Americas. It is commonly thought that they named it after either the Virgin Mary or the Catholic Queen Mary, but this is not the case. Henrietta Maria, a French princess, was Roman Catholic and served the dual purpose of being both a Catholic namesake and a politically astute choice.2
1Oxford English Dictionary, Maryland, n., June 2008, Oxford University Press, accessed 24 Dec 2008 <http://dictionary.oed.com/cgi/entry/00302719>;
Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language Unabridged, edited by Philip Babcock Gove (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, 1993), 1387.
2Illustrated Dictionary of Place Names: United States and Canada, edited by Kelsie B. Harder (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1976), 324.
Copyright 1997-2013, by David Wilton