Although the Ark and the Dove have never attracted the iconic status of the Pilgrim Fathers' Mayflower, both ships nevertheless played their part in one of the earliest migrations in colonial American history.
In 1627, a mere seven years after the Mayflower's historic voyage to New England, the Ark and the Dove- both probably brand-new although this remains unconfirmed - were used to convey Sir George Calvert, the 1st Baron Baltimore of Baltimore in Ireland (1580? - 1632) and his followers to Newfoundland in order to visit the colony of Avalon which he had established (in 1621) and for which he had obtained a Royal Charter in 1623. So impressed was Lord Baltimore with what he found that he returned the following year (1628) with his family to take up permanent residence. Unfortunately, the severe climate soon took its toll and Baltimore petitioned King Charles I for a fresh grant of land in a more temperate area of the New World. The Baltimore's Catholic faith caused many delays however, and by the time the new Royal Charter granting them the territory between the Potomac River and the 40th parallel was sealed on 20th June 1632, the first Baron had sadly been dead for two months. Thus, the charter was named in favour of Sir George's eldest son Cecil, the 2nd Baron Baltimore (1605-75), who promptly named the new colony Maryland in honour of the King's beloved daughter Princess Mary.
It took over a year for settlers to be recruited and sufficient provisions and stores assembled but, once done, the Ark and the Dove were again pressed into service and, on 22nd November 1633, the two ships set sail from England carrying 200 raw colonists seeking a new life in North America. The little squadron, under the command of Leonard Calvert, the new Lord Baltimore's younger brother, took four long months to cross the stormy Atlantic at the height of winter but finally made landfall at St. Clement's Island [now Blakiston Island] on 25th March 1634. Begun under favourable conditions, with Leonard Calvert as its first governor, the new colony flourished from the start and the Calvert family remained at its head until well into the eighteenth century.
The only contemporary depictions of Ark and Dove that are known to exist can be found in two plaster reliefs in a ceiling at Hook House, Wiltshire, the English family home of Anne Arundell, the wife of Cecil Calvert, the 2nd Baron Baltimore. These clearly show the Ark with a three-masted ship-rig but the Dove as a two-masted pinnace; however, since these reliefs were only discovered under a false ceiling in the early 1950s, it is highly unlikely that Montague Dawson would have seen them or even known of them. The fact that he has painted the two ships as three-masters is therefore perfectly understandable and this minor licence in no way detracts from this fascinating portrait of the two historic vessels which were instrumental in the foundation of the State of Maryland.