When the late Princess Diana's son Prince William of Wales, heir apparent to the British throne and grandson to Queen Elizabeth II, becomes King, it will be the first time in history that an English monarch is 1/16th American. Ancestors of Prince William and his brother Harry, sons of Princess Diana and Prince Charles, are from Coltons Point, also know as St. Clements Manor, settled 375 years ago near the mouth of the Potomac River.
How could this be you might ask? Good question. Because we thought we had run the British out of America a couple of centuries ago. But alas, one of the enduring mysteries of St. Clements Island and Coltons Point is the very strange history that abounds in this quiet little place lost in time yet just an hour from our nation's capitol. The first colony in the world to guarantee religious freedom, at a time when Catholics were being persecuted in England, everything about this place is mysterious.
And nothing is more mysterious than the first proprietors of the original St. Clements Manor, the Gerard family of England. Two of the Gerards, a brother and sister, were on the Ark and Dove in 1634 listed on the manifest as investors and gentlemen or women.
Some history books indicate that in 1633 when the Charter was first granted for Mary Land by King Charles II to the Calverts, well before the ships left for America, the King and Calvert gave a grant to the Gerard family for any land they wanted in the New World north of the Potomac River. If they did it would be indicative of the power and respect for the family.
You see, according to English Heraldry the Gerards trace their English heritage back to the 1100's to William Fitzgerald, (the Gerard family name was shortened from Fitzgerald to Gerard and also spelled Gerrard and Girard). William traveled with Richard Strongbow and was part of the force that took control of Ireland for the King of England. After that there were a lot of Sirs in the family over the years.
By the time of King Henry VIII the Gerard family was one of the most powerful Catholic families in England and never seemed to be prosecuted for being Catholic under the reins of Henry and Elizabeth I. During the later years of Elizabeth Sir Thomas Gerard began making plans to set up a colony in America where Catholics would be free of persecution.
Thus with George Calvert, an investor in Queen Elizabeth's efforts to colonize foreign lands, he helped finance the Calvert Maryland colony. George Calvert had also become a Catholic just when England was banning Catholics. Whatever the agreement between Gerard, Calvert and King Charles, two of the Gerard family members were dispatched on the first ships.
But the real Gerard claim was the charter for St. Clements Manor because the Gerard family was entrusted with the most sacred site of the expedition to establish religious freedom in America, St. Clements Island. History conscious England would normally protect National Treasurers like the first landing site in the New World guaranteeing religious freedom. It was another sign of the trust of the British crown in the Gerard family. Though the area was finally certified by surveys in 1639, since the 1634 landing it had been occupied by those in the first expedition.
In Father Andrew White's historic journal of the colonization it talks of St. Clements Island, the first landing site in the New World. It was here the first fort was built, the first Catholic Mass performed and the first peaceful encounter with Native Americans established the long term peaceful relationship. It was also in the St. Clements Manor area that Father White, thanks to the Indians, set up the first Catholic chapel in the New World.
For the first five years after the landing the St. Clements Manor area was one of just five settlement sites in all of the Maryland area where the Jesuit priests could go and meet with the Native Americans. It was considered safe enough for such interaction with the Native Americans. The site of the St. Clements Manor House complex became Coltons Point and has been lived in ever since.
Historians know that places like Jamestown, Plymouth and St. Mary's City all ceased to exist in their original sites by the 1690's. Thus Coltons Point was settled in 1634, chartered in 1638 and surveyed in 1639. Because of these reasons the St. Clements Manor area, now Coltons Point, is the oldest continuously lived in chartered settlement in all of colonial America.
Dr. Thomas Gerard, whose brother and sister were on the first ships, was the family member designated to settle and develop the New World holdings and he arrived with his family in 1638, immediately settling at Coltons Point (St. Clements Manor). In time his manor grew to one of the largest in all of America including over 20,000 acres. He also owned land in Virginia and he was a partner owning Capitol Hill, the land where the US Congress, Supreme Court and much of our federal government was build.
Gerard was an unusual person, exactly what King Charles would prefer. While Charles was a Protestant King with a Catholic Queen, Henrietta Maria from the powerful Medici family of France no less, Gerard was a Catholic from a powerful English family with a Protestant wife. When he reached America he built the first chapel for Catholics and Protestants on the Manor.
His Manor House in Coltons Point sat on the riverbank and faced the little Island where the landing took place. St. Clements Manor House was burnt down by the Protestants around 1645, rebuilt, burnt down by the English in 1713 and rebuilt, and finally destroyed by a hurricane in 1933. One day maybe it will be rebuilt on it's original site.
Gerard was the first doctor in Maryland, a gentleman and successful businessman. He was often at odds with the Calverts, the Lords from England, over the rights of the people versus the rights of the crown. After the protestant revolt in England his lands were seized for a time and he moved to his Virginia land. He was the neighbor and friend of John Washington, George Washington's great grandfather. In time two of his daughters married John Washington thus were step great grandmothers of our first President.
For those of you who find it odd that two sisters would marry the same person, regardless of the fact it was George Washington's great grandfather, a note on the Colonial ways. Way back then women were a rather rare feature in the early colonial days. Also death came early for many of the men. So to protect those women who choose to help settle the New World the families would often have the next available male or female marry the widows.
This was an extension of the rules of the English monarchy, the same rules that proved to be King Henry VIII's undoing. You see, his brother was King and died at age 15 in 1502 when Henry was just 10. Henry was thus required to marry his brother's widow, Catherine of Aragon, the daughter of Queen Isabella I of Spain (the same Isabella who sent Columbus to discover America). Catherine was much older and Henry had to wait until he was 17 before the marriage took place.
Well Henry had difficulty adjusting to the older woman and was enamored by younger women like the Boleyn sisters, having an affair with one and marrying the second, Anne. Anne forced him to divorce Catherine. Thus began the religious wars that tore Britain apart for the next 150 years. For her part Anne got beheaded but her daughter with Henry, Elizabeth, became Elizabeth I, one of the most beloved Queens of England. She never married. Hummm.
Back in the colonies when he died Dr. Thomas Gerard was buried alongside his first wife at the St. Clements manor House overlooking St. Clements Island. We believe both grave sites have been located three centuries later and along with St. Clements Island they should become one of the most historical sites in Southern Maryland. Meanwhile, numerous smaller manors within St. Clements Manor were given as gifts or sold. Frances Scott Key, composer of our National Anthem, was even born on St. Clements Manor.
In England where the rest of the Gerard family remained their royal bloodlines continued and both Prince Charles of Wales and Princess Diana are blood relatives of the Gerards. When Prince William becomes King he will be the first British Monarch who is 1/16th American. He is also 1/16th German, 1/16th Hungarian, 1/32nd Irish and 1/64th French.
That means our Coltons Point bloodline (Gerards) will have a son of Princess Diana, Prince William, who becomes King of England who is related to King Henry VIII, a new King whose ancestors were step great grandmothers to George Washington who defeated the English, and who is the first British King who is 1/16 American. No wonder we always liked Princess Diana.
Prince William of Wales, heir to the English throne, can trace his family to St. Clements Island and Coltons Point. We even know the gravesite of his ancestors here in Coltons Point who first arrived 375 years ago. We really must celebrate when Prince William becomes King. Better yet, why not start now in honor of the future King of England whose ancestors were our founders.