Soon Claiborne had bigger problems than dealing with his business partners. In 1632, Charles I granted land to Sir George Calvert, Baron of Baltimore. Calvert had been a high official under James I and still had much influence at court. He had begun with a grant of land in Newfoundland, in 1627, but found the climate too cold and was looking for land close to Virginia. In part to block the Dutch expansion southward, he was given land north of Virginia. When the boundaries were drawn, it turned out the Kent Island now belonged to the Calverts.
The twists and turns of the following 40 year tug-of-war are fascinating. I will try to condense them a bit. I am, of course, on Claiborne’s side and feel he was hard done by. He had many friends and supporters in Virginia. He took his case to whoever would listen in England. Unfortunately, Charles I was inconsistent and would issue conflicting decrees and Calvert, Lord Baltimore had more influence than Claiborne and his supporters.
Claiborne seems not to have instigated the fight, but he never stood down. Calvert’s side took over the island in 1638 when Claiborne was back in England seeking a legal solution. They captured the men he had left in charge and hanged a few of them and transported all the other settlers off the island. They seized one of his ships. They insisted he had no right to trade in their territory and therefore it was a pirate vessel. At this point, Claiborne armed his vessels and there was a brief “naval engagement”. He was declared an outlaw in Maryland.
In an interesting aside, the uncle of Elizabeth, Claiborne’s wife, offered William the opportunity to buy an island off the coast of Honduras as a replacement for Kent island. Claiborne was short of funds and declined.
And he did not give up on Kent Island. In the 1640’s, the war between the Puritans under Cromwell and the royal supporters began to influence the colonies. With Cromwell’s victory and the beheading of Charles I and the rule of the Commonwealth, the balance of power in America changed. Maryland, which had been a Catholic haven, was without support. Claiborne felt it was time to retake Kent Island.
In 1643 he led a group of old residents of the island back to the devastated land, but had to return to Jamestown because he had no support from Virginia for his occupation of Kent. But when Cromwell came to power in 1649, Claiborne was able to ally himself with the Puritan cause, and was appointed to a commission to reduce Virginia and Maryland to submission to the new government. Governor Berkeley of Virginia was ousted by the Virginia Assembly for siding with the king. Claiborne was reinstalled as Secretary of State. He was also dispatched to Maryland under the orders of the English Parliament to take control of that colony, which was torn between Catholics and Puritans.
However, by 1657, Lord Baltimore had pledged his loyalty to Cromwell and was again in control in Maryland. Although Claiborne continued to press his claim to Kent Island until his death in 1677, he no longer attempted to rebuild his island community.