In 1629, George Calvert, 1st Lord Baltimore in the Irish House of Lords, fresh from his failure further north with Newfoundland's Avalon colony, applied to Charles I for a new royal charter for what was to become the Province of Maryland. Calvert's interest in creating a colony derived from his Catholicism and his desire for the creation of a haven for Catholics in the new world. In addition, he was familiar with the fortunes that had been made in tobacco in Virginia, and hoped to recoup some of the financial losses he had sustained in his earlier colonial venture in Newfoundland. George Calvert died in April 1632, but a charter for "Maryland Colony" (in Latin, "Terra Maria") was granted to his son, Cæcilius Calvert, 2nd Lord Baltimore, on June 20, 1632. The new colony was named in honor of Henrietta Maria, Queen Consort of Charles I. The specific name given in the charter was phrased "Terra Mariae, anglice, Maryland". The English name was preferred over the Latin due in part to the undesired association of "Mariae" with the Spanish Jesuit Juan de Mariana. Leonard, Cæcilius' younger brother, was put in charge of the expedition because Cæcilius did not want to go.
To try to gain settlers, Maryland used what is known as the headright system, which originated in Jamestown. The government awarded land to people who transported colonists to Maryland.
On March 25, 1634, Lord Baltimore sent the first settlers into this area. Although most of the settlers were Protestants, Maryland soon became one of the few regions in the British Empire where Catholics held the highest positions of political authority. Maryland was also one of the key destinations of tens of thousands of British convicts.