Prince Madoc ab Owain Gwynedd

Madoc ab Owain Gwynedd (also spelled Madog) was, according to folklore, a Welsh prince who sailed to the Americas in 1170, over three hundred years before Christopher Columbus's voyage in 1492.

According to the story, he was a son of Owain Gwynedd, and took to the sea to flee internecine violence at home. The "Madoc story" legend evidently evolved out of a medieval tradition about a Welsh hero's sea voyage, to which only allusions survive. However, it attained its greatest prominence during the Elizabethan era, when English and Welsh writers wrote of the claim that Madoc had come to the Americas as an assertion of prior discovery, and hence legal possession, of North America by the Kingdom of England.[1][2]

The Madoc story remained popular in later centuries, and a later development asserted that Madoc's voyagers had intermarried with local Native Americans, and that their Welsh-speaking descendants still live somewhere in the United States. These "Welsh Indians" were credited with the construction of a number of landmarks throughout the Midwestern United States, and a number of white travelers were inspired to go look for them. The Madoc story has been the subject of much speculation in the context of possible pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact. No conclusive archaeological proof of such a man or his voyages has been found in the New or Old World; however, speculation abounds connecting him with certain sites, such as Devil's Backbone, located on the Ohio River at Fourteen Mile Creek near Louisville, Kentucky.[3]


A map of c. 1577 depicting Conwy, Penrhyn, and Llandrighlo (Rhos-on-Sea) Madoc's purported father, Owain Gwynedd, was a real king of Gwynedd during the 12th century and is widely considered one of the greatest Welsh rulers of the Middle Ages. His reign was fraught with battles with other Welsh princes and with Henry II of England. At his death in 1170, a bloody dispute broke out between his heir, Hywel the Poet-Prince, and Owain's younger sons, Maelgwn, Rhodri, and led by Dafydd, two the children of the Princess-Dowager Cristen ferch Gronwy and one the child of Gwladus ferch Llywarch. Owain had at least 13 children from his two wives and several more children born out of wedlock but legally acknowledged under Welsh tradition. According to the legend, Madoc and his brother (Rhirid or Rhiryd) were among them, though no contemporary record attests to this.

The 1584 Historie of Cambria by David Powel says that Madoc was disheartened by this family fighting, and that he and Rhirid set sail from Llandrillo (Rhos-on-Sea) in the cantref of Rhos to explore the western ocean.[A] They purportedly discovered a distant and abundant land in 1170 where about one hundred men, women and children disembarked to form a colony. According to Humphrey Llwyd's 1559 Cronica Walliae and in many other copied sources, Madoc and some others returned to Wales to recruit additional settlers.[5] After gathering eleven ships and 120 men, women and children, the Prince and his recruiters sailed west a second time to "that Westerne countrie" and ported in "Mexico", a fact that too was cited by Reuben T. Durrett in his work Traditions of the earliest visits of foreigners to north America,[6] and stated he was never to return to Wales again.[7]

Madoc's landing place has also been suggested to be "Mobile, Alabama; Florida; Newfoundland; Newport, Rhode Island; Yarmouth, Nova Scotia; Virginia; points in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean including the mouth of the Mississippi River; the Yucatan; the isthmus of Tehuantepec, Panama; the Caribbean coast of South America; various islands in the West Indies and the Bahamas along with Bermuda; and the mouth of the Amazon River".[8] Although the folklore tradition acknowledges that no witness ever returned from the second colonial expedition to report this, the story continues that Madoc's colonists travelled up the vast river systems of North America, raising structures and encountering friendly and unfriendly tribes of Native Americans before finally settling down somewhere in the Midwest or the Great Plains.[9] They are reported to be the founders of various civilisations such as the Aztec, the Maya and the Inca.[8] Source


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