The Legend of Madoc

Owen Gwyneth, the King of North Wales, died in 1169. He left many children, legitimate and illegitimate. There was a battle for succession to Owne’s throne. Yorweth, the eldest, stepped aside for Hoel (an illegitimate son with an Irish mother), until slain by David (eldest son by a second wife). David set about killing and exiling his rivals.

Madoc, one of these other sons, fled by sea from Penrhyn Bay, Wales. (An ancient harbor wall was unearthed there in 1950.) He reached a land to the West, and was so impressed that he decided to return with glowing stories to get entice more people to settle with him. However, he disappeared on this journey.

According to some sources, there is “evidence” that he reached America and his people eventually arrived and settled on the southern branches of the Missouri River. The story was that these people had a Welsh complexion, languages and arts. It is speculated that Madoc had arrived at the site where Mobile, Alabama is today. There are some fort-like structures on Lookout Mountain that pre-date Columbus and are similar in structure to Welsh forts of the time.

This legend of the twelfth century did not gain literary popularity until the sixteenth century, which leads to the question —why the gap?. Retellings of the Madoc story appeared in works by John Dee (1578), Sir George Peckham (1583), David Powell (1584), and Richard Hakluyt (1584). The next entry was Sir Thomas Herbert’s “A Relation of some Years Travaile…, (1634). Evans may have read the 1732 book called The Turkish Spy, in which the legend was detailed.

Read Robert Southey’s poem of 1805, “Madoc.”

Read a discussion of this topic in the article, “The Delights and Dilemmas of Diversity: The Ethnic Factor in Canadian History”
by Dr. C. J. Jaenen on the Manitoba Historical Society Web Site.