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The legend of Prince Madoc

Many of our American visitors will be familiar with the story of Madoc, a prince of Wales who, in the twelfth century, is supposed to have discovered America. The story first appears in A True Reporte, written by Sir George Peckham in 1583.  This document supported the first Queen Elizabeth's claim to the New World.  It was repeated in Humphrey Llwyd's Historie of Cambria the next year.  In 1810, John Sevier, one of the founders of Tennessee wrote about a belief among the Cherokee Indians that there had been a Welsh-speaking Indian tribe.  Their chieftain was supposed to have told Sevier that he had heard his father and grandfather speak of a people called the Welsh, and that they had crossed the seas and landed at Mobile in Alabama. 

Welsh scholars have been long been sceptical, especially since the Madoc story was promoted in the 19th century by the bard Iolo Morganwg, someone not renowned for his devotion to accuracy in the sphere of history. For many Welshmen, however, the story has long had a certain resonance and Professor Hartmann tells us that "On January 13th 1804, an American President of Welsh ancestry, Thomas Jefferson, despatched a letter to another Welsh-American, Meriwether Lewis, containing a map of the Upper Missouri valley.  The map had been prepared by a third Welsh-American, John Evans." 
John Evans left his home in rural North Wales in 1792. He travelled to London and then across to remote parts of the USA in search of Madoc’s Welsh Indians.  Fuelled by the revival of ‘Madoc fever’ and the strong support of his London-Welsh contemporaries, the young weaver set out to rediscover the "Welsh Indians". He appears to have worked for a Spanish company in America and became a surveyor. Despite his best efforts, Welsh speaking Native Americans were not found but the legend lives on.  

John Weston

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