Madoc - Myth or Truth: Evidence from after 1500Myth or Truth: Introduction
Myth or Truth: Evidence from the medieval period
Myth or Truth: Evidence from after 1500
Pro-Madoc / Anti-Madog
Humphrey Llwyd, a physician, historian and geographer, and the creator of the first printed map of Wales, wrote a history of Wales around 1559. Basing his writings upon ancient Welsh texts and chronicles, included in his history the first recognisable account which we have of Madoc's voyage, and the first suggestion that Madoc had sailed to America. Llwyd died in 1568 and although his history remained unpublished his original manuscript was to become one of the influential foundations upon which the Madoc myth came to rest.
It is unclear where Humphrey Llwyd got his story from: the "old Welsh manuscript" he used has been lost, so it is unclear who wrote it or when. Apart from this lost text, there is very little medieval evidence for the existence of Madoc. And remember that Llwyd was writing after Columbus had visited America, so he knew that there was a continent there to be discovered.
The first unambiguous record which links Madoc to America comes from 1580, in a manuscript written by Dr John Dee, a remarkable character, and a brilliant scholar. The document was presented to Queen Elizabeth and declared that:
The Lord Madoc, son to Owain Gwynedd, Prince of North Wales, led a colony and inhabited in Terra Florida or thereabouts.
Dr John Dee had a motive for fabricating the evidence. He was an ardent supporter of imperial ideas and sought to prove that the Queen of England had a stronger right to the territories of North America than the King of Spain.
The first printed account of Madoc's journey was written in 1583, and a year later, the first printed history of Wales was published. Written by David Powel, this book's account of Madoc forms the basis of all the accounts that were to follow over the next two or three hundred years: he describes an initial voyage of discovery followed by a voyage of settlement.
It's quite clear that Powel has adapted the story for political purposes. He actually suggested that in his second voyage Madoc came to land in Mexico, and tried to prove this theory by quoting a speech made by an Aztec prince. Just like Dr John Dee, David Powel was trying hard to prove that Queen Elizabeth had a greater right to the wealth of North America than the King of Spain.
There are dozens of reports from the 1580s onwards regarding Welsh-speaking "Indians". Typical is the story of Morgan Jones, who claimed that in 1660 he had been captured by a hostile tribe in South Carolina, and when he was just about to be slain he cried out in Welsh. A Welsh-speaking Indian heard him and saved his life.
None of these stories are credible. Every expedition to find Welsh-speaking Indians failed.
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