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This article is about the legendary Welsh prince. For other references, see Madoc (disambiguation).

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Madoc (Madoc ap Owain Gwynedd) was a purported Welsh prince who, according to legend, discovered America in 1170, over three hundred years before Christopher Columbus's voyages in 1492.

His father, Owain Gwynedd had at least 13 children from his two wives, and several more born out of wedlock, among them Madoc and his brother Riryd. Upon his father's death in 1170, fighting broke out among the possible successors. Madoc was disheartened and, according to legend, set sail to explore the western sea and discovered a distant and abundant land. He returned to Wales to recruit settlers and then sailed west a second time, never to return. Madoc's landing place has been suggested to be Mobile Bay in what is now Alabama in the United States.

The legend continues with the speculation that these early Welsh settlers were absorbed by groups of Native Americans. The Mandan tribe, strikingly different from their neighbors in culture, language and appearance, was suggested as descendants of Madoc and his fellow voyagers. Stories of Welsh-speaking Indians were popular enough that even Lewis and Clark were ordered to look out for them, and folklore has long claimed that Louisville, Kentucky was once home to a colony of Welsh-speaking Indians.

Possibly the first written account of Madoc's story is found in the Voyages of Richard Hakluyt (1582); the Historie of Cambria by David Powel (1584) also contains an early version.

John Dee mentioned the Madoc legend as early as 1577. Dee claimed that King Arthur had won a vast empire in the North Atlantic and that the voyages of Madoc had confirmed the claim of the Welsh to those territories. By the age of Elizabeth I of England, Dee asserted, they were under the sovereignty of the queen as successor to the Welsh princes (Elizabeth, as a member of the Tudor dynasty, being of Welsh stock herself). Basically Dee make the assertion as a priority claim on North America for England (by then including Wales) over those of other nations.

Recent (and highly speculative) research by Alan Wilson, Baram Blackett and Jim Michael suggests an even earlier date (and a different person) behind the myth. Taking a hint from early Welsh texts which mention another son of King Arthur's father Uther Pendragon named Madog, Wilson, Blackett and Michael attribute the legendary voyage to the 6th century. Using radiocarbon dating and DNA profiling methods on artifacts and human remains found in the US Midwest and in Wales, they claim to have found indications that the Khumric (Welsh) Prince Madog Morfran ap Meurig ("the Cormorant"), brother of King Arthur II, left Wales to found colonies in America when debris falling from a comet destroyed the land in 562 CE.

This theory has not convinced mainline anthropologists or historians, however; most still doubt that a Madoc ever made a trip to North America, and some doubt the prince existed at all.

Several local guest houses and pubs are called Prince Madoc in his memory. However, according to this ( source, the town of Porthmadog (until 1974, Porthmadoc, Port Madoc) and village of Tremadog in the county of Gwynedd are named after the industrialist and Member of Parliament William Alexander Maddocks (1773–1828).

The Prince Madog, the University of Wales' new research vessel, set sail on 2001-07-26 on her maiden voyage.

The most influential version of the story is given by Robert Southey in his poem Madoc. This epic inspired Paul Muldoon to write Madoc — A Mystery, a long, multi-layered poem which won him the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize. It explores the Madoc legend, mostly through association with Southey and Samuel Taylor Coleridge who in 1794 had played with the idea of going to America to set up an "ideal state".


  • Powel, David (editor) (1585): Historiae Libri Sex, Magna Et Fide Et Diligentia Conscripti: Ad Britannici codicis fidem correcti...prefixus est catalogus Regem Britanniae: per Davidem Pouelum... [Including:] Giraldus Cambriensis, Itinerarium Cambriae... & Cambriae Descriptio. London: 8vo. Henry Denham & Ralph Newbury for Edmund Bollifant.
    (This is actually an abridgement of Geoffrey of Monmouth's (1100?–1154) Historia regum Britanniae, together with Giraldus de Barri's (1146?–1220?) Itinerarium Cambriae and Cambriae Descriptio, each with their own title-page.)
  • Pugh, Ellen (1970): Brave His Soul: The Story of Prince Madog of Wales and His Discovery of America in 1170. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company. ISBN 0396061907
  • Wilson, Alan / Blackett, Anthony Thomas (1981): King Arthur, II King of Glamorgan and Gwent. : M.T. Byrd (Arthurian History). ISBN 0862850010
  • Olson, Dana (1987): The Legend of Prince Madoc Discoverer of America in 1170 a.D. and the History of the Welsh Colonists Also Known as the White Indians Or the Moon-Eyed People.
  • Muldoon, Paul (1990): Madoc: A Mystery. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 0571144888 – New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 0374195579
  • Gilbert, Adrian / Wilson, Alan / Blackett, Baram (1999): The Holy Kingdom: Quest for the Real King Arthur. : Corgi Adult. ISBN 0552144894
  • Davies, John (1990): A History of Wales. London: Penguin Books. ISBN 0140145818.


  • Southey, Robert (1812): Madoc (, an epic poem in two vols.

External links

  • Biography at the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online (
  • MADOC 1170 (Howard Kimberley) ( ("Sources of Evidence")
  • The Church of Y Tylwyth Teg ( (Wanner, Jayne: "A Consideration: Was America Discovered in 1170 by Prince Madoc ab Owain Gwynedd of Wales?")
  • Adrian Gilbert ( (advert for Gilbert/Wilson/Blackett, The Holy Kingdom with summary)
  • Early British Kingdoms (David Nash Ford) ( ("Mynydd-y-Gaer: Burial Place of Uther, Arthur or Athrwys?")
  • NewsWales ( ("Did the Welsh discover America?" – 2002-08-26)
  • icWales ( ("New row over who discovered America" – 2004-03-09)de:Madoc

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