Saturday, January 3, 2009
The Legend of Prince Madoc of Wales
One of the more unique legends to be found in the South is the tale of Prince Madoc of Wales.
The story has been around for hundreds of years and a British writer, John Williams, published "An Enquiry" into the legend as early as 1791. In his research he uncovered previous histories of Madoc's alleged journeys dating back to the year 1584.
As the story goes, Madoc was the son of a noted leader of Wales. When his father was killed in 1170, Madoc allegedly set sail with a group of followers in a small flotilla of ships to explore the "western sea." After many days of sailing he discovered a "land unknown, where he saw many strange things."
Leaving many of his men in this new unknown land, Madoc returned to Wales for additional men and supplies. He then returned to the new country in a fleet of ten ships.
The truth of the legends is simply not known. No original documents from Madoc's time are known to exist, but it is certainly possible that such a journey took place as early Viking explorers found their way as far west as Newfoundland in Canada. It is also possible, as some historians suggest, that Madoc was invented by English speculators during the 1500s to establish a prior claim to North America at the time the country was in a fierce rivalry with Spain for possession of the new lands across the Atlantic.
Either way, the story of Madoc has become a popular part of Southern folklore. One school of thought holds that the Welsh explorer landed on Mobile Bay and made his way north into the mountains of Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee.
At DeSoto Falls in Alabama, for example, several small rooms can be found carved into the side of a steep cliff (photo above). Local tradition claims that they were part of a fort built by Madoc and his fellow explorers. Similar stories are told about locations in Georgia and Tennessee.
To read more about the site of the alleged Welsh fort in Alabama, please visit our new DeSoto Falls page at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/desotofalls1.