Prince Henry Sinclair


Prince Henry Sinclair

Prince Henry SinclairHenry Sinclair was born about 1345 into a family with great power and prestige in Scotland, France and Norway. The Sinclairs were Normans who came with William the Conqueror to England and had parlayed their relationships into an Earldom at Rosslyn. Henry received a good education and, upon his father's death in 1358, was proclaimed the Lord of Rosslyn.

Henry's first marriage was to the granddaughter of the King of Norway and Sweden. But she died young and apparently without issue. He later remarried and had by the time of his death a total of thirteen children. His life was full and one known for both his court and titles but also for a fascinating mystery that is still being unraveled to this day.

In 1369, Henry was named the Earl of Orkney and Lord of Shetland by Hakon VI King of Norway. This was rumored to have come by lineage of his mother, but others said it was a reward from his first marriage. Either way, he was now a man of considerable wealth and power and carried the title of Prince at age 24.

He was a vassal (in the feudal system, a vassal was a person granted the use of land in return for rendering homage) of both Scotland and Norway and that gave him considerable freedom. The responsibilities of his posts required ships and he started his own fleet to travel back and forth between Norway, The Orkneys and Rosslyn. Eventually this fleet numbered at least 13 ships, larger than the official fleet of Norway itself and he was named Admiral of the High Seas for Scotland. Henry received other titles during his life, including Duke of Oldenburg in Denmark, and Lord Chief Justice of Scotland. But the real controversy surrounding his life comes from the claim by his descendants that he discovered America in 1398 - nearly one hundred years before Columbus made the trip!

That he had the resources for such a voyage is without question. He had the fleet, the money and men to undertake such an expedition. Iceland and Greenland were already known to the world and were visited on occasion by fisherman and traders. But the document that proclaims this voyage is called the Zeno Narrative and was written by Nicolo Zeno's descendents 200 years after the voyage supposedly took place, which leaves much open to speculation.

In the Narrative, Nicolo Zeno brought back from Greenland a tale of fisherman having been blown by storm to the New World. This story highly interested Prince Henry Sinclair as he had heard similar stories from his subjects. With the Zenos as guides they allegedly left Scotland in the spring of 1398 in 12 ships and are said to have arrived in the Nova Scotia area in May of the same year, somewhere in the vicinity of Oak Island.

Many of the expedition returned shortly after arriving but some, including Sinclair, are said to have stayed exploring the land and making stops in Massachusetts and Rhode Island where evidence suggests they built the Newport Tower. Another piece of evidence to support the story is found in Westford, Massachusetts. There is found a carving in rock of a Knight Templar carrying a shield of the Gunn Clan. The Gunns were cousins of the Sinclairs in this time and according to the Narrative, Sir James Gunn died there.

After spending a year in this new land. Sinclair made the trip home in 1399 and was soon killed. Whether someone jealous of his knowledge did this is not clear. But there was an English expedition to conquer the Orkneys sent by King Henry IV in August 1400, which may be responsible for his death. Some also believe that this voyage had purposes other than just exploration, that Sinclair may have transported several of the Templars and some of their treasure to Nova Scotia where it was buried on Oak Island for safekeeping. The favored theory is that one of the items taken to Nova Scotia was no less than the Holy Grail itself.

BW, December 1999



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