Did Scotsman Henry Sinclair beat Columbus to America by 94 years?

On 2 June 1398 Henry Sinclair (allegedly) became the first European to set foot in North America – almost 100 years before Christopher Columbus arrived to claim the credit.

Prince Henry St Clair (or Sinclair) statue in Orkney

Photograph by: cc SkyPilot59Prince Henry St Clair (or Sinclair) statue in Orkney

Henry, Jarl of Orkney and Baron of Roslin is believed to have landed in Nova Scotia before moving on to Massachusetts and staying a year in the New World.

The story appears to be collaborated by several possible clues, including a carved stone in Westford, Mass which looks to be inscribed with the outline of an armoured knight bearing the crest of Clan Gunn.

Supporters of Sinclair claim the stone could be a memorial to his companion Sir James Gunn who died in 1399 during the expedition.

There is also a legend among the Micmac people of Nova Scotia which tells of a ‘King’ with three daughters and many soldiers who visited from a faraway land and stayed a year. This story is said to fit with European accounts.

Perhaps the most intriguing ‘evidence’ can be found at Rosslyn Chapel near Edinburgh. Inside the chapel built by Henry Sinclair’s grandson in 1456, and depicted as a place of mystery in The of Da Vinci Code book and movie, there are strange carvings. These are said to show ears of new world corn or maize, a plant totally unknown in Europe when the chapel was built.

Henry Sinclair monument Nova Scotia

Photograph by: cc Dennis JarvisHenry Sinclair monument Nova Scotia

Opponents have derided the story of Henry arriving in North America before Columbus as fantasy based upon a 16th century hoax by two Italian brothers in 1558.

However, the Prince Henry Sinclair Society of North America disagree with the critics and in 1996 erected a 15-ton granite memorial at Halfway Cove in Guysborough County, Nova Scotia complete with a commemorative plaque.

Unfortunately Henry never returned to North America as he was killed around 1400 in Orkney during a battle with English invaders.