Henry "the Holy" St. Clair


by Niven Sinclair

The Sinclairs/St. Clairs remained loyal to the Roman Catholic faith until the late 17th century. Their commitment to defend the faith was expressed in their motto, "Commit thy work to God." So strong was their belief that they resisted the Reformation in 1517, long after most fellow Scots and many Europeans became Protestant. It was their strict loyalty to the Catholic Church and to the ruling Stuarts in Scotland which caused the Sinclairs/St. Clairs to lose favor with the succeeding Scottish Monarchs. Many branches of the Sinclair/St. Clair family still remain of the Catholic persuasion to this day.

Was Prince Henry a Catholic? There was no such religion as Protestantism at that time. Certainly Henry was not Hindu, Muslim, or a pagan. We know Henry was a Templar. Let us briefly review history during the earlier centuries. In 1118 AD the Templars were established to protect the Christian Pilgrims as they traveled to the Holy Land in Jerusalem. They served under the sole direction of the Pope! They remained in this capacity for two centuries, until Pope Clement V moved his seat from the Vatican to Avignon in France. Some say he was an impostor. There, he came under the strong influence of his nephew, King Philip "le Bel" of France. This was also the time when France had borrowed vast sums of money from the wealthy Templars. So huge was this indebtedness that King Philip chose to exterminate the Templars, rather than to pay back his obligations. This triggered the fateful Suppression Order, supported by the Pope. All nations were asked to capture the Templars. Scotland refused to obey the Suppression Order; because its King Robert the Bruce had been excommunicated from the Church for murdering John "the Red" Comyn in a church. Consequently, many Templars fled to safety with their treasures to Scotland. They went to Balantrodoch, their ancient outpost, located on the Sinclair estates near Edinburgh. The Sinclairs had been members of the Knights Templar ever since its founding in 1118. Were these Templars following the Catholic faith? They were! Ritual used by the Templars today attests to their firm religious beliefs. Of course the division of the Papacy between Rome and Avignon, underscored by the Suppression Order, disrupted their lines of affiliation with the Avignonese Pope. Bear in mind, Protestantism had not yet been born. The Templars maintained their Catholic faith.

During the 14th century, England under King Edward I (known as "the hammer of the Scots") was constantly attacking Scotland. It began with the Battle of Rosslyn in 1303 when the Scots beat the English decisively in three separate engagements. The English army had advanced in three columns, with 10,000 men in each. They were engaged and decisively defeated by the 6,000 strong Scottish army. This infuriated Edward I. In 1314 he marched North with a highly trained army, intent upon getting revenge in a battle at Bannockburn. The Scots won the battle, largely due to the intervention of the Knights Templar on the side of King Robert the Bruce, assisted by Sir William Sinclair and his two sons, William and Henry.

In appreciation of the role played by the Templars at the Battle of Bannockburn, and in an effort to disguise the presence of the Templars within his kingdom, he created the Royal Sovereign Order of Scotland. Robert the Bruce also appointed William Sinclair as the Grand Master of the Crafts and Guilds of Scotland. This became a hereditary position with the Sinclairs until another William Sinclair resigned the hereditary post of Grand Master for himself and his heirs. He was then immediately elected as the first Grand Master in the Scottish Grand Lodge of Speculative Masons in 1736.

In this hereditary chain, Prince Henry Sinclair became the Grand Master of the Crafts and Guilds of Scotland, as well as being a Knight Templar, pledged to protect the Christian ideals. He was known as Henry "the Holy" St. Clair. He was a true leader and was chosen as the Commander of a Templar inspired expedition to the New World in 1398. The Templars had found a temporary refuge in Scotland, but Scotland had neither the space nor the scope to accommodate them. They wanted a new land where their ideals could take root and flourish. They knew about the New World. Trade was already taking place. The New World beckoned.

His Venetian admiral, Antonio Zeno, said Prince Henry was a man "worthy of immortal memory because of his great bravery and goodness." He reached America 94 years before Columbus. He treated the indigenous people with respect, understanding, and consideration. He called them his "beloved sons", as he recognized they had the same underlying beliefs he had himself, namely that God and Nature was One. There is no doubt, Henry St. Clair practiced his faith in everything he did. Before he ended his stay in the New World, it is thought that he applied his experience and religious beliefs in building the Newport Tower, following the design lines of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

Henry was 13 years old at the time when he inherited the barony of Rosslyn. This youth was trained in martial arts with sword, spear, bow and arrow. Speaking Latin and French, he became a knight at the age of 21 years. His first wife, who died young, was the great-grand-daughter of King Magnus of Sweden and Norway. His second wife, Janet Halyburton of Dirleton Castle, bore him thirteen children. He was rewarded by Scotland's King David for a successful raid into England with the title of Lord Sinclair and the position of Lord Chief Justice of Scotland. Sinclair excelled in a furious time.

Henry Sinclair associated closely with the Scottish Masons. He was the Grand Master of Scottish Masons, an organization that had evolved from the suppressed Templars. Many of its members lived in the area near Sinclair's Rosslyn Castle. Their meeting place was Balantrodoch, a distance of only 15 miles. Ever since their forefathers, seventy years earlier, were exiled from the Holy Land and Europe, they had hidden their Templar origins. They eagerly wanted to find a land that was free from suppression, free from the fear of being put to death.

Sinclair was installed as the Jarl of Orkney and Lord of Shetland when he was only 24 years old. The earldom included the Faeroes, the Orkneys, the Shetlands. Sinclair held his appointment at the pleasure of King Hakon VI of Norway. Norway had ruled the islands since the ninth century. But, as "Jarl", he was next to royalty; there was almost no supervision from the Norwegian throne. Thus, he was called "Prince". He had authority to stamp coins, to make laws, remit crimes, wear a crown, and have a sword carried before him.

Before he was 35 years old, he constructed Kirkwall Castle for his headquarters in Orkney. A fleet of ships was built, larger than Norway's navy. Henry set out to affirm his rule the Faeroe Isles in the name of the King of Norway. Norway was hard-pressed to defend itself from Baltic pirates without Sinclair's assistance. It is interesting to note that Prince Henry brooded over his lack of guns. This was a new technology, developed at that time by the naval powers in the Mediterranean area. Cannons had proven effective for Carlo "the Lion" Zeno in defending Venice.

Henry Sinclair employed the services of Nicolo and Antonio Zeno, brothers of the most famous admiral of the time, Carlo Zeno. Nicolo had been an elector of the Doge and was one of the twelve Orators sent by the Venetian Senate with five galleys to Marseilles to carry the Pope and his court to Rome. Nicolo had also been captain of a galley in the war to protect the Genoese, and he was the Venetian ambassador to Ferrara in 1382. The Zenos brought to Sinclair the design of the first cannon used on ships.

Nicolo died in 1395, and Antonio became captain and navigator of Henry's fleet. They maintained the ship's log, the "Zeno Narrative". It told about a survey to make a map of Greenland in about 1393 by Nicolo Zeno. This Zeno Map of the North proved to be the most accurate map in existence for the next 150 years! And this "Narrative" has helped to prove that Sinclair sailed to America.

Henry Sinclair, his trusted friend, Sir James Gunn, Antonio Zeno, and his Templar friends planned a voyage to find this rich new land. After fitting out their thirteen barks, they took to the sea around April 1, 1398. with 200 - 300 men. Day after day they sailed. The Zeno document suggests they saw land at Newfoundland, but natives drove them away. Sailing farther, they came to Chedabucto Bay in Nova Scotia. They dropped anchor on the first of June in Guysborough harbor.

The Zeno Narrative provides only a limited description of the party's exploration. A hundred soldiers were dispatched to explore the source of smoke they saw swirling above a distant hill. It came from a great fire in the bottom of a hill, where a spring from which issued a certain substance like pitch ran into the sea. They also saw many people, half-wild, and living in caves. This was their first contact with the Micmac Indians. Geographical detective work, archaeology, modern science and various documents have pinpointed the burning hill as the asphalt area at Stellarton, about 50 miles direct from the head of Guysborough harbor.

The Zeno brothers called Prince Henry by the name of "Zichmni". This is an ancient translation of "Orkney", a shortened form for Prince of Orkney. >From the Zeno Narrative we read the following translation by Richard H. Major:

``So we brought our barks and our boats in to land, and we entered an excellent harbor, and we saw in the distance a great mountain that poured out smoke. .... there were great multitudes of people, half-wild and living in caves. These were very small of stature and very timid; for when they saw our people, they fled into their holes. .... When Zichmni heard this and noticed that the place had a wholesome and pure atmosphere, a fertile soil and good rivers and so many other attractions, he conceived the idea of staying there and founding a city.''

Some men, led by Antonio Zeno, returned home to Europe. The rest chose to remain with Prince Henry with two oar-powered boats. It is thought they wanted to establish a settlement. At last the Templars might have a home, free of suppression!

Prince Henry persuaded the Micmac Indians to act as guides in his exploration of Nova Scotia. He first thought it to be an island. The narrow isthmus at Bair Verte changed his mind. It was navigable by canoe to Cumberland Basin with a portage of only three miles. The trip along River Herbert toward Parrsboro included only one portage of just 400 yards in its 22-mile length. Sinclair may then have traveled on to Annapolis Basin and across the Micmac canoe route to Liverpool. By October, he was back on Green Hill, southwest of Pictou harbor, to attend a gathering of the Micmacs. "Twas the time for holding the great and yearly feast with dancing and merry games."

Next, he doubled back to Spencer Island, Minas Channel, and did some hunting. The meat of the animals was sliced and dried. The bones were chopped up and boiled in a big iron pot to extract the marrow.

Historians and investigators have discovered other sites in Nova Scotia, where Henry Sinclair probably visited. Evidence is not complete, but it is highly suggestive. A few locations include the Castle at the Cross, Oak Island and its Money Pit, and the Cannon of Louisburg Harbor.

The Castle at the Cross is atop Cadbury Hill and Gastonbury Tor, 17 miles from Chester, Nova Scotia. Only a mound of earth and stone remains today of the suspected ancient structure. Researchers believe 14th Century Norsemen and Scots built it, based on designs in the rubblework masonry. Several items were found around these ruins, including a much corroded pin, portion of a sword blade, wooden cones, and pieces of iron tools. From the scanty ruins, it is thought that the Castle had guard towers, main gate with pillars, and a dome or cone. Some historians believe this was a settlement by Prince Henry Sinclair, as shown in the lower left of the famous "Zeno Map" of the North. The Micmac legends describes Prince Henry's winter quarters in the vicinity of Advocate Harbor and Parrsboro. It was there, near Cape D'Or, that the explorers are thought to have built a new ship for their return voyage. The exact location is uncertain, however, mounds of dirt and stone formations have given archaeologists some clues. Here the Christian explorers would have celebrated Christmas, perhaps the first Christmas ever on American soil!

It is more than coincidence that a unique, primitive cannon was found about 1849 at Louisburg Harbor on Cape Breton Island. Presumably, this gun was from Prince Henry's fleet in 1398. It had eight rings around its barrel, and a detachable breech with a handle. Several very similar cannons are on display at the Naval Museum in Venice. These are the same type as those used by Carlo Zeno at the Battle of Chioggia. They became obsolete by the end of the 14th century. Later cannons were made in a single piece without that kind of barrel rings.

Oak Island in Mahone Bay of Golden River, Nova Scotia, is one of only two islands, in a group of 350, where oak trees can be found! These oaks are thought to have been planted by ancient mariners to serve as a navigational aid to find the Castle at the Cross. From Oak Island, looking toward the mainland of Nova Scotia, the river leading to the Castle is to the right. The Celtic word for "oak" also means both "right" and "door".

This island on the Atlantic side has captured much attention because of its Money Pit, which is shrouded by mystery. It is a deep hole at the center of Oak Island. An elaborate security system was devised, whereby anyone exploring its depths would trigger the flood tunnels. Is this the hiding place for gold panned from Golden River? Or did Prince Henry deposit some Templar treasures in this hiding place? Was the Holy Grail placed there for safekeeping?

The Pit was discovered by three boys in 1795. At a depth of two feet there was a layer of stones. At 10 feet lay the first of many oak log platforms, set at 10-foot intervals as the depth increased. In 1802, Onslow Company discovered more log platforms, going down 93 feet. In 1849, the Truro Company drilled augur holes near the existing cavity. At the 154-foot level the drill went through a 5-inch oak platform and dropped another 12 inches farther until it struck another oak platform. Then it went through 22 inches of metal scrap, including an ancient watch chain! Oak timbers reappeared at a deeper depth, followed by another 22-inch layer of metal fragments. After the next layer of oak, they found 6 inches of spruce wood. Still other digs produced some scraps of parchment, with letters that looked like "vi" in hand script. At the 171-foot level an iron plate appeared. Coconut fibre, not native, was dated to be of 14th century origin! Then in 1909, the famous treasure hunter, Franklin D. Roosevelt many shares in Old Gold Salvage & Wrecking Company, which did more exploring at the Money Pit, but to no avail. More than $2 million has been expended on this Money Pit!

The Micmac Indians have a custom of preserving their history, and passing it along to the next generations, by their legends. This tradition continues today. Historians have studied these Legends. There are seventeen striking similarities between Glooscap and Prince Henry. Even the name "Glooscap" in Indian tongue, sounds like the combination of "Jarl Sinclair"! References to his personal features and qualities are too coincidental to be by accident. Until then, the Indians did not know how to fish with nets. Europeans were introduced to corn at this time in history. The large sailboat of Prince Henry was called "floating island" by the Indians. A quotation from the Micmac legends follow:

"Kuloskap was the first,
First and greatest,
To come into our land -
Into Nova Scotia, Canada,
Into Maine, into Wabanaki,
The land of sunrise, or Light.
Thus it was Kuloskap the Great
Made man: He took his arrows
And shot a tree, the ash,
Known as the basket-tree.
From the hole made by the arrow
Came forth new forms, and these
Were the first of human kind.
And so the Lord gave them a name
Meaning "those born from trees".
Kuloskap the Lord of Light
Made all the animals.
First he created
All of giant size;
Such was the beginning."

In the springtime, the European explorers loaded up in their ships and traveled southward, perhaps carried by a northeaster, to the New England Coast, just north of Boston. Perhaps their southward voyage was planned, seeking more evidence of the peacefulness of this "rich and populous land".

Evidence indicates they travelled up the Merrimack River to Stony Brook, which they followed as far as possible. The party landed and explored this new land, meeting peacefully with the Algonquin Indians. To the west they could see a hilltop, from which the Indians may have sent smoke signals.

In the springtime, the European explorers loaded their ships and traveled southward to the New England Coast, just north of Boston. Evidence indicates they travelled to the Merrimack River, then upstream to Stony Brook to its source. The party landed and spent the winter, living peacefully with the Algonquin Indians.

While hiking toward Prospect Hill, one of Prince Henry's companions by the name of Sir James Gunn died. In memory of their lost companion, the party carved a marker on the face of a horizontal stone ledge. Various sized holes were punched into the stone by a sharp tool, driven by a mallet. The image was that of a Scottish Knight, with a 39-inch long sword and shield, bearing the Gunn family insignia. Where glacial scratches or rock colorations existed, they were incorporated into the manmade picture. 

Located beside this ancient rock carving are four stone posts with heavy iron chains. A recent granite monument was erected by Allister MacDougall, the Town Historian, to honor Prince Henry Sinclair's companion. The inscription on the granite stone reads;

"Prince Henry First Sinclair of Orkney born in Scotland made a voyage of discovery to North America in 1398. After wintering in Nova Scotia he sailed to Massachusetts and on an inland expedition in 1399 to Prospect Hill to view the surrounding countryside, one of the party died. The punch-hole armorial effigy that adorns this ledge is a Memorial to this Knight."

If you take a very close look at the rock ledge, you will see the punched holes. They are very weather-worn. Someone has painted a shield on the rock surface, and this painting helps you see the punched holes. Natives in this town of Westford are familiar with their Westford Knight. Historian Frederick J. Pohl heard of these revelations and visited Westford to see the discovery for himself. He reported, "The following are undeniably manmade workings: the pommel, handle, and guard of the sword; below the guard the break across the blade suggests the death of the sword's owner; the crest above the pommel; a few holes at the sword's point; the punch-hole jess lines attached to the legs of the falcon; the bell-shaped hollows; the corner of the shield touching the pommel; the crescent on the shield; and the holes that form a decorative pattern on the pommel." Archaeologist James P. Whittall, among many others, has also studied the Westford Carvings extensively and he confirms these findings.


Return to Kelly's Index Page

More Info

Popular Pages