Henry Sinclair, 1st Earl of Orkney

Is your surname Sinclair?

Research the Sinclair family

Henry Sinclair, 1st Earl of Orkney's Geni Profile

Records for Henry Sinclair

903,198 Records

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!


Henry Sinclair, 1st Earl of Orkney

Also Known As: "Henry St. Clair"
Birthplace: Chapel Loan, Roslin, Midlothian, Scotland
Death: Died in Orkney Islands, UK
Cause of death: Killed By English Seamen Defending Orkney
Immediate Family:

Son of William Sinclair of Roslin and Isabel Graham of Strathearn
Husband of Florentia Magnusdottir St. Clair, of Denmark and Jean Haliburton Sinclair
Father of Elizabeth Sinclair of Roslin; Jean Sinclair; Sir Henry Sinclair, 2nd Earl of Orkney; Mary Sinclair; William Sinclair and 3 others
Brother of Richard Sinclair of Deskford; John Williamson Sinclair; Margaret Sinclair and Catherine Seton

Occupation: 1st Earl of Orkney, 9th Baron of Rosslyn, Lord of Shetland, Duke of Oldenburg, Admiral of the High Seas of Scotland, Lord Chief Justice of Scotland, Knight Templar
Managed by: Robert Joshua Street
Last Updated:

About Henry Sinclair, 1st Earl of Orkney

Henry I Sinclair, Earl of Orkney, Baron of Roslin (c. 1345 – c. 1400), was a Scottish nobleman. He is sometimes identified by another spelling of his surname, St. Clair. He was the grandfather of William Sinclair, 1st Earl of Caithness, the builder of Rosslyn Chapel.

He is best known today because of a modern legend that he took part in explorations of Greenland and North America almost 100 years before Christopher Columbus. William Thomson, in his History of Orkney, wrote: "it has been Earl Henry's singular fate to enjoy an ever-expanding posthumous reputation which has very little to do with anything he achieved in his lifetime."



  • Henry Sinclair, 1st Earl of Orkney1
  • M, #109241, d. 1404
  • Last Edited=11 Mar 2014
  • Henry Sinclair, 1st Earl of Orkney was the son of Sir William Sinclair of Roslin and Isabel (?).2 He married Jane Halyburton, daughter of Sir William Halyburton of Dirletoun.3 He died in 1404, killed in an attack on Orkney, possibly by English seaman.3
  • He was created 1st Earl of Orkney [Scotland] on 2 August 1379, in Marstrand, Norway.1
  • Child of Henry Sinclair, 1st Earl of Orkney
    • 1.Margaret Sinclair+2
  • Children of Henry Sinclair, 1st Earl of Orkney and Jane Halyburton
    • 1.Jean Sinclair+4
    • 2.Henry Sinclair, 2nd Earl of Orkney+5 d. c 1 Feb 1420/21
    • 3.Beatrice Sinclair+3
    • 4.Elizabeth Sinclair+6 b. 1363
  • Citations
  • 1.[S6] G.E. Cokayne; with Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors, The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, new ed., 13 volumes in 14 (1910-1959; reprint in 6 volumes, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000), volume IV, page 435. Hereinafter cited as The Complete Peerage.
  • 2.[S37] See link for full details for this source. Hereinafter cited as. [S37]
  • 3.[S37] See. [S37]
  • 4.[S6] Cokayne, and others, The Complete Peerage, volume VIII, page 591.
  • 5.[S6] Cokayne, and others, The Complete Peerage, volume X, page 95.
  • 6.[S1224] Derek Hughes, "re: 1st Lord Drummond," e-mail message to Darryl Lundy, 22 December 2004, 13 February 2005 and 2 March 2005. Hereinafter cited as "re: 1st Lord Drummond."
  • From: http://thepeerage.com/p10925.htm#i109241


  • Henry Sinclair, 1st Earl Orkney, Lord Shetland1
  • M, #3838, d. 1404
  • Father Sir William Sinclair b. b 1330, d. c 1358
  • Mother Isobella of Strathearn
  • Henry Sinclair, 1st Earl Orkney, Lord Shetland married Jean Haliburton, daughter of Sir John Haliburton and Margaret Cameron. Henry Sinclair, 1st Earl Orkney, Lord Shetland died in 1404 at Orkney, Scotland.
  • Family Jean Haliburton
  • Children
    • Jean Sinclair+
    • Mary Sinclair2 d. b 2 Nov 1411
    • Helen Sinclair+3
    • Marjory Sinclair+4
    • Sir Henry Sinclair, 2nd Earl Orkney+ b. c 1375, d. b 29 Apr 1418
  • Citations
  • 1.[S553] Unknown author, Journal of Ancient and Medieval Studies.
  • 2.[S11568] The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom, by George Edward Cokayne, Vol. XII/1, p. 92, notes.
  • 3.[S11620] The Douglas Archives.
  • 4.[S11649] Clan MacFarlane & Associated Clans Genealogy.
  • From: http://our-royal-titled-noble-and-commoner-ancestors.com/p128.htm#i3838


Henry I Sinclair, Earl of Orkney, Baron of Roslin (c. 1345 – c. 1400) was a Scottish and a Norwegian nobleman. Sinclair held the title Earl of Orkney under the King of Norway (see Earl of Orkney: Scottish Earls under the Norwegian Crown). He is sometimes identified by another spelling of his surname, St. Clair. He was the grandfather of William Sinclair, 1st Earl of Caithness, the builder of Rosslyn Chapel. He is best known today because of a modern legend that he took part in explorations of Greenland and North America almost 100 years before Christopher Columbus. William Thomson, in his book The New History of Orkney,[1] wrote: "It has been Earl Henry's singular fate to enjoy an ever-expanding posthumous reputation which has very little to do with anything he achieved in his lifetime."[2]

Henry Sinclair was the son and heir of William Sinclair, Lord of Roslin, and his wife Isabella (Isobel) of Strathearn.[3] She was a daughter of Maol Ísa, Earl of Orkney. Henry Sinclair's maternal grandfather had been deprived of much of his lands (the earldom of Strathearn being completely lost to the King of Scots).[4]

Sometime after 13 September 1358, Henry's father died, at which point Henry Sinclair succeeded as Baron of Roslin, Pentland and Cousland, a group of minor properties in Lothian.

Three cousins – Alexander de L'Arde, Lord of Caithness; Malise Sparre, Lord of Skaldale; and Henry Sinclair – were rivals for the succession to the earldom of Orkney. On 2 August 1379, at Marstrand, near Tønsberg, Norway, King Haakon VI of Norway invested and confirmed Sinclair as the Norwegian Earl of Orkney over a rival claim by his cousin Malise Sparre.[3] In return Henry pledged to pay a fee of 1000 nobles before St. Martin's Day (11 November), and, when called upon, serve the king on Orkney or elsewhere with 100 fully armed men for 3 months. As security for upholding the agreement the new earl left hostages behind when he departed Norway for Orkney. It is unknown if Haakon VI ever attempted to call upon the troops pledged by Henry or if any of the fee was actually paid. Shortly before his death summer 1380 the king permitted the hostages to return home.[5]

In 1389, Sinclair attended the coronation of King Eric of Pomerania in Norway, pledging his oath of fealty. Historians have speculated that in 1391 Sinclair and his troops slew Malise Sparre near Scalloway, Tingwall parish, Shetland.

It is not known when Henry Sinclair died. The Sinclair Diploma, written or at least commissioned by his grandson states: "...he retirit to the parts of Orchadie and josit them to the latter tyme of his life, and deit Erile of Orchadie, and for the defence of the country was slain there cruellie by his enemiis..." We also know that sometime in 1401: "The English invaded, burnt and spoiled certain islands of Orkney." This was part of an English retaliation for a Scottish attack on an English fleet near Aberdeen. The assumption is that Henry either died opposing this invasion, or was already dead.[6]

The Sinclair Diploma states he married Joneta (or Joan, or Jean) Haliburton, daughter of Sir Walter de Haliburton, 1st Lord Haliburton of Dirleton, and had issue:

  • Henry II Sinclair, Earl of Orkney
  • John Sinclair, baillie of Shetland
  • William Sinclair of Dryden
  • Elizabeth Sinclair, married Sir John Drummond of Cargill
  • Margaret Sinclair, married James Cragy of Hupe

The alleged voyage to North America

Almost nothing more is known about Sinclair's life. However, much has been written through conjecture about his supposed career as an explorer. In 1784, he was identified by Johann Reinhold Forster as possibly being the Prince Zichmni described in letters allegedly written around the year 1400 by the Zeno brothers of Venice, in which they describe a voyage throughout the North Atlantic under the command of Zichmni.[4]

The authenticity of the letters (which were allegedly rediscovered and published in the early 16th century), the exact course of the voyage, as well as whether it even took place, are challenged by historians. Most regard the letters (and the accompanying map) as a hoax by the Zenos, their publishers. Moreover, the identification of Zichmni as Henry Sinclair is not taken seriously by historians, although it is taken for granted by the supporters of the theory.

Supporters of the theory contend that there are stone carvings of American plants in Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland.[5] The Chapel was built by Henry Sinclair's grandson William Sinclair and was completed in 1486. Columbus made his first voyage in 1492. This is seen by writers Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas as being compelling evidence for the theory that Sinclair had sailed to America,[5] although scholars have said the plants are simply stylised depictions of common European plants.[6]

The claim that Henry Sinclair explored North America is based on several separate propositions:

  1. That the letters and map ascribed to the Zeno brothers and published in 1558 are authentic.
  2. That the voyage described in the letters as taken by Zichmni around the year 1398 to Greenland actually reached North America.
  3. That Zichmni is Henry Sinclair.

Also, Native American historian Evan Pritchard said he believes Sinclair established a settlement in the 14th century in Canada's Nova Scotia among the Micmac and that Sinclair is represented in about 20 Micmac folk stories as Glooscap, a prominent Micmac folkloric hero. Pritchard's comments were part of Holy Grail in America, a television documentary about the Kensington Runestone first broadcast on the History Channel on 20 September 2009.[7][8]

Alleged Templar connections

Intertwined with the Sinclair voyage story is the claim that Henry Sinclair was a Knight Templar and that the voyage either was sponsored by or conducted on the behalf of the Templars, though the order was suppressed almost a century before Henry's lifetime.[9]

Knight and Lomas speculate that the Knights Templar discovered under the Temple Mount in Jerusalem a royal archive dating from King Solomon's times that stated that Phoenicians from Tyre voyaged to a westerly continent following a star called "La Merika". According to Knight and Lomas, the Templars learned that to sail to that continent, they had to follow a star by the same name, which became the origin of the name "America". Sinclair supposedly followed this route.[10]

The theory also makes use of the supposed Templar connection to explain the name Nova Scotia ("New Scotland" in Latin). It is based on the 18th century tale that some Templars escaped the suppression of their order by fleeing to Scotland during the reign of Robert the Bruce[11] and fought in the Battle of Bannockburn.[12]

Claims persist that Rosslyn Chapel contains Templar imagery. Andrew Sinclair speculates that the grave slab now in the crypt is that of a Templar knight[13]: According to author Robert Lomas, the chapel also has an engraving depicting a knight templar holding the sword over a head of an initiate, supposedly to protect the secrets of the templars.[14] Rosslyn Chapel was built by Sir William St Clair, last St Clair Earl of Orkney, who was the grandson of Henry. According to Lomas, Sir William, the chapel builder, is also the direct ancestor of the first Grand Master of Masons of Scotland, also named William St Clair (Sinclair).[14]

According to Lomas, the Sinclairs and their French relatives the St. Clairs were instrumental in creating the Knights Templar. He claims that the founder of Templars Hugh de Payns was married to a sister of the Duke of Champaine (Henri de St. Clair), [15] who was a powerful broker of the first Crusade and had the political power to nominate the Pope, and to suggest the idea and empower it to the Pope.

However, a biography of Hugues de Payen by Thierry Leroy [16] identifies his wife and the mother of his children as Elizabeth de Chappes. The book draws its information on the marriage from local church cartularies dealing chiefly with the disposition of the Grand Master's properties, the earliest alluding to Elizabeth as his wife in 1113, and others spanning Payen's lifetime, the period following his death and lastly her own death in 1170.

Criticisms of this theory

One primary criticism of this theory is that if either a Sinclair or a Templar voyage reached the Americas, they did not, unlike Columbus, return with a historical record of their findings. In fact, there is no known published documentation from that era to support the theory that such a voyage took place. The physical evidence relies on speculative reasoning to support the theory, and all of it can be interpreted in other ways. For example, according to one historian, the carvings in Rosslyn Chapel may not be of American plants at all but are nothing more than stylized carvings of wheat and strawberries.[6]

Historians Mark Oxbrow, Ian Robertson,[17] Karen Ralls and Louise Yeoman[18] have each made it clear that the Sinclair family had no connection with the mediaeval Knights Templar. Karen Ralls has shown that among those testifying against the Templars at their 1309 trial were Henry and William Sinclair - an act inconsistent with any alleged support or membership.[19][20] This leaves the ties to the Knights Templars still in question.

Alternative histories

In the 1980s, modern alternative histories of Earl Henry I Sinclair and Rosslyn Chapel began to be published. Popular books (often derided as pseudo-history) such as The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln (1982) and The Temple and the Lodge by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh (1989) appeared. Books by Timothy Wallace-Murphy and Andrew Sinclair soon followed from the early 1990s onwards.



Built Roslin Castle. Discovered America in 1398. Buried the Holy Grail on Oak Island in Nova Scotia. Landed in Mass. and buried a comrade in Westford, MA. Landed in RI and built the Newport Tower, first permanent surviving structure in New World. Killed in battle fighting against England during Henry IV's invasion of Scotland.



http://www.robertsewell.ca/sinclair.html -------------------------------------------------

view all 15

Henry Sinclair, 1st Earl of Orkney's Timeline

West Lothian, Scotland

Sinclair (Sinclare), Henry Lindesay, Jonet in the UK, Extracted Probate Records, 1269-1975
Name: Sinclair (Sinclare), Henry Lindesay, Jonet
Place: West Lothian, Scotland
Book: Mort Roll from 1781 in the Register House, Edinburgh. (Death)
Collection: West Lothian, and Midlothian; Gloucestershire: Edinburgh; Bristol- Commissariot Record of Edinburgh, Register of Testaments, 1514-1600; Bristol Wills, 1572-1792
Volume: The Commissarint Record of Edinburgh.
Chapter: Register of Testaments. First Section--1514-1600. Edited by Francis J. Grant, W.S., Carrick Pursuivant of Arms.
Text: Sinclair (Sinclare), Henry, Master of. See Lindesay, Jonet.
Source Information
Ancestry.com. UK, Extracted Probate Records, 1269-1975 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009.
Original data: Electronic databases created from various publications of probate records.
This database is a collection of probate registers from the United Kingdom. The records include wills and other miscellaneous types of probate records. Learn more...
© 2015, Ancestry.com

Baron of Roslin Earl of Orkney
Roslin, Midlothian, Scotland
Age 18
Stobhill, Perth, Scotland
Age 19
Orkney, Scotland
Age 29
Age 30
Orkney, Orkney, United Kingdom
Age 37
Orkney, Scotland
Age 47
Age 55
Orkney Islands, UK