"[Earl Henry Sinclair's] little court
in Orkney was the most elegant and refined in Europe, and adorned
with the official services of many proud Scottish nobles.
a century before Columbus commenced his baffling search for a
patron among the sovereigns of Europe, the Venetian navigator,
Zenoni, had been commissioned by Earl Henry to retrace the footsteps
of the early Scandinavian discoverers of the Western world."
Memorial for Orkney
Earl Henry Sinclair is one figure from Orkney's history whose exploits can, without a shadow of a doubt, be classed as semi-legendary.
Although there is no dispute that Sinclair existed, the genuine historical figure has been buried beneath years of legend, mythology and pseudo-history.
As the historian William Thomson puts it in his The New History of Orkney:
"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."
Recent years have seen this fairly unremarkable Orkney earl linked with the Knights Templar, the Holy Grail, the Freemasons and a pre-Columbian transatlantic voyage.
However, before delving into the legends surrounding the first Sinclair Earl of Orkney, we should first take a look at the historical background.