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Richard ap Meryk, Anglicised to Richard Amerike (or Ameryk) (c. 1445–1503) was a wealthy English merchant, royal customs officer and sheriff, of Welsh descent. He was the principal owner of the Matthew, the ship sailed by John Cabot during his voyage of exploration to North America in 1497. A Bristolian scholar and amateur historian, Alfred Hudd, suggested in 1908 that the continental name America was derived from Amerike's surname due to his sponsorship of Cabot's expedition to Newfoundland and was used on early British maps that have since been lost. This is not the consensus view of how America was named, but has been repeated as a form of historical revisionism. The consensus view is that America is the namesake of Amerigo Vespucci, the Italian explorer and cartographer. The earliest known use was by another map maker, Martin Waldseemüller, who used the Latinized feminine form of Vespucci's first name, "America", on his world map of 1507.
Richard Amerike was born in 1445 at Meryk Court, Weston under Penyard, near Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, a descendant of the Earls of Gwent. The family name was an anglicized spelling of the Welsh ap Meuric, ap Meurig or ap Meryk, which means "son of Meurig".
Amerike married Lucy Wells and settled for a time at West Camel, near Ilchester in Somerset. He decided to move his family to Bristol, a city growing in importance as a port, and second only to London at the time. It was attracting merchants and adventurers from all over the country. Amerike became a wealthy and important merchant and dignitary, holding the post of King's Customs Officer three times and becoming the High Sheriff of Bristol in 1497.
Seeking new sources of fish and other resources, Amerike and other Bristol merchants helped fund an expedition beyond Iceland authorized by the king. The Italian Giovanni Cabotto (called John Cabot) was to lead the voyage. Amerike was said to be a major sponsor, as well as donating logs from his estate to build the ship Matthew for the expedition. Because Amerike's coat of arms was similar to the flag later adopted by the independent United States, a legend grew that the North American continent had been named for him rather than for Amerigo Vespucci. It is not widely accepted.
In 1908, the local Bristol antiquarian Alfred Hudd first proposed the theory that the word America had evolved from Amerike or ap Meryk, based on a lost manuscript that he claimed to have seen. Alfred Hudd was an aristocrat who belonged to the Clifton Antiquarian Club of Bristol, founded in 1884 to arrange meetings and excursions for the study of objects of archaeological interest in the West of England and South Wales. He also collected butterflies, was a naturalist and member of the Bristol Naturalists' Society.
Hudd proposed that the word "America" was originally applied to a destination across the western ocean, possibly an island or a fishing station in Newfoundland. After the king of Iceland had cut off trade for fish, England sent out expeditions to find new sources. Hudd suggested Amerike's sponsorship made his name known in Bristol in association with the North American destinations prior to other mapmaking or voyages. The writer Jonathan Cohen noted he made a conjectural leap to reach that conclusion, and no extant evidence supports it. In 2001, scholar John Davies briefly mentioned the story as a kind of Welsh patriot piece.
The traditionally accepted person attributed to the naming is cartographer Martin Waldseemüller, who used the Latinized feminine form of Amerigo Vespucci's first name, "America", on his world map of 1507, which has survived the centuries.
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