The most common - and most believable - tale of Claddagh history begins with a young man from Galway by the name of Richard Joyce leaving his true love to make his fortune in the West Indies. As he sailed toward his goal, his ship was captured by a band of pirates and he was sold as a slave to a Moorish goldsmith.
Through the many years of service to the goldsmith, Richard perfected the art of jewelry making himself, eventually becoming a master craftsman and earning the respect and admiration of his master. When King William III negotiated the freedom of the slaves in 1689, the Moor offered Richard the hand of his daughter and a healthy dowry on top of that. But Richard refused....for his heart still lay in Ireland.
Returning to Galway, Richard found that his sweetheart had remained true to him through all those years. In a fitting tribute to his true love, he fashioned the Claddagh ring. The two hands represented their friendship. The crown signified their loyalty. The heart symbolized their love. Richard wedded his beloved and presented the first Claddagh to her as her wedding ring. And the two lived happily ever after....never to be apart again.
This legend of Claddagh history is not entirely without basis. Indeed, the earliest examples of Claddagh rings bear Richard Joyce's initials. So it makes sense that most scholars and everyday people believe the legend of Mr. Joyce to be the true origin of Claddagh history.