Drake's Victory A Turkey

Up To The Minute Contributor Ed Boyle looks back 400 years for the real reason Sir Francis Drake beat the Spanish Armada.

Four hundred and four years ago, the Spanish tried to do a D-Day here in England. They launched the biggest fleet in naval history, loaded their ships with a huge army, and set sail to conquer us.

Given the size of the Spanish Armada it's a wonder we are still around. And given the useless response of the man who was in charge of defending us it's a wonder he isn't a national laughing stock. But Sir Francis Drake is still a British hero.

By the time the Spanish put to sea he was already Vice Admiral of the British fleet and had a whole list of naval victories. He'd landed in California and claimed it for Queen Elizabeth the First, navigated the Straits of Magellen, on the southern tip of South America, and even sailed right round the world. Above all Sir Francis Drake was totally fearless. We were taught this at school.

When the Spanish Armada came up the English coast Sir Francis didn't bat an eyelid. He went on playing a ridiculous game played with wooden balls. Then, when he'd finished, he cheerfully sailed out and defeated the Spanish in no time. I am sorry to report that all this is bunk. It wasn't Drake's bravery that scuppered the Spaniards, it was... er.... the Turks.

Yes, that's right, the fine men of Turkey. You see, Queen Elizabeth's security chief was ordered to do a bit of stirring and he persuaded the forces of Islam to keep half the Spanish Navy occupied in the Eastern Mediterranean, thus weakening the Armada they could muster to defeat the English. A recently discovered authentic letter to the Queen now proves it.

The poor old Spaniards got a bit of Turkish Delight long before they were anywhere near England. What an irony. Catholic King Phillip of Spain defeated not by the swashbuckling Sir Francis Drake, but by some clever Protestant English diplomacy and some tough Islamic Turkish naval action. Oh yes, and a storm.

The remnants of the Spanish Armada were driven off course up to Ireland. My mother's maiden name was Galvin, derived from Galvini, probably an Armada survivor on the Galway coast. And here I am today! Truth is frequently much stranger than the fiction of history.

By Ed Boyle