Why race chief wants to sink our role in the Armada by JAMES SLACK
Last updated at 23:34 25 September 2007
Had Sir Francis Drake but known it, he could have squeezed in several extra games of bowls before sailing out to destroy the Spanish Armada.
According to "equality chief" Trevor Phillips, the Turks had the problem well in hand even before Drake insisted on finishing his match on Plymouth Hoe when the invaders were sighted.
Mr Phillips, who wants the nation's history books rewritten to make them more "inclusive" of other cultures, suggested last night that the role of Ottoman Muslims in 1588 in saving the throne of Queen Elizabeth was part of the "whole story" that often went untold.
Did the Turks really play a key role in defeating the Armada?
"When we talk about the Armada, it is only now that we are beginning to realise that part of it is Muslims - actually it was the Turks who saved us because they held the Armada for a few weeks, on the request of Elizabeth I," he told a Labour conference fringe event.
"Let's rewrite that story, let's use our heritage to rewrite that story so that it is truly inclusive.
"That's the reason for this: So that we have an identity which brings us together and binds us in the stormy times we're going to have."
Equality chief Trevor Phillips suggests the role of the Ottoman Muslims in 1588 in saving the throne of Queen Elizabeth was part of the 'whole story' that often goes untold.
The head of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights said it is not about rewriting what we are, "but sometimes we have to go back into the tapestry and insert some threads that were lost. We may need to revisit some parts of our heritage so we rewrite it to tell the whole story".
But experts said inflating the importance of minor or irrelevant events in the interests of race relations is confusing to children.
...And it was pointed out that the Royal Navy's account of the defeat of the Armada -carrying 10,000 sailors and 20,000 troops determinedto reverse the Reformation - makes no mention of any help from the Turks. Even the suggestion that the Turks did nothing more than delay the Armada at the written request of Elizabeth is disputed.
Mr Phillips's view appears to be based on the work of historian Jerry Brotton. He argues that the Armada had been weakened before it even set sail because the Spanish had been forced to keep some ships in the Mediterranean to deal with the troublesome Turkish navy.
But Dr Simon Adams, co-author of England, Spain and the Grand Armada, said the Ottomans were not threatening Spain in the Mediterranean.
He said: "The letter had been sent in 1584 or 1585 and although England might have hoped the Turks would cause the Spanish problems, nothing really happened.
"The Turks were not really doing anything (against Spain) in 1588. They were busy in the Near East."
Dr Adams said the Armada failed because it was poorly planned and the English had an effective Navy helped by favourable weather.
The Civitas think-tank, which has republished the authoritative history Our Island Story by Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall, said the claim is "fantasy".
Robert Whelan, of Civitas, said: "Before we start weaving in stories about the Turks and the Armada, dreamt up by people with their own agenda, we should first ensure we get the basics right."
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