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Lucy Worsley's Royal Myths and Secrets


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If you're a history buff, you'll love this BBC Series shown on PBS that, tongue-in-cheek, pokes holes in alleged British history and things that went on in the background of various reigns.

The latest one shows the famous speech, portrayed in many big movies, of Queen Elizabeth I standing before her troops in 1588, telling them she'll fight and die with them against the Spanish troops being brought by the Spanish Armada and they will be rewarded for defeating the Spanish.

She really did give the speech - but 11 days after the Armada was defeated by storms!  She clearly knew that, because she gave orders right after the speech to release the men from military duty because she couldn't afford to pay them.  Less than a generation later, half of those soldiers were dead of disease and starvation during an economic depression - and still hadn't been paid!

The following year but barely mentioned in history books now, Sir Francis Drake led a counter-Armada strike against Spain and his losses were worse than the Spanish the previous year - over 20,000 sailors killed and 4/5th of his fleet were sunk by Spain.

Yet it soon became politically favorable to magnify the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 and by the 1600's huge paintings of it hung in Parliament, Royal residences, etc. and the myth of the birth of the British Empire continues all the way to Margaret Thatcher referring to it and the great British spirit opposing the Soviets and the Argentinians.

As Lucy says toward the end of the episode, the myth of the British defeating the Spanish Armada has had a lot to do with British confidence and Britain's success as a world power to this day. "So take that, History!"

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There's a show called America: Fact vs Fiction on the American Heroes Channel that is interesting in that way.

I remember reading about Boston Tea Party. Even with the new taxes, the tea on the ship was cheaper than what the merchants had stored in their warehouse. They would have lost a lot of money and that's why they raided the ship to destroy the tea. "Patriots" often wrap a flag around their self interest. 

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