Spanish Armada

Misinformation in 1588

Manipulation of public opinion during Elizabethan England1 is eerily reflective of the actions of Christoper Steele2 in 21st century America.

In the run-up to the invasion of the Spanish Armada (the fleet of 130 ships that sailed from Lisbon in May 1588 to invade England) pamphlets with disinformation were distributed.3

Fake dossiers with reliable sources were made to appear authentic and used to sway the reading public. Notable was the pamphlet, “The Copie of a Letter sent out of England to Don Bernardin Mendoza”4 (Bernardino de Mendoza, who had been involved in the Throckmorton plot when he was the Spanish ambassador to England was expelled in January 1584. At the time of the fake letter he was Spanish Ambassador to France).5

By both attempting to regulate the production and consumption of texts and by publishing polemical works of its own, the government acknowledged that readers could be persuaded by their reading and that public opinion, the result of this persuasion, was important to the security of the realm.6

500 years later not much has changed. Formats are different, but “intelligencers “ as they were called in Elizabethan England, are still up to their tricks to obfuscate truth to the public.

1

Haynes, Alan. 1992. Invisible power: the Elizabethan secret services, 1570-1603. Stroud: Alan Sutton.

2

Cullison, Alan and Kantchev, G. (2020). “Christopher Steele’s Firm Ordered in U.K. to Pay Damages to Russian Bankers.” Wall Street Journal (July 8).

3

Burghley, William Cecil, Bernardino de Mendoza, and Richard Leigh. The Copie of a Letter Sent Out of England to Don Bernardin Mendoza Ambassadour in France for the King of Spaine Declaring the State of England, Contrary to the Opinion of Don Bernardin, and of All His Partizans Spaniardes and Others : This Letter, Although It Was Sent to Don Bernardin Mendoza, yet, by Good Hap, the Copies Therof Aswell in English as in French, Were Found in the Chamber of One Richard Leigh a Seminarie Priest, Who Was Lately Executed for High Treason Committed in the Time That the Spanish Armada Was on the Seas : Whereunto Are Adioyned Certaine Late Aduertisements, Concerning the Losses and Distresses Happened to the Spanish Nauie ... Imprinted at London: By I. Vautrollier for Richard Field, 1588.

4

Copie is a multipart news letter, composed in at least two different authorial voices. The primary letter (1), claiming to have been written by a Catholic priest embedded in London and sent out for translation into French in August, is followed by (2) a postscript in the same voice dated in September, (3) an unsigned "Printer to the Reader" epistle which follows the postscript both in time of composition and location within the text, and - in most copies - (4) a subsequent pamphlet section titled separately in the English edition as Certaine Advertisements out of Ireland, Concerning the Losses and Distresses Happened to the Spanish Navy. (quote from Brown, Meaghan J. “‘The Hearts of All Sorts of People Were Enflamed’: Manipulating Readers of Spanish Armada News.” Book History 17, no. 1 (2014): 96-97.

5

Bradley, Sara. “Pamphlet Literature and the Anglo-Spanish War: A Study of Anti-Spanish Sentiment in England Between 1580 and 1590.” ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2019.

6

Brown, Meaghan J. “‘The Hearts of All Sorts of People Were Enflamed’: Manipulating Readers of Spanish Armada News.” Book History 17, no. 1 (2014): 94–116.