The English sense of humour has been quite the talk of Galicia after a recent tweet from Her Majesty´s Ambassador to Spain made front page news across Galicia and even made it to the London Times.
Hugh Elliott, who took over the plum Madrid job of British Ambassador in 2019, was visiting Galicia this week and took in the sites which included a stop in Coruña, where he posted himself next to a statue of one of the city´s great heroines – Maria Pita.
To those unfamiliar with the sometimes rocky Anglo-Spanish relationship, she was the saviour of the city from an attacking English force, led by Francis Drake in 1589.
Drake was under orders from Queen Elizabeth of England to avenge the Spanish Armada of the previous year, and attacked the city, and seemingly was on the verge of a famous victory when out of the musket smoke came Maria Pita.
According to legend on hearing the English forces attack, she left the family home to help her husband who was defending the final Spanish redoubt on the battlements.
So enraged was she that she seized the English banner from its commander and pierced him with it – killing him and stopping the attack in its track.
The commander was Francis Drake´s brother and with his death the attack faltered – seeing her chance to press home the attack, Pita rallied the defending Spaniards with the cry of “Quien honra, que me siga (“whoever has honour, follow me!”) and charged the retreating English who withdrew to their ships.
Coruña was saved and Pita the hero. She was honoured and rewarded by Philip II, who granted her a military pension, which she received following the death of her husband who was killed during the battle.
Which bring us back to Hugh Elliott´s tweet – with typical English understatement he tweeted a picture of himself by the statue of Pita with the words: “ Parece que hace 432 años hubo un pequeño contratiempo en A Coruña” ( 432 years ago it seemed there was a little contretemp in Coruña) – it seemed that there is a new one – this time on Twitter where the English art of sweet understatement has aroused some to angry replies.
One tweeted back that rather than a contretemp this was was a “terrorist act” by the English.
Another tweeted about the contra armada of the English attacks on Spain which “perfidious Albion” keep well hidden from view.
Not all though were so virulent in their reply.
One responded that the English made it up to the Spanish 212 years ago, being the retreat to Coruña by General Moore who faced off the invading French in the opening salvos of the Peninsular War and whose tomb lies there – he too was honoured by Ambassador Elliot on his visit.