Will the real James Bond please stand up?This is a featured page

Source: Liverpool Daily Post

It is an intriguing literary game to muse who inspired the great figures in fiction, portraits so secure that they must have been drawn from life.

Who were the models for Macbeth, Heathcliffe or Sherlock Holmes? It’s also an unending game, as most fictional creations are amalgams.

Unfettered by libel or the need for accuracy, writers’ imaginations can roam with magpie-like glee, picking up shiny characteristics they chance upon in human nature. There are academic industries devoted to discovering the real-life counterparts in the works by Dickens, DH Lawrence and Evelyn Waugh.

With the curious, but authentically-named new James Bond film, Quantum of Solace upon us, this prompts a perennially favourite guessing game: who was the real James Bond? His creator, Ian Fleming, openly admitted to his writers’ magpie-tendencies and, as a keen sportsman, treated it as a game. He said: “Everything I write has a precedent in truth.” Was Bond the WWII Scottish soldier and clan leader, Sir Fitzroy McLean, or the real spy William Stephenson? Or WWI’s wheeler dealer and dirty trickster for MI6, Sidney Reilly, who often holed up at the Adelphi Hotel, between Atlantic crossings?

Fleming, from his own wartime espionage work was very familiar with both these very different characters, who were both involved in similar activities.
Whatever the sources, Fleming was a writer who wasted nothing that he heard about or personally experienced. Even the James Bond name comes from Fleming’s interest in (feathered) birds, the namesake being the author of Birds of the West Indies. Now we have a newly rediscovered contender, John Bond, a Tudor 007, according to his family, whose ancestral seat is in Dorset. His descendant, William Bond, has unearthed a 500-year-old journal, written by John’s son Denis, which tells about his father’s shadowy exploits as a 16th-century spy.

John Bond spied for Queen Elizabeth I and cavorted around with Sir Francis Drake on many of his clandestine voyages for the crown, including an attack on San Domingo, in the West Indies. We need say no more than the Dorset Bond’s family’s motto is Non Sufficit Orbis. This translates as the world is not enough – the title of the 1999 Bond film starring Pierce Brosnan in the title role. The motto derives from a San Domingo raid. When John Bond broke into the governor’s house, he saw a huge stone globe with those words inscribed upon it.

According to Denis, his father jokily adopted this for his family. Fleming reveals that James Bond claims this as his motto in the novel On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. When the fictional Bond is asked if he wants the rights to it, he agrees, saying: “It is an excellent motto which I shall certainly adopt.”

Researching the diary, William Bond believes that Fleming would have known about his antecedents’ adventures. All we have to know is that Fleming’s Dorset prep school bordered the Bond estate in the Isle of Purbeck. “John Bond of the 16th century led a life of a spy just like James Bond all those years later,” says William Bond. Fleming came from the famous Scottish banking family and I can’t resist adding an all too pertinent quotation from The World Is Not Enough, shown on television last Thursday. The financier, Lachaise, says: “So good of you to come to see me, Mr Bond, partic- ularly on such short notice.”

To which James Bond replies: “If you can't trust a Swiss banker, then what's the world come to?”


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