This man was probably the first James Bond around, while he was alive. In fact, he may have spawned the whole idea of the James Bond characters. And he was born a long, long time ago, my friends!
The Real-Life James Bond Was Born In 1527
John Dee was a 16th-century philosopher, scientist, and occultist who served in the court of Queen Elizabeth I. Dee was involved in numerous espionage missions for the Queen, and he would sign his reports and correspondence with the cipher “007.” This makes Dee the predecessor of Ian Fleming’s suave super-spy James Bond.
It was the Earl of Leicester who introduced Dee to Princess Elizabeth shortly before her accession to the throne. Dee was rapidly promoted to court astrologer. He was the one who chose the most favorable date for Elizabeth’s coronation, January 15, 1559. The Queen was so impressed with Dee’s learning that she personally visited his great library. Dee began conducting covert assignments in her Majesty’s secret service and 007 was the insignia Dee used for his private “For Your Eyes Only” communiques. The double zeroes symbolized Dee’s eyes—he was the secret eyes of the Queen. The seven is a sacred Kabbalistic and lucky number. Dee frequently traveled to European capitals gathering intelligence and sending it back to Sir Francis Walsingham, head of the secret service.
When the Spanish Armada loomed threateningly across the Channel, it was Dee who counseled not to engage it directly. He had foreseen the fierce storms that would devastate the mighty fleet, and told the English to stay back. The tempests drove the Spaniards to their doom, just as Dee had predicted, and some speculated that it was Dee himself who raised the storm.
Sadly, John Dee’s status as a mathematician and true man of science was overshadowed by his reputation as an occultist, and in particular his relationship with a charlatan named Edward Kelly. Kelly claimed to be a “scryer” or medium, and he and Dee allegedly had numerous conversations with extraterrestrial intelligences. They even came up with a new language called Enochian that was supposedly dictated to Kelly in a trance. The Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II welcomed them to his court in Prague with the understanding that, as alchemists, they could produce gold from base metals.
In his final years, John Dee moved in the circle of talented Elizabethan writers, scientists, and philosophers. He may have been acquainted with playwright Christopher Marlowe, and may have been the inspiration for Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus. It is also likely that Dee was the model for the sorcerer Prospero in Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
Unlike his fictional successor James Bond, Dee never killed anyone. And unlike Bond who only had one short-lived marriage, Dee was married thrice and sired about 11 children. At his death, Dee left behind many scholarly works and unpublished manuscripts, testifying to a genius that was far ahead of its time in many ways.
It's nice to know that 007 has been in use for many, many years and that James Bond lives on, even in history!
Coffee out on the patio this morning.