John Dee was the original 007?

(We doubt it.)

[There is a story out there, from author Richard Deacon (Donald McCormick) who apparently was in the war with Ian Fleming, that James Bond’s “007” came from John Dee’s signature. We imagine we’ve seen such a letter with the notation, but now can’t find it. If we can’t find it, it’s not true. We haven’t seen Richard Deacon’s book either.

Since there’s so much misinformation out there, we’re not taking this stuff as credible. For now, John Dee wasn’t the original Bond. For that matter, his formal occupation as a “spy” is unsubstantiated and disputed.

From a book on James Bond by Philip Gardiner that draws from the Deacon book, and is repeated throughout the Internet:]

The Bond Code

The code 007 (a sacred numerological code) was that of the magician and occultist Dr. John Dee from the 16th century—the infamous mystic and spy of the realm for Queen Elizabeth.

The queen herself signed her letters to Dee as “M.”

Dee was thrown out of university for creating a flying machine—and Fleming wrote the alchemical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. We also know that he was reading a biography of Dee at the time of writing Casino Royale, the first Bond novel!

[And, from a footnote on the same page:]

According to the writer Donald McCormick (alias Richard Deacon), John Dee signed his memos “007,” or two eyes followed by the occult number 7, meaning he offered his physical sight and his occult sight—thus making Bond an occult agent. Ian Fleming worked with Donald McCormick in the secret service during the Second World War!

Pasted from: The Bond Code: The Dark World of Ian Fleming and James Bond:…. By Philip Gardiner.

[John Dee was tutor to Robert Dudley in his youth. Dudley was Elizabeth’s favourite and signed letters to her with two “eyes.” In Dee’s letters he (according to McCormick) signed with two “eyes” sheltered by a “7” – but we haven’t seen it (we think). While Dee may not have signed his letters so, the Queen’s boyfriend-in-waiting, Robert Dudley did sign his letters to her with two eyes:]

‘After the Armada the Earl was seen riding in splendour through London “as if he were a king”, and for the past few weeks he had usually dined with the Queen, a unique favour. On his way to Buxton in Derbyshire to take the baths, he died at Cornbury Park near Oxford on 4 September 1588. Leicester’s health had not been good for some time and historians have considered both malaria and stomach cancer as death causes. His death came unexpectedly, and only a week earlier he had said farewell to his Queen. Elizabeth was deeply affected and locked herself in her apartment for a few days until Lord Burghley had the door broken. Her nickname for Dudley had been “Eyes”, which was symbolised by the sign of ôô in their letters to each other. Elizabeth kept the letter he had sent her six days before his death in her bedside treasure box, endorsing it with “his last letter” on the outside. It was still there when she died 15 years later.’

Pasted from <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Dudley,_1st_Earl_of_Leicester#Armada_and_death>

[Dee was only 5 or 6 years older than Dudley. Apparently Elizabeth had her own pet names for her crew (Memoirs of the Life and Times of Sir Christopher Hatton). It’s fun to imagine them all having their own codes and having sleepovers and stuff, but we doubt it’s true about Dee, though it’s possible. But the Internet is notorious for taking one piece of misinformation from a single source and blithely copying it without anyone checking the facts. When the references all trace back to a single un-referenced source, it’s a good indication it’s false. Such is the Internet’s lust for easy “content.”]

[Hatton:]

‘These appointments, together with the valuable grants with which the Queen showered him during these early years, prompted rumours that he was her lover, a charge specifically made in 1584 by Mary, Queen of Scots. There was undoubtedly a close personal relationship, In correspondence, the Queen called him her “Lyddes”, and he is said to have referred to himself in at least one letter as her “sheep.”‘

Pasted from <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Hatton>

[And we attempt to conclude our assessment of the claim that Dee signed his letters to Elizabeth with “007” and that Fleming got 007 from Dee, with quotes from Wikipedia:]

….Wikipedia says:

Bond’s number—007—was assigned by Fleming in reference to one of British naval intelligence’s key achievements of World War I: the breaking of the German diplomatic code. One of the German documents cracked and read by the British was the Zimmermann Telegram, which was coded 0075, and which was one of the factors that led to the US entering the war.

Pasted from <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Bond_(literary_character)>

…But Wikipedia also says:

Ian Fleming took James Bond’s code number, 007, from John Dee. Fleming was reading a memoir on the life of Dee during at the time he set off to write Casino Royale (1953).

Pasted from <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Dee>

So there. There doesn’t seem to be any actual evidence that Dee signed his letter as 007. Richard Deacon (Donald McCormick) may be relating the story correctly, and Fleming may be mistaken, or Deacon/McCormick got it wrong. We’ll leave it for the reader to determine. Let us know what you find out.

For more on the matter, also check out A Golden Storm: Attempting to Recreate the Context of John Dee and Edward Kelley’s Angelic Material (Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition No. 19, Vol. 2. Autumnal Equinox 2010) by Teresa Burns:

“Deacon’s biography seems the source of the persistent printed and Internet legend that John Dee signed his name “007.” Did Dee really sign his name this way? A painstaking search through many, many Dee signatures has convinced this writer that he did not. His real signature took many forms, but looks more like a whirlwind than a 007.”

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