Wednesday 15 August 2012

Ian Fleming on James Bond's all-Scottish parentage

In O.F. Snelling’s book Double O Seven James Bond: A Report (1964) there is a very interesting footnote tucked away in the chapter named ‘His Image’. This first study of the literary James Bond was published just before Ian Fleming’s then new novel You Only Live Twice went to press. As Snelling acknowledges in his Author’s Note Bond’s premature obituary notice towards the end of the novel provided many of the answers to the questions posed in his book. So short of re-writing the entire book before publication, Snelling added in a few footnotes where he felt it was necessary to provide the new details found in You Only Live Twice.

In discussing James Bond’s parentage, Snelling states that,

‘James Bond’s mother was Swiss. His father was Scottish: a Highlander from near Glencoe. Neither Bond or his creator lets drop much more about his family background.’


There is a footnote after the first sentence quoted from that passage. It reads:

‘Bond is Scottish. On both sides, as I shall explain in my next book.’ Ian Fleming to John Creusemann, in an interview in the Daily Express, 2 January 1964.’ (Extracts, ‘007: James Bond A Report,’ O.F. Snelling, Panther, London, 1965, p. 22)

This is very interesting as when the obituary of James Bond was given in You Only Live Twice (1964), we find that he is actually of mixed parentage, and not Scottish on both sides as Fleming had apparently originally intended in the beginning of the year. In the obituary, which appeared in The Times we are told,

‘James Bond was born of a Scottish father, Andrew Bond of Glencoe, and a Swiss mother, Monique Delacroix, from the Canton de Vaud.’ (You Only Live Twice, Pan Books Ltd., London, 1966, p. 178)

Bond is therefore of Scots-Swiss blood and not wholly Scottish as Fleming declared he was going to be in the Daily Express interview Snelling quoted in his footnote. Fleming would have surely had the novel written at this stage, but perhaps he was still having it edited in places and perhaps this can explain why he decided to change the nationality of Bond’s mother. You Only Live Twice  was not published until the Easter of 1964, so he would still have had time from the date of the interview (late December 1963/ very early January 1964?) to have small details like this amended in the manuscript. Then again, perhaps it was a genuine mistake by Fleming and he had simply forgotten these few lines from his novel, but that would not really be like him. Fleming was nothing if not a stickler for these types of details. He liked to get the details of his characters and situations right if he could.

Did Fleming originally intend to have Bond as a purebred Scot, as the Daily Express interview quote would seem to suggest or is there another explanation? Evidently, Fleming later changed his mind and gave James Bond a mixed parentage. 

TBB Article No. 8

© The Bondologist Blog, 2007.

1 comment:

  1. Donovan Mayne-Nicholls12 February 2013 at 01:59

    I've always found it stupid how "fans" assume that Fleming gave Bond a Scottish heritage because of Connery's portrayal onscreen. Fleming himself was of Scottish ancestry (Connery's family is actually of Irish origin and Fleming HATED the Irish) and writing in the first person in Thrilling Cities he refers to himself as "a Scott".