Sunday, 17 August 2014

How would James Bond vote in the Scottish independence referendum?

George Lazenby as James Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
Sean Connery is a well known supporter of Scottish independence, and come the referendum on 18th September, we have no doubt how he will be voting. But what about the character for which Connery is most strongly associated? How might James Bond, another Scot, vote? A trawl through Ian Fleming's novels provide a few insights into Bond's perception of identity, nationality, and duty which offer some pointers to what his voting intentions might be.

James Bond's Scottish heritage was introduced late in Fleming's series of adventures. For much of the series, Bond was an Englishman. In Casino Royale (1953), Mathis, Bond's French ally, describes Bond as “the Englishman from Jamaica”. Bond, who is there with Mathis, does not correct him. In From Russia, with Love (1957), Soviet spies hatch a plot to destroy James Bond, the 'Angliski Spion'. And in The Spy Who Loved Me (1962), the heroine, Vivienne Michel, looks “appealing at the Englishman.” Meanwhile, Sluggsy, one of the villains, asks Bond, “From England, huh?” “That's right,” comes the reply.

It is possible that England in these references is synonymous with Britain and does not necessarily imply English origins, but Fleming appears to provide no hint of any Scottish identity, and readers up till this point would not have thought Bond as anything other than English.

This changed with the publication of On Her Majesty's Secret Service in 1963. At the College of Arms, Bond meets Griffin Or, a herald at the college. Inquiring into Bond's origins, Griffin Or tells him, “No doubt, with a good old English name like yours, we will get somewhere in the end”. Bond replies, “My father was a Scot and my mother was Swiss”, adding that his father came from near Glencoe in the Highlands. This information is repeated in the next novel, You Only Live Twice (1964), in Bond's obituary.

It is said that Fleming gave Bond Scottish ancestry when Sean Connery was cast in the role of James Bond for the film of Dr No (1962). This is plausible, given the chronology, and the reference to “Ursula Andress, the film star” in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. But given also that Fleming himself had Scottish ancestry – his grandfather, Robert Fleming, was from Dundee, and Ian spent time during his childhood at Glenborrodale Castle in the Highlands – the casting of a Scot as James Bond was a coincidence that Fleming found impossible to resist.

Even so, James Bond continues to talk about England, rather than Britain or Scotland, in You Only Live Twice. “England may have been bled pretty thin by a couple of world wars...but we still climb Everest and beat plenty of the world at plenty of sports and win Nobel Prizes,” he tells Tiger Tanaka.

However, in Fleming's last full-length Bond novel, The Man with the Golden Gun (1965), Bond has a much stronger Scottish identity. Composing a telegram, he rejects an offer of a knighthood with the words, “Eye (sic) am a Scottish peasant and will always feel at home being a Scottish peasant.” That is not to say that the rejection is because of any anti-British or anti-English feelings. Bond admits that he likes the idea of the knighthood, if only because of “the romantic streak of the SIS – and of the Scot, for the matter of that”.

Returning to the question of the Scottish independence referendum, while Bond appears to embrace his Scottish identity by the end of Fleming's novels, his continued reference to England, and his still generally very patriotic and pro-British outlook suggests that he would vote 'No'.  Would Bond be able to vote anyway? Given that he lives in London, Bond is presumably listed on the electoral register in London and therefore would not be entitled to vote in Scotland. The cinematic Bond, on the other hand, might have a vote. His home at Skyfall Lodge, as seen in Skyfall (2012), might qualify him, although quite what happens when the building is blown up is another matter.

1 comment:

  1. It's obvious. Bond would want his country shaken, not stirred.

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