The name’s Dee, John Dee 007!

The name’s Dee, John Dee, 007!  This doesn’t sound as convincing as the name’s Bond, James Bond, but the origins of James Bond’s 007 code number goes back over 400 years!

It was first used by a John Dee, (1527-1608), who was a Welsh Mathematician, navigator, astronomer, occultist, consultant to Queen Elizabeth I and spy.

Born near to the Tower of London, Dee won a place at Cambridge when only 15 and graduated with a BA two years later. By the time he was 17 he was already a fellow of Trinity College. Dee went onto teach mathematics and navigation to naval captains, before falling foul of Queen Mary and was thrown into prison. He was accused of attempting to kill the monarch by sorcery after casting a horoscope for her half-sister Elizabeth.

John Dee in the court of Elizabeth I.

His interest in the occult and fortune telling deepened and in 1564 the first of his many books on the subject, ‘Monas Hieroglyphica’ was published. Mary granted him a pardon in 1556 and two years later she died, Elizabeth became Queen and Dee’s career took off. Dee was given several academic appointments and it is then that he is likely to have acted as an intelligence agent for Queen Elizabeth. He made several trips on her behalf and signed his messages to her ‘007’, as my eyes are looking out for you. He also coined the word ‘Britannia’, had the greatest library in England with over 4,000 books and established the legal foundation for colonizing North America.

The 007 that Dee ended his letters.

Was the rising playwright William Shakespeare influenced by Dee? As Dee was also instrumental in theatre arts so they definitely would have known each other. There are also lots of references to the occult in Shakespeare’s plays, was this the influence of Dee and his 4,000 book library? It’s also rumoured that Shakespeare depicted him as Prospero in the Tempest and King Lear!

Dee’s career took a nosedive when the Queen died and in 1604 he was once again accused of sorcery. He died in poverty four years later at the age of 81.


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