John Dee- the original 007 Tudor Spy.

We all know of James Bond and his licence to kill spy films and many will remember James Bond himself was created by Ian Fleming. However he wasn’t the first in the world of espionage to use the code 007 and it’s quite possible that when James Bond was first thought up, Ian Fleming may have been aware of an intriguing historical figure in the form of John Dee. He was the first spy to use ‘007’ as a code and whilst James Bond goes undercover and takes on other identities to obtain the information he needs, John Dee was a Tudor man who pretended to be a tennis player so he could gather information for Elizabeth I.

John Dee, the father of the secret service

Queen Elizabeth I found Intelligence services to be vitally important as she was a a Protestant surrounded by Catholics, not just in her own country but all round Europe, and had a Catholic rival for the throne in Mary, Queen of Scots. Not to mention the ever present threat of invasion from Europe.

Elizabeth I would send out spies masquerading as tennis players to secretly gather information for her. After games, tongues would get loose and they’d discover who was really Protestant and who was Catholic. Jack Dee was said to be her favourite.

Early forms of tennis were popular in that age and were often played for large wagers.. After the matches Jack Dee would send letters to the queen using the code 007 so she would know it was genuine. Dr Dee studied at St John’s College, Cambridge, and was considered one of the most learned men of his generation amongst other things being a famed astrologer.

James Bond in Spectre
James Bond in Spectre

These days 007 is largely associated with the James Bond spy films. It is believed that Dr Dee used ’00’ in his letters to symbolise his eyes or were a code meaning ‘for your eyes only’

In the years after Elizabeth I ascended to the throne in 1558, she appointed him as her scientific and astrological adviser.

The ‘7’ may have been a sacred or lucky number which Dr Dee who was fascinated by numerology and the mystical property of numbers may have regarded as a prudent addition… certainly better than 0013!

About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including several #1 sellers. I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. I run my private tours company with one tour stated by the leading travel website as being with the #1 authentic London Experience. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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4 Responses to John Dee- the original 007 Tudor Spy.

  1. Well well well! I’ve always been fascinated by Dr Dee but I didn’t know the 007 twist! Many thanks!


  2. Pingback: John Dee- the original 007 Tudor Spy. – Glyn Hnutu-healh: History, Alchemy, and Me

  3. Svengoolie Newmar says:

    Interesting story! Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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