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How the first 007 was a Tudor spy for Elizabeth I who used tennis to weed out Catholics

License to frill! How the first 007 was a Tudor spy for Elizabeth I who used tennis to weed out Catholics

  • The first spy to use ‘007’ was a Tudor man who pretended to be a tennis player
  • It is believed Jack Dee would gather information for Queen Elizabeth I
  • In letters to the Queen, Dr Dee used the code ‘007’ to show them as genuine

Serving for his Queen and country has always been important to James Bond.

And the original 007 may have been doing it quite literally – on the tennis court.

The first spy to use ‘007’ as a code was a Tudor man who pretended to be a tennis player so he could gather information for Elizabeth I, according to author Christian Howgill.

Pictured: John Dee, astrologer to Queen Elizabeth I and the ‘original 007’. According to author Christian Howgill, Elizabeth I would send out spies masquerading as tennis players to gather information for her – Jack Dee was a ‘special favourite’

Mr Howgill told an audience at the Chalke Valley History Festival, sponsored by the Daily Mail, that John Dee was a ‘special favourite’ of the queen.

Intelligence services were important to her because she was 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.

Mr Howgill said: ‘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 she was really Protestant and who was Catholic.’

Early forms of tennis were popular in that age and were often played for large wagers.

Pictured: Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I. 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

Pictured: Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I. 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

Mr Howgill, author of the book How Tennis Invented Everything, continued: ‘They thought they were playing for money but they were actually playing for their lives. There was one special favorite of hers, a man called John Dee.

‘Whenever he wrote to her he would use a secret code within his letters so she knew it was from him and not someone trying to feed her false information. The code was 007.

‘If he used the phrase 007 in the letter she knew it was genuine. This was something Ian Fleming knew and incorporated into his books about him.’

He added: ‘Unlikely as it sounds, tennis invented James Bond.’

Dr Dee studied at St John’s College, Cambridge, and was considered one of the most learned men of his generation.

Pictured: Daniel Craig as the modern day James Bond.  007 is largely associated with the James Bond spy films.  It is believed that Dr Dee used '00' in his letters from him to symbolize his eyes from him or were a code meaning 'for your eyes only'

Pictured: Daniel Craig as the modern day James Bond. 007 is largely associated with the James Bond spy films. It is believed that Dr Dee used ’00’ in his letters from him to symbolize his eyes from him 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.

Supporters of the theory that he was a spy think the ’00’ used in his letters to the queen could have symbolized his eyes or were a code meaning ‘for your eyes only’.

The ‘7’ may have been a sacred or lucky number which Dr Dee – who was fascinated by numerology and the mystical property of numbers – might have regarded as a prudent addition.

Shackleton crew’s seat of Endurance

As the crew of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s doomed ship Endurance awaited rescue in Antarctica, they had plenty to worry about.

But the simple act of changing underpants still brought ‘great joy’ to Sir James Wordie – a geologist among the group.

Author Joanna Grochowicz told the history festival yesterday: ‘He kept extensive diaries… [in] one whole entry for a day he wrote about how wonderful it was to change his underwear.

‘He didn’t change them for a new pair, he turned them inside out. This was a great joy because he hadn’t turned them round for five months.

‘He writes quite beautifully about how good he felt to have soft fabric against his skin after months of not washing.’

Miss Grochowicz, author of the book Shackleton’s Endurance, added: ‘You can imagine what the smell of these men must have been like.’ Endurance sank in November 1915. Shackleton and his men escaped in a lifeboat, but were not rescued until the following August.

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