On James Bond

"An Englishman's Word Is His Bond"

Is Bond English?
By Adam Roberts

Let’s start with a list of the most famous individuals associated with certain nations. In some cases the “most famous person” is a fictional character; in some cases he or she is a real person, but either way they represent some essential quality of the nation concerned. Here we go:

  • Scotland: Montgomery “Scotty” Scott, the Engineer in Star Trek. A Canadian.
  • America: George Washington. An Englishman.1
  • Russia: Stalin. A Georgian.
  • Australia: Mad Max. An American.
  • Germany: Hitler. An Austrian.
  • India: Apu from the Simpsons. A scrap of transparent animation plastic “cell” painted with acrylics in Korea and voiced by an American.
  • England: James Bond. An Englishman. At last! Or—then again, perhaps not. Let’s be honest: Think of James Bond and we think of a Scot first and foremost (you’re picturing him now: the famous face, the Scottish burr, “Mish Moneypenny . . .”). Then there was an Australian. Then an Englishman, but nobody took him very seriously. Then an Irishman, who did a much better job. All these actors were playing a character created by a Jamaican resident of Scottish descent.

Something seems to be going wrong here. Let’s take a step back. What about the other candidates for most famous Englishman, real or fictional? How about Saint George, England’s patron saint? (He was a Turk.) King Arthur? (Most likely a Roman.) How about William the Conqueror? (A Frenchman.) J. R. R. Tolkien? (Born in South Africa.) Prince Charles? (He’s prince of Wales, not England.)2 Tony Blair? (Scottish.)

Okay: Are there any Englishmen at all in the building?

I’ll  …

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