Sir Fitzroy Maclean; James Bond Prototype
Sir Fitzroy Maclean, a British diplomat, legislator, soldier and author who was often considered the real-life prototype of the fictional spy James Bond, has died at the age of 85.
Maclean, who was made a baronet by Queen Elizabeth II in 1957, died Saturday of a heart attack after swimming during a visit to Hertford, England. He lived at his family home, Strachur House, in Argyll, Scotland.
A friend of Bond creator Ian Fleming, Maclean never confirmed or denied that he was the model for the book and film hero. The tall, handsome and energetic Maclean steadfastly denied that he was ever a spy, but was proud of his founding membership in the Special Air Service, a World War II vanguard of famous British intelligence units.
Abandoning diplomatic service for a seat in Parliament in 1941, Maclean, described as “a descendant of the fighting Macleans of Ardgour,” soon joined the Cameron Highlanders and became the first parachutist member of Parliament.
In 1943, he secured his place as an Allied hero when he parachuted into Yugoslavia to befriend Josip Tito. Maclean fought with Tito to liberate Belgrade from the Germans, who dubbed the British soldier “terrible Maj. Jones.”
Many historians later credited Maclean, a British representative to Yugoslavia after the war, with persuading Winston Churchill to side with Tito’s forces over the rival Chetniks.
“Maclean is described by his friends,” a 1943 Western war dispatch stated, “as a man of dual character--outwardly languid and casual, affecting the bored drooping mannerism of a Mayfair dilettante, but inwardly burning with a zest for danger and adventure.”
A year earlier, Maclean led a secret commando column 500 miles behind Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s lines in the North African desert to raid a Nazi air base.
“To some people, my life might seem one long adventure holiday,” Maclean reflected in an interview last year, “blowing up forts in the desert, clandestinely parachuting into guerrilla wars, penetrating forbidden cities deep behind closed frontiers.”
Born in Cairo to a British Army officer, Maclean was educated at Eton and Cambridge. As a young diplomat in the 1930s, he served in Paris, London and Josef Stalin’s Moscow, from where he illegally wandered through central Asia.
His experiences during those travels, his diplomatic service and the war were the basis of Maclean’s first book, “Eastern Approaches” published in England in 1949 and a year later in the United States as “Escape to Adventure.”
Maclean’s score of books about history and faraway destinations included “Tito, the Man who Defied Hitler and Stalin,” “A Concise History of Scotland,” “To Caucasus: The End of All the Earth,” “Take Nine Spies,” “Holy Russia,” “Bonnie Prince Charlie” and “Portrait of the Soviet Union.”
His final book was “Highlanders,” published last year.
Maclean, who remained in Parliament until 1974, spent his later years writing, making television documentaries and operating a hotel.
He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Lady Veronica Maclean, daughter of the 16th Baron Lovat; two sons, Charles and James, and three grandchildren.