James Bond gets a lot of flak for his apparent disregard for most of the rules of thumb of spycraft – 'don't make a scene' and 'don't make anything explode if you can help it' being the two biggies – but you suspect his cover might be finally and conclusively blown if he were to get a blue plaque put on his London flat.
That might be a possibility now that Bond writer William Boyd says he's worked out Bond's West London address.
While rereading Ian Fleming's novels in preparation for his own Bond novel, Boyd writes in the Times Literary Supplement that "Fleming lets slip a crucial co-ordinate" in Thunderball.
In it, Bond pulls out of his square before driving "fast up Sloane Street and into the [Hyde] Park". That, says Boyd, places Bond's house – a "comfortable flat in a plane-tree’d square off the King’s Road," as Fleming has it in Moonraker – in Wellington Square in Chelsea.
This isn't the first time that Wellington Square has been pegged as Bond's home, but it is the first time we've got a good guess at which number he was at: 25.
That's because when Fleming was the foreign manager at the Sunday Times, 25 Wellington Square was where the paper's chief book reviewer and leading light of the Bloomsbury Group Desmond MacCarthy and his wife Molly lived. They were, Boyd says, "legendary entertainers and their home became a kind of salon".
"It is highly probable that Fleming went to one or more of the MacCarthys’ parties," he adds, and mentally moved Bond in.
We know from Fleming's description in Moonraker that it's about 15 minutes from Baker Street, and is a "ground floor flat of [a] converted Regency house". Bond, sat at his vast Empire desk set in front of an even vaster window, would look out across a plane tree-bounded square from a "book-lined sitting room".
That library is a little bit more evidence, Boyd says. He argues that in dropping in references to Milton, Poe and other writers, Fleming "took pains to stress Bond’s wide reading, despite the fact that Bond had no tertiary education... Bond is a very well-read spy. I would argue that this is another spin-off from Fleming’s location of Bond’s flat in Desmond MacCarthy’s house."
Bond would have had another, more old-school spy a short walk away on Bywater Street, on the other side of the King's Road.
"When Bond swept out of Wellington Square in his Mark II Bentley Continental he might have passed the bespectacled, portly figure of George Smiley heading for the Tube station in Sloane Square on his way to Cambridge Circus," Boyd writes.
Quite a few places have claimed to have been Bond's pad in the past, including a house on Royal Avenue which came up for sale last year.
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