Ian Lancaster Fleming, from an upper-middle-class Scottish family, was brought up, as he said, “in a hunting-and-fishing world where you shot or caught your lunch.” His was a conservative and patriotic environment in which “Rule Britannia” was accepted both as a duty and as a right conferred by God. Ian’s father, Major Valentine Fleming, was a Tory member of Parliament from South Oxfordshire who lost his life on the Somme in 1916. His obituary in The Times was written by Winston Churchill.
Fleming received an education in conformity with the traditions and expectations of his place in society: first at Eton College, for which he was presumably registered for admission at birth, then at the famous Royal Military College at Sandhurst, where he learned to shoot well enough to participate on the school’s rifle team when it competed against West Point. He became a second lieutenant, but the prospect of serving in a modern mechanized army gave him little joy: “A lot of us decided we didn’t want to be garage hands running those bloody tanks.” He resigned his commission and, following his mother’s advice, began to prepare for a career in the diplomatic service.
Fleming attended the Universities of Geneva and Munich to learn French and German. He placed seventh in the foreign-service entrance examination, but diplomatic postings were rare and only the top five were selected. In 1931, Fleming joined Reuters as a foreign...
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