The Extraordinary Tale of… |

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The Extraordinary Tale of…

Magician, scientist, spy… The man who inspired Ian Fleming’s James Bond certainly cast a spell on Queen Bess


Dr John Dee was one of the most respected and eminent men of his time, but his many enemies ensured that he was ridiculed and eventually forgotten

Who was John Dee? Unlike his contemporaries Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Francis Drake and William Shakespeare (who is said to have based the magician Prospero in The Tempest on Dee) – who are securely bookmarked in our catalogue of British history – Dr Dee, astrologer and confidant to Queen Elizabeth I, has no such acknowledgment.

He has been painted as a deluded man who looked to the stars for guidance, dabbled in alchemy and communed with angels. But an alternative view is that he was one of the most brilliant men of the Renaissance, whose contribution has been muddied by centuries of slander. He was a polymath, engaged with the most cutting-edge science of his day, which at the time was intertwined with magic, alchemy and the occult.

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About BBC History Revealed Magazine

Follow the rise and fall of France's most infamous dictator, Napoleon, all the way from emperor to exile. Also inside, celebrate 200 years of Jane Austen and discover what life was really like for Ancient Greeks living in Sparta, the civilisation's most brutal city-state. We've also lined up ten of the greatest partnerships in history, from Marks and Spencer to Rolls and Royce, plus meet the man who inspired 007 – Elizabeth I's forgotten spy, John Dee.