College of Arms James Bond
Travel

Discovering Bonds Heritage

UNITED KINGDOM – London, College of Arms // On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

The College of Arms in London is not only a location in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”. It is the treasure room to Bonds real heritage.

Mr. William Hunt now looks challenged. His fingers slides across book spines, his eyes following names and letters. B, B for Bond. Mr. Hunt opens up a book on extinct baronetcies and there is it, an entry to the real Bond family. “Ha”, the Herald at the College of Arms says, “back in the 16th century the Bonds really did exist!”
And then they came back – or better: He came back, Bond. For the adaption of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service back in 1969 the film crew looked for both help and original locations at the College of Arms in London. And there, the paths of a long forgotten English Baron and a well-known secret agent crossed.

College of Arms

Why Bond was here
In the movie, James Bond (George Lazenby) has intercepted letters from some Gebruder Gumbold, solicitors in Switzerland to a certain Count Balthazar de Bleuchamp. He figures, it is a new alias from his arch-enemy Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Telly Savalas). To get on his trails, Bond disguises himself as Sir Hilary Bray, a Herald at the College of Arms in London. At the College he gets trained by the real Herald – and learns something about his own ancestors as well.

College of Arms Earl Marshal's Court

The rebuilt Earl Marshal’s Court in the movie

How you gonna get there
The College of Arms is situated in the center of London at 130 Queen Victoria Street. It is just a short walk south of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Bus lines and the tube stop nearby at “St. Paul’s”. Other close tube stations are “Mansion House” to the east and “Blackfriars” to the west.

Good to know
When we visited the College of Arms, we didn’t just wanted to stop by for a photo – but actually learn about how the traditional institution worked together with the movie crew. So we met up with William Hunt, who works as a Herald at the College of Arms.

College of Arms Earl Marshal's Court

And the real Earl Marshal’s Court in the College of Arms

What we learned: Filming only took place at the courtyard outside the horseshoe-shaped building. The rooms inside are all original rebuilt studio sets – because the real locations were too narrow to place cameras inside. In the movie, you can see replicas of both the Earl Marshal’s Court, which is the entry room, and the record room, where the Heralds keep their books. And this is, where we went to look for Bonds history.
As it turns out, the writers of On Her Majesty’s Service went into the archives and borrowed the famous Bond Arms from a real Baron. The records inform about a Baron Bond, whose lineage got extinct in the 16th century. His Arms show three gold bezants on a black chevron – just as the fictional Bond Arms show the same three gold bezants on a dark blue chevron.

See our interview with the College of Arms Herald Mr. William Hunt:

Hunt believes: “The real Bond must have inspired the film makers for their design of the Arms.” And since at the time of filming the crew got advice from real Heralds at the College of Arms, this seems about legit. “The script was full of remarks from one of our Heralds”, Hunt says. Those remarks helped in forming the character of Sir Hilary Bray – and also, as we discovered, in giving the secret agent Bond a real heritage.

The afternoon with Mr. Hunt was really interesting. We were also able to look into the original scripts from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – with the correction notes from the late Heralds. Due to copyright reasons we can’t show them here. But they are on display at the College of Arms – so just go there and ask for them!

© 2015 Huntingbond (1,2,4,5), © 1969 Danjaq S.A. (3)

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