Mrs. James Bond

Fig. 1. Fleming eventually married Ann Rothermere in 1952, but the marriage was unfaithful on both sides.
Source: Bassano. Anne Geraldine Fleming. 1937. Whole-plate film negative. National Portrait Gallery, London.

It was only after 14 years of illicit relations and a second pregnancy that Ian decided to marry Ann Rothermere. Fleming was 43 at the time, which by Bond’s standards was “past the age of consent… After [forty] you have to pay money, or tell a story” (Diamonds Are Forever, 190).

Freudian analysis would suggest Ian’s strained relationship with an overbearing mother and lack of living male role models contributed to his unusually strong case of domestic claustrophobia. Interestingly, Andrew Lycett notes her personality was such that Ian “would shudder at the thought of spending all his time with the one woman” (48).

The terms of her late husband’s will specified that if Eve were to remarry she would receive a vastly reduced stipend. Val’s parents, Robert and Katie Fleming, neglected to provide for their first-born’s family altogether. Perhaps feeling shortchanged, Eve would later use these kinds of financial pressures on Ian, forcing him to choose between his comfortably supported life in London and a future with his first fiancée, Monique Panchaud de Bottones (Lycett 59).

The Power to Leave

The discrepancy between Fleming’s domination fantasy and the reality of the committed, long-term relationship may explain his reluctance to engage with most of his romantic partners on more than a sexual level, and Bond’s incompatibility with marriage: the dedicated relationship often requires equitable caretaking, a subversion of the usual roles.

The link in Fleming’s mind between marriage and subordination to a woman – becoming the subject of a caretaker – is evident in his use of the descriptor “claustrophobia.” Bond describes his distaste for married life to Tiffany Case, claiming he’d “get claustrophobia and run out on her” (Fleming 185). And after receiving flowers from Vesper in Casino Royale: “He disliked having feminine things around him. Flowers seemed to ask for recognition of the person who had sent them, to be constantly transmitting a message of sympathy and affection. Bond found this irksome. He disliked being cosseted. It gave him claustrophobia” (Fleming 139).

On the emotional or intellectual level, women in Fleming’s eyes were prone to coddling and expecting companionship which, to the commitment-averse Fleming, made them unsuitable: they would “[lose] that animal capacity for giving the happiness and relief which he needed from them” describes John Pearson, remarking on a passage of Fleming’s notebook (106-7).

Fleming reconciled this disparity through his belief that women are simply incapable of full intellectual engagement. “Some women respond to the whip, some to the kiss. Most of them like a mixture of both, but none of them answer to the mind alone, to the intellectual demand, unless they are man dressed as woman” (Fleming in Pearson 106).

◀ Girls, Part 1: Fleming’s femininity // Girls, Part 3: Be a James Bond girl! ▶