In 1953, Ian Fleming shared with a a friend that he felt inspired to create the character James Bond after having read about the life of Sidney Reilly. Books about the super-spy became bestsellers and continue to sell millions of copies each year. In addition, the film series about the secret agent have long ago transformed into a pop-cultural phenomenon.
Known as the "Ace of Spies", Reilly was one of the best British agents at the beginning of the 20th century. Today, Bond is recognized as the incorrigible womanizer, fighter against injustice, hero and man who follows the right path.
But the truth about the progenitor of the Bond character is quite different. Sidney Reilly was a merciless and dangerous man. He was loyal to himself and himself alone. He killed anyone who got in his way and yes, he was a double agent. Read on to learn the exceptionally staggering facts from the thrilling life of Sidney Reilly - the real James Bond.
The Bloody Heist in Paris
The early life of Sidney Reilly is shrouded in mystery. Today, researchers claim he was born Georgy Rosenblum in Odessa, Ukraine. His name was first mentioned in 1895, when police found the body of a man, stabbed over 30 times, in a train en route to Paris. Before he died, he was able to reveal that his name was Constant Della Cassa and that he was attacked by Reilly with an intent on robbery. He stole $75 000. Shortly after, Bond's precursor escaped to England, where he was recruited as a secret agent.
The Rich Heiress
It was in England that he met Margaret Thomas. She was the young wife of the extremely wealthy, but elderly, magnate Hugh Thomas. The tycoon updated his will in 1898, making Margaret his sole inheritor. Just 1 week later, he was found dead in his hotel room. A young doctor named T. W. Andrew, who had been staying in the adjacent room, declared that Thomas had died of natural causes. In fact, there was no doctor under that name registered in England at that time and witnesses' descriptions of Dr. Andrew matched that of Reilly. A funeral was quickly held for the wealthy magnate, without any autopsy. Margaret married Reilly 2 weeks after the burial of her former husband.
An Exemplary Agent
Throughout the next few decades, Reilly reaffirmed himself as one of the top agents of the British MI5, operating from London to Beijing and St. Petersburg to Baku. In 1908, he was sent to Manchuria, where the Russo-Japanese War was raging on. Though he had missions from the British Crown, the fact was Reilly worked only for himself. In Manchuria, he became a triple agent, working for England, Russia and Japan. But his main sphere of operation was to buy out medical supplies and sell them at 6 times the price, to make himself wealthier.
The Women of the Real Bond
Thought he was married to Margaret Thomas, in 1910 Reilly was introduced to the wife of a prominent Russian diplomat - Nadia Zalessky. He forced her to get a divorce and married her in 1914. At the same time, he never mentioned the fact that he was already married to Margaret. In 1922, he married a 3rd time, this time to the young actress Pepita Bobadilla, although he did divorce Nadia prior to doing so. Throughout the entire time, he was legally married to Margaret Thomas, not divorcing her even to his dying day.