ABOVE: Count Robin Ian Evelyn Grinnelin-Milne, inspiration for the James Bond book and movie, "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," shown here with Duchess Margarethe of Wurttemberg. (from The Telegraph)
by Alison MacRae
Celtic Guide Magazine
After publishing "The Man That Never Was," I was delighted to come across another true story by Ian Fleming with a Celtic connection. Mr Fleming wrote a book and made a James Bond movie about one of his friends Robin Ian Evelyn Grinnelin-Milne. The book and movie were called On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
The book and the movie were based on a French-born man with Scottish ancestors. The man was an aristocrat well known for wooing beautiful women.
Robin worked with Ian on his book and was very influential even being the main inspiration for the characteristics of James Bond. In the movie, James Bond’s cover was a genealogist called Sir Hilary Bray, which was based on Robin's position as a heraldic researcher at the College of Arms in London.
Let me tell you about Robin and indeed you will find him a very colourful gentleman who lived out the last years of his life on the Isle of Lewis.
Robin was born in Paris on 13 January 1925, to Duncan-Grinnel-Milne and Frances Warrington La Lenne of Philadelphia.
His father Duncan was an English First World War pilot and was credited with 6 aerial victories. He was awarded the military cross. When his plane was shot down he was taken as a P.O.W. He escaped from German activity and returned to his squadron. He was married three times and later became a writer; a very distinguished man was his father.
His ancestry was Scottish on his father's side, and French on his mother's side. His great, great grandfather was from Glasgow and was the inventor of the Mirrlees diesel engine company.
Robin also proved to be a very distinguished man as you will see.
He was educated in Cairo, Paris, and Marton College, Oxford, and got his degree in PPE. ( Philosophy, Politics and Economics}.
Robin was also a former Officer of Arms at the College of Arms in London. Robin loved to add titles to his name and I am sure this is why he held so many. The one that he used most frequently was Count Robin Ian Evelyn Milne Stuart Le Comte de la Lanne Mirrlees.
The Officer of Arms is a medieval practice. Such appointments are also still made in Scotland where four private officers of arms exist.
Another title Robin had was Rouge Dragon Pursuivant, which is a junior officer of arms of the college of arms named after the red dragon of Wales. He held this title from 1952 - 1962.
He was very influential for Ian Fleming on the book turned movie, On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
The character Sable Basilisk was based on Robin, and his influence on Ian Fleming ran very deep. He also claimed he was descendent from an ancient Basque family on his mother's side whose members were said to be born without earlobes. It was this deformity that they gave to the character Ernest Stavro Blofeld.
The family motto was another one that Robin came up with for the film "The World is Not Enough". It was used as the Bond family motto in all the films.
In 1927, Robin's parents divorced. His mother re-married Major General William Mirrlees. In recognition, Robin changed his name to Robin de la Lanne-Mirrlees.
During the Second World War, he served in the Royal Artillery in India, rising to the rank of Captain.
He was well known as a Debutante delight and had the most glamorous young ladies on his arm. Indeed when he did marry, he married a former nurse and it lasted one week.
He was in a long relationship with Duchess Margarethe of Wurtemberg, a granddaughter of Tsar Ferdinand I of Bulgaria. He has a son with Duchess Margarethe, who was born in San Francisco in 1962. He was named Patrick Grinnel-Milne de la Lanne-Mirrlees.
Life was good for Robin, so good in fact he decided to buy the Island Great Bernera and Little Bernera and Eilean Chearstaidh in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. He bought it in 1962.
The Count, as he was now known, lived on Great Bernera in 1971 when he bought the house at 9 Kirkibost, which had been put up on auction under sad circumstances. The owner of the house was the Rev. MacLeod who died unexpectedly, and he had wanted his maiden Aunt to have control of it, as she was living in the house. Unfortunately, for some unknown reason, this was not done.
When he died, by law it went to his wife, who sold it by auction and the elderly lady and her sister had to move out of the family homestead the only home they knew.
BELOW: The Count's gravestone at the Bosta Cemetery, Great Bernera.
He also bought Inchdrewer Castle near Banff, Aberdeenshire, in 1971, and inherited another title. He was recognised by Lord Lyon King of Arms as Baron of Inchdrewer.
He was wanting to restore this castle. Unfortunately, it was not to be, and he also had to sell it.
BELOW: The house that the Count bought and lived in on Great Bernera.
(by Norman MacLeod)
On July 2, 1985, Prince Charles and Princess Diana visited the Island of Bernera by helicopter. The Count was on good terms with the Royal family, and other royalty from other countries.
The Count also had great plans for the Island, he was going to do so much to help the people. Regrettably, a lot of his plans failed. You see, Robin was one of the wealthy guarantors of Lloyd’s Insurance Company. In the early 90's he was forced to sell a number of his worldwide properties due to the bankruptcy of Lloyd’s Insurance. Robin was forced to put up a massive amount of money to fulfil his obligations.
While visiting London in 2004, the Count suffered a stroke.
He moved back to his beloved Island where he was in a care home in Bernera. The home closed and he moved to one in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis where he died on the 23rd June 2012.
He was known as an eccentric man on the Island but was well loved as he so wanted to help and make the Island a wonderful place for the inhabitants.
The house is uninhabited and is for sale since 2012, Unfortunately, it is in neglect and in bad need of repair and the price is expensive for the condition it is in.
He left his estate to his grandson, who lives in Germany.
His son and his grandson did come over to Bernera after he died. The Count had ordered his gravestone marker a couple of years before his death, and it has not been updated with his death on it.
The inhabitants of the Island are still in negotiations to buy the Island from the Estate. It is an ongoing process. Unfortunately, it can take a long time.