Sean Connery’s backing of Scottish independence ‘delayed him getting a knighthood’

Sean Connery jokes about people with ‘shirts hanging out’ in 1997

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Sean Connery was one of the greatest actors the UK, if not the world, has ever seen. As the first James Bond, he starred in seven films as 007, winning a host of awards along the way. He was once voted the ‘Sexiest Man Alive’ by People magazine, and won an abundance of fans across the world for his work. As well as a remarkable actor, Mr Connery held strong political views.

He was a member of the Scottish National Party and campaigned for Scottish independence from the United Kingdom throughout his life, supporting the party financially too.

His entire £1m fee from Diamonds are Forever was donated to the Scottish International Education Trust, an organisation that he co-founded which committed to helping young Scottish people gain an education.

His funding of the SNP ceased in 2001 however, when Parliament passed legislation banning overseas funding of political activities.

His views, however, did not always win him friends north of the border.

While he received a knighthood from the Queen in 2000, he had previously been nominated for the honour twice.

Both nominations in 1997 and 1998 were reportedly vetoed by Donald Dewar, who was serving as Secretary of State for Scotland at the time.

Mr Connery was giving £4,800 a month to SNP coffers at the time, according to the BBC.

Renowned TV critic Euan Ferguson wrote in The Guardian in 2004: “The late Nineties were a bad period: his [Connery’s] espousal of the SNP’s cause so angered Scottish Labour, whose tireless championing of devolution rather than full independence has at least resulted in this new Parliament, that his knighthood is widely believed to have been blocked.

“Connery was not happy, and it could be argued his feelings were justifiable.

“He was not only Scotland’s but Britain’s greatest ever star, and had done it all from one of the hardest starts in life, done it all himself, and yet was being refused the honour he felt he deserved because he had dared enter the snake-pit of Scots politics.”

Mr Connery’s own website echoed this: “Throughout his life, Sir Sean Connery has been an ardent supporter of Scotland.

“While it is generally accepted that his support of Scotland’s independence and the Scottish National Party delayed his knighthood for many years, his commitment to Scotland has never wavered.”

The biography section of his website said: “Politics in the United Kingdom has more intrigue than a James Bond plot.

“While Scotland is not yet independent, she does have a new parliament.”

It said Mr Connery “firmly believed” Scotland would gain independence within his lifetime.

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He did not get his wish, as he passed away last year in his sleep.

He did, however, receive the knighthood he deserved.

He was knighted by the Queen in Edinburgh for his services to film drama, at a ceremony he had specifically requested take place in his home city.

Wearing traditional Highland dress and accompanied by wife Michelle and brother Neil, he knelt while the Queen touched his shoulders lightly with a sword.

They shook hands and chatted for several moments.

He later revealed the Queen had asked him about how often he came to Scotland, since he lived in Marbella at the time.

Mr Connery said at the time: “I think it’s a great honour for Scotland. There’s only one day of the Honours system up here.

“It’s one of the proudest days of my life.”

Sean’s story was a remarkable one, and the ultimate rags to riches tale.

Born in Edinburgh in 1930, his family was so poor that he had to sleep in the bottom drawer of his parents’ dresser.

He began working at the age of just nine, carrying out a range of menial jobs to help his family get by.

He left school at 13, and joined the Royal Navy in 1946, before receiving a medical discharge.

During a bodybuilding competition in London in 1953, he heard auditions were being held for the production of Rodgers & Hammerstein classic ‘South Pacific’. He landed a small part as one of the Seabees chorus boys, and worked various other roles as extras in the mid-Fifties.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Sean Connery features in ‘The First Great Train Robbery’ which airs this afternoon on BBC Two.

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