‘James Bond’ prince bequeathes his £1m island hideaway to the nation
AN ECCENTRIC prince – the inspiration of a James Bond character in Ian Fleming’s novel On His Majesty’s Secret Service – has left a £1 million Hebridean island to the nation.
Count Robin de la Lanne-Mirrlees, who died in Stornoway in June, has left 250-acre uninhabited Little Bernera off the west coast of Lewis to the National Trust for Scotland. The former herald to the Queen had lived in a croft house on neighbouring Great Bernera since buying the islands in the 1960s.
Bill Gardner, of the National Trust for Scotland, said: “This appears to be an extraordinary act of generosity from a man who led an extraordinary life.
“We have not been contacted directly as yet regarding the bequest, but it is not unusual for there to be a gap of several months before legal papers are received following public registration of the will.
“Once confirmation is received we will assess the island’s ecology and landscape as to how it can be best conserved for the nation in the light of any conditions attached to the bequest.”
Educated at the English School of Cairo and later in Paris, before studying at Oxford, the count was a captain in the Royal Artillery, serving in India during the Second World War.
He helped Fleming with research for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service while serving as Rouge Dragon Pursuivant at the College of Arms in London in 1960.
Bond’s cover role was based on Mirrlees who was then the heraldic researcher, appointed by the British Sovereign, at the College of Arms in London where he served from 1952 until 1967.
The fictional 007 spy was called Sable Basilisk Pursuivant, a play on Mirrlees’ job title of Rouge Dragon Pursuivant.
Count Mirrlees, the godson of the 11th Duke of Argyll, had been the popular laird of Great Bernera which he bought in 1962.
He had never set eyes on the place before, but soon fell in love with its isolation, rugged stunning scenery and the warmth of the people.
Locals found him likeable and referred to him as Count Robin. He supported many local causes and readily released land for community use.
The Count was born as Robin Ian Evelyn Grinnell-Milne in January 1925 to Captain Duncan Grinnell-Milne, a highly-decorated First World War pilot, and Countess Frances de la Lanne. In 2005, he took up his royal title of Prince of Incoronata, an Adriatic island archipelago bestowed in the 1960s by the exiled King Peter II of Yugoslavia.
His parents divorced and his French mother later married Scots war hero Major General William Mirrlees. Incorporating his mother’s married surname, he changed his name by deed poll twice, in 1958 and latterly 20 years ago to Robin Ian Evelyn Milne Stuart le Prince de la Lanne-Mirrlees.
He attended the Queen’s coronation and also held numerous foreign knighthoods. When he was 45 he married a nurse but the marriage was short-lived.
The count is survived by his 50-year-old son Patrick de la Lanne, the mayor of a town in Germany.
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