The Viscount Norwich

Norwich in 1966, by Walter Bird
BornJohn Julius Cooper
(1929-09-15)15 September 1929
London, England
Died1 June 2018(2018-06-01) (aged 88)
London, England
Resting placeSt Mary on Paddington Green Church
Pen nameJohn Julius Norwich
  • Historian
  • travel writer
  • television personality
Alma mater
  • Anne Clifford
  • Hon. Mary Makins Philipps
Children3; including Artemis Cooper and Allegra Huston
Member of the House of Lords
In office
1 January 1954 – 11 November 1999
Hereditary peerage
Preceded byThe 1st Viscount Norwich
Succeeded byHouse of Lords Act 1999

John Julius Cooper, 2nd Viscount Norwich, CVO (15 September 1929 – 1 June 2018),[1] known as John Julius Norwich, was an English popular historian,[2] travel writer, and television personality.[3]



Norwich was born at the Alfred House Nursing Home on Portland Place in Marylebone, London, on 15 September 1929.[4] He was the son of the Conservative politician and diplomat Duff Cooper, later Viscount Norwich, and of Lady Diana Manners, a celebrated beauty and society figure.[5] He was given the name "Julius" in part because he was born by caesarean section.[6] Such was his mother's fame as an actress and beauty that the birth attracted a crowd outside the nursing home and hundreds of letters of congratulations.[4] Through his father, he was descended from King William IV and his mistress Dorothea Jordan.[7]

He was educated at Egerton House School in Dorset Square, London, later becoming a boarder at the school when it was evacuated to Northamptonshire before the outbreak of the Second World War.[8] Because his father as Minister of Information was high on the Nazi enemies list of British politicians, Norwich's parents feared for their son's safety in the event of a German invasion of Britain. In 1940 they decided to send him away after the US ambassador to Britain, Joseph P. Kennedy, offered to bring him to the United States with other evacuee children on board the SS Washington.[9] He attended Upper Canada College, Toronto, Canada, while spending his holidays with the family of William S. Paley on Long Island in New York.[10] In 1942 he returned to Britain,[11] where he attended Eton College. After the war, he studied at the University of Strasbourg while his father was ambassador to France.[12] He completed his national service in the Royal Navy before taking a degree in French and Russian at New College, Oxford.[12]


Joining the British Foreign Service after Oxford, John Julius Cooper served in Yugoslavia and Lebanon and as a member of the British delegation to the Disarmament Conference in Geneva.[13] On his father's death in 1954, he inherited the title of Viscount Norwich, created for his father, Duff Cooper, in 1952.[14] This gave him a right to sit in the House of Lords, though he lost this right with the House of Lords Act 1999.[15]

In 1964, Norwich left the diplomatic service to become a writer.[13] His subsequent books included histories of Sicily under the Normans (1967, 1970), Venice (1977, 1981), the Byzantine Empire (1988, 1992, 1995), the Mediterranean (2006) and the Papacy (2011), amongst others (see list below).[16] He also served as editor of series such as Great Architecture of the World, The Italian World, The New Shell Guides to Great Britain, The Oxford Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Art and the Duff Cooper Diaries.[17]

Norwich worked extensively in radio and television. He was host of the BBC radio panel game My Word! for four years (1978–82) and also a regional contestant on Round Britain Quiz. He wrote and presented some 30 television documentaries, including The Fall of Constantinople, Napoleon's Hundred Days, Cortés and Montezuma, The Antiquities of Turkey, The Gates of Asia, Maximilian of Mexico, Toussaint l'Ouverture of Haiti, The Knights of Malta, Treasure Houses of Britain, and The Death of the Prince Imperial in the Zulu War.[18]

Norwich also worked for various charitable projects. He was the chairman of the Venice in Peril Fund,[19] honorary chairman of the World Monuments Fund, a member of the General Committee of Save Venice, and a vice-president of the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies.[20] For many years he was a member of the Executive Committee of the National Trust, and also served on the board of the English National Opera. Norwich was also a patron of SHARE Community, which provides vocational training to disabled people.[21][22]

Christmas Crackers

Christmas Crackers were compiled from whatever attracted Norwich: letters and diaries and gravestones and poems, boastful Who's Who entries, indexes from biographies, word games such as palindromes, holorhymes and mnemonics, occasionally in untranslated Greek, French, Latin, German or whatever language they were sourced from, as well as such oddities as a review from the American outdoors magazine Field and Stream concerning the republication of Lady Chatterley's Lover.[23][24]

His final Christmas Cracker was the 49th. It was put together during the early part of 2018 and he corrected the final proofs from his hospital bed before he died on 1 June 2018.[25]

Personal life and death

Norwich's first wife was Anne Frances May Clifford, daughter of the Hon. Sir Bede Clifford; they had one daughter, the Hon. Artemis Cooper, a historian, and a son, the Hon. Jason Charles Duff Bede Cooper, an architect.[26] After their divorce, Norwich married his second wife, the Hon. Mary (Makins) Philipps, daughter of The 1st Baron Sherfield.[27]

Norwich was also the father of Allegra Huston, born of his affair with the American ballet dancer Enrica Soma while she was married to the American film director John Huston.[28]

Norwich lived for much of his life in a large detached Victorian house in Warwick Avenue, in the heart of Little Venice in Maida Vale, London, very close to Regent's Canal.[29] He died at King Edward VII's Hospital in London on 1 June 2018, aged 88.[3][13]

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Norwich was appointed to the Royal Victorian Order as a Commander in 1992 by Elizabeth II, as part of the celebrations to mark the 40th anniversary of her accession.[32]

Coat of arms of John Julius Norwich
On the Battlements of a Tower Argent a Bull passant Sable armed and unguled Or
Or three Lions rampant Gules on a Chief Azure a Portcullis chained between two Fleurs-de-lis of the first
On either side a Unicorn Argent gorged with a Collar with Chain reflexed over the back Or pendent from the collar of the dexter a Portcullis chained and from that of the sinister a Fleur-de-lys both Gold
Odi Et Amo (I hate and I love) [33]
Royal Victorian Order (not pictured)


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  1. ^ Telegraph Obituaries (1 June 2018). "John Julius Norwich, writer and television personality – obituary". Retrieved 13 March 2020.
  2. ^ 4 June 2008 (4 June 2008). ""John Julius Norwich:'Deep down, I'm shallow. I really am'", The Telegraph, 04 Jun 2008". Retrieved 13 March 2020.((cite web)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ a b "John Julius Norwich obituary: writer and broadcaster keen to share his many passions". The Guardian. 1 June 2018. Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  4. ^ a b Diana Cooper (1959). The Light of Common Day. Houghton Mifflin. p. 89=90.
  5. ^ "Yardley, Jonathan. "John Julius Norwich's memoir, 'Trying to Please', reviewed by Jonathan Yardley", The Washington Post, 5 September 2010". 5 September 2010. Retrieved 13 March 2020.
  6. ^ Web of Stories-Life Stories of Remarkable People (19 June 2018). John Julius Norwich - Only trying to please. Archived from the original on 12 December 2021. Retrieved 8 August 2020.
  7. ^ John Julius Norwich, ed. (2006). The Duff Cooper Diaries. Orion Books Ltd. p. x.
  8. ^ Web of Stories-Life Stories of Remarkable People (19 June 2018). John Julius Norwich - Early school days. Archived from the original on 12 December 2021. Retrieved 8 August 2020.
  9. ^ Diana Cooper (1960). Trumpets from the Steep. Vintage Books. p. 40.
  10. ^ Web of Stories-Life Stories of Remarkable People (19 June 2018). John Julius Norwich - America - my safe haven. Archived from the original on 12 December 2021. Retrieved 8 August 2020.
  11. ^ Web of Stories-Life Stories of Remarkable People (19 June 2018). John Julius Norwich - Lifting a lift on a cruiser. Archived from the original on 12 December 2021. Retrieved 8 August 2020.
  12. ^ a b "John Julius Norwich :: Introduction". Archived from the original on 1 March 2016. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  13. ^ a b c Whyte, William (2022). "Cooper, John Julius, second Viscount Norwich (1929–2018), writer and broadcaster". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/odnb/9780198614128.013.90000380455. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  14. ^ "Whitehall, July 8, 1952". London Gazette. London. 8 July 1952. p. 3699.
  15. ^ "Lords reform". The Guardian. 20 January 2000. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  16. ^ "John Julius Norwich :: Books Written". Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  17. ^ "John Julius Norwich :: Books Edited". Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  18. ^ "John Julius Norwich :: Television". John Julius Norwich. 2013. Archived from the original on 3 November 2018. Retrieved 9 August 2020.
  19. ^ "Venice in Peril — Trustees". Archived from the original on 25 February 2020. Retrieved 20 December 2015.
  20. ^ "Welcome to NADFAS". Archived from the original on 22 December 2015. Retrieved 20 December 2015.
  21. ^ "Board of Trustees, Vice Presidents and Patrons | Share Community". 20 March 2014. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  22. ^ "Mission, vision, and values | Share Community". 20 March 2014. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  23. ^ "Another cracker from John Julius Norwich". 28 November 2013.
  24. ^ Blume, Mary (3 December 1986). "Some Literary Feats for Your Yule Stockings" – via Los Angeles Times.
  25. ^ Introduction to Christmas Cracker 2018
  26. ^ "Jason Charles Duff Bede Cooper". Architects Registration Board. 2010. Retrieved 2 February 2020.
  27. ^ a b "John Julius Norwich: Aristocrat historian and broadcaster whose passions were inspired by remarkable parents". The Independent. 2 June 2018. Archived from the original on 13 June 2022. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  28. ^ "A Daughter's Life with Daddy Issues". The New York Times. 2 April 2009. Retrieved 20 December 2015.
  29. ^ Parker, Olivia (25 March 2014). "My perfect weekend: John Julius Norwich, historian and writer". Daily Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 13 June 2018.
  30. ^ "John Julius Norwich". The Times. 1 June 2018. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  31. ^ "John Julius Norwich obituary". The Guardian. 1 June 2018. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  32. ^ "Supplement to the London Gazette, 31st December 1992" (PDF). The London Gazette. p. 4. Retrieved 2 March 2022.
  33. ^ This is a quotation from the Roman poet Catullus: Hamacher, Werner (2020). On the brink : language, time, history, and politics. London: Bowman and Littlefield. pp. 79–80. ISBN 9781786603913.


Peerage of the United Kingdom Preceded byDuff Cooper Viscount Norwich 1954–2018 Succeeded byJason Cooper