John Julius Norwich

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]

The Viscount Norwich

BornJohn Julius Cooper
(1929-09-15)15 September 1929
Died1 June 2018(2018-06-01) (aged 88)
Pen nameJohn Julius Norwich
  • Historian
  • travel writer
  • television personality
Alma mater
  • Anne Clifford (divorced)
  • 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


Norwich was the son of Conservative politician and diplomat Duff Cooper, later Viscount Norwich, and of Lady Diana Manners, a celebrated beauty and society figure.[4] Through his father, he was descended from King William IV and his mistress Dorothea Jordan.

He was educated at Upper Canada College, Toronto, Canada (as a wartime evacuee), Eton, and the University of Strasbourg. He served in the Royal Navy before taking a degree in French and Russian at New College, Oxford.[5]


Joining the British Foreign Service after Oxford, and before that Eton, John Julius Cooper served in Yugoslavia and Lebanon and as a member of the British delegation to the Disarmament Conference in Geneva. On his father's death in 1954, he inherited the title of Viscount Norwich, created for his father, Duff Cooper, in 1952.[6] This gave him a right to sit in the House of Lords, though he lost this right with the House of Lords Act 1999.[7]

In 1964, Viscount Norwich left the diplomatic service to become a writer. His subsequent books included histories of Sicily under the Normans (1967, 1970), Venice (1977, 1981), Byzantium (1988, 1992, 1995), the Mediterranean (2006), and the Papacy (2011), amongst others (see list below).[8] 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.[9] Viscount Norwich often contributed to Cornucopia, a magazine devoted to the history and culture of Turkey.

Viscount 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.[10]

Norwich also worked for various charitable projects. He was the chairman of the Venice in Peril Fund,[11] honorary chairman of the World Monuments Fund, and a Vice-President of the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies.[12] For many years he was a member of the Executive Committee of the National Trust, and also served on the Board of English National Opera. Viscount Norwich was also a patron of SHARE Community, which provides vocational training to disabled people.[13][14]

Christmas Crackers

Viscount Norwich began to compile 24-page anthologies for friends in 1970, later producing around 2,000 copies a year and expanding to the United States in the mid-1980s. Several anthologies have been published and certain single issues fetch high prices in secondhand bookstores.

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.[15][16]

Personal life and death

Viscount 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.[17] After their divorce, Lord Norwich married his second wife, the Hon. Mary (Makins) Philipps, daughter of The 1st Baron Sherfield.

Viscount 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.[18]

Norwich lived for much of his life, or was based in (when not overseas etc.), a large detached Victorian house in Warwick Avenue, in the heart of Little Venice, Maida Vale (London), very close to the Regent's Canal.[19] Viscount Norwich died age 88 on 1 June 2018.[3]

Titles, styles, honours and arms

  • 1929–1952: Mr John Julius Cooper[20]
  • 1952–1954: The Honourable John Julius Cooper[21]
  • 1954–2018: The Right Honourable The Viscount Norwich[22]

Viscount Norwich was appointed to the Royal Victorian Order as a Commander[23] in 1992 by the Queen after curating a Victoria and Albert Museum exhibition entitled Sovereign, which marked the 40th anniversary of the Queen's accession.

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) [24]
Royal Victorian Order (not pictured)



  • Mount Athos (jointly with Reresby Sitwell), Hutchinson, 1966
  • The Normans in the South, 1016–1130, Longman, 1967. Also published by Harper & Row with the title The Other Conquest
  • Sahara, Longman, 1968
  • The Kingdom in the Sun, Longman, 1970
  • Great Architecture of the World, Littlehampton Book Services Ltd, 1975 ISBN 978-0855330675
  • Venice: The Rise to Empire, Allen Lane, 1977 ISBN 0713907428
  • Venice: The Greatness and Fall, Allen Lane, 1981 ISBN 0713914092
  • A History of Venice, Knopf, 1982 / Penguin, 1983 ISBN 0-679-72197-5, single-volume combined edition
  • Britain's Heritage (editor), HaperCollins, 1983 ISBN 978-0246118400
  • The Italian World: History, Art and the Genius of a People (editor), Thames & Hudson, 1983, ISBN 978-0500250884
  • Hashish (photographs by Suomi La Valle, historical profile by John Julius Norwich), Quartet Books, 1984, ISBN 0-7043-2450-4
  • The Architecture of Southern England, Macmillan, 1985, ISBN 978-0-333-22037-5
  • Fifty Years of Glyndebourne, Cape, 1985, ISBN 0-224-02310-1
  • A Taste for Travel, Macmillan, 1985, ISBN 0-333-38434-2
  • Byzantium: The Early Centuries, Viking, 1988, ISBN 0-670-80251-4
  • Venice: a Traveller's Companion (an anthology compiled by Lord Norwich), Constable, 1990, ISBN 0-09-467550-3
  • Oxford Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Art (editor) Oxford, 1990
  • The Normans in the South and The Kingdom in the Sun, on Norman Sicily, later republished as The Normans in Sicily, Penguin, 1992 (The Normans in the south, 1016–1130; originally published:- Harlow:Longman,1967—The kingdom in the sun, 1130–1194; originally published:- Harlow:Longman, 1970) ISBN 0-14-015212-1
  • Byzantium; v. 2: The Apogee, Alfred A. Knopf, 1992, ISBN 0-394-53779-3
  • Byzantium; v. 3: The Decline and Fall, Viking, 1995, ISBN 0-670-82377-5
  • A Short History of Byzantium, Alfred A. Knopf, 1997, ISBN 0-679-45088-2
  • The Twelve Days of Christmas (illustrated by Quentin Blake), Doubleday, 1998 (spoof of the old favourite carol, "The Twelve Days of Christmas"), ISBN 0-385-41028-X
  • Shakespeare's Kings: the Great Plays and the History of England in the Middle Ages: 1337–1485, New York : Scribner, 2000, ISBN 0-684-81434-X
  • Treasures of Britain (editor), Everyman Publishers, 2002, ISBN 978-0749532567
  • Paradise of Cities, Venice and its Nineteenth-century Visitors, Viking/Penguin, 2003, ISBN 0-670-89401-X
  • The Duff Cooper Diaries (editor), Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2006, ISBN 978-0753821053
  • The Middle Sea: A History of the Mediterranean, Doubleday, 2006, ISBN 0-385-51023-3
  • Trying to Please (autobiography), Wimborne Minster, Dovecote Press, 2008, ISBN 978-1-904349-58-7
  • Christmas Crackers (anecdotes, trivia and witticisms collected from history and literature)
  • More Christmas Crackers
  • The Big Bang: Christmas Crackers , 2000–2009, Dovecote Press, 2010, ISBN 978-1-904349-84-6
  • The Great Cities in History (editor), Thames and Hudson, 2009, ISBN 978-0-500-25154-6
  • Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy, Chatto & Windus, 2011, ISBN 978-0-7011-8290-8 (US title for The Popes: A History)
  • The Popes: A History, 2011, ISBN 978-0099565871 (UK title for Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy)
  • A History of England in 100 Places: From Stonehenge to the Gherkin, John Murray, 2012, ISBN 978-1848546097
  • Darling Monster: The Letters of Lady Diana Cooper to Her Son John Julius Norwich (editor), Chatto & Windus, 2013, ISBN 978-0701187798
  • Cities That Shaped the Ancient World (editor), Thames and Hudson Ltd, 2014, ISBN 978-0500252048
  • Sicily: An Island at the Crossroads of History, Random House, 2015, ISBN 978-0812995176
  • Four Princes: Henry VIII, Francis I, Charles V, Suleiman the Magnificent and the Obsessions that Forged Modern Europe, John Murray, 2016, ISBN 978-1-47363-295-0
  • France: A History: from Gaul to de Gaulle, John Murray, 2018, ISBN 978-1473663831


  1. John Julius Norwich, writer and television personality – obituary
  2. "John Julius Norwich:'Deep down, I'm shallow. I really am'", The Telegraph, 04 Jun 2008
  3. "John Julius Norwich obituary: writer and broadcaster keen to share his many passions". The Guardian. 1 June 2018. Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  4. Yardley, Jonathan. "John Julius Norwich's memoir, "Trying to Please," reviewed by Jonathan Yardley", The Washington Post, 5 September 2010
  5. "John Julius Norwich :: Introduction". Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  6. "Whitehall, July 8, 1952". London Gazette. London. 8 July 1952. p. 3699.
  7. "Lords reform". the Guardian. 20 January 2000. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  8. "John Julius Norwich :: Books Written". Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  9. "John Julius Norwich :: Books Edited". Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  10. "John Julius Norwich :: Television". Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  11. "Venice in Peril — Trustees". Retrieved 20 December 2015.
  12. "Welcome to NADFAS". Retrieved 20 December 2015.
  13. "Board of Trustees, Vice Presidents and Patrons | Share Community". Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  14. "Mission, vision, and values | Share Community". Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  15. "Another cracker from John Julius Norwich". 28 November 2013.
  16. BLUME, MARY (3 December 1986). "Some Literary Feats for Your Yule Stockings" via Los Angeles Times.
  18. "A Daughter's Life with Daddy Issues". The New York Times. 2 April 2009. Retrieved 20 December 2015.
  19. Parker, Olivia (25 March 2014). "My perfect weekend: John Julius Norwich, historian and writer". ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 13 June 2018.
  20. "John Julius Norwich". The Times. 1 June 2018. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  21. "John Julius Norwich: Aristocrat historian and broadcaster whose passions were inspired by remarkable parents". The Independent. 2 June 2018. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  22. "John Julius Norwich obituary". The Guardian. 1 June 2018. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  23. "Page 2394". The Peerage. Retrieved 15 April 2016.


  • Leaders & Legends: John Julius Norwich (In: Old Times; Winter/Spring, 2008)
Peerage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Alfred Duff Cooper
Viscount Norwich
Succeeded by
Jason Cooper
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