John Julius Norwich

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The Right Honourable
The Viscount Norwich
Member of the House of Lords
In office
1 January 1954 – 11 November 1999
as a hereditary peer
Preceded by Duff Cooper, 1st Viscount Norwich
Succeeded by House of Lords Act 1999
Personal details
Born (1929-09-15) September 15, 1929 (age 88)
Alma mater
Occupation Historian, travel writer and television personality

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


Early life

Norwich is the son of the Conservative politician and diplomat Duff Cooper and of Lady Diana Manners, a celebrated beauty and society figure.[2] Through his father, he is descended from King William IV and his mistress Dorothea Jordan.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]


Joining the British Foreign Service after Oxford, John Julius Cooper served in Yugoslavia and Lebanon and as a member of 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.[citation needed] This gave him a right to sit in the House of Lords, though he lost this right with the House of Lords Act 1999.[citation needed]

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).[citation needed] 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. Viscount Norwich has often contributed to Cornucopia, a magazine devoted to the history and culture of Turkey.[citation needed]

Viscount Norwich has 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 has written 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, The Treasure Houses of Britain, and The Death of the Prince Imperial in the Zulu War.[citation needed]

Norwich has also worked for various charitable projects. He is the former chairman of the Venice in Peril Fund,[3] honorary chairman of the World Monuments Fund, and a Vice-President of the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies.[4] 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 is also a patron of SHARE Community, which provides vocational training to disabled people.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

Christmas Crackers are compiled from whatever attracts 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 it was sourced from as well as such oddities as a review from the American outdoors magazine Field and Stream concerning the re-publication of Lady Chatterley's Lover.[5][6]


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

Viscount Norwich is 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.[7]

Honours and styles of address


Viscount Norwich was appointed to the Royal Victorian Order as a Commander[8] 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.

Styles of address

  • 1929–1952: Mr John Julius Cooper
  • 1952–1954: The Honourable John Julius Cooper
  • 1954–1992: The Right Honourable The Viscount Norwich
  • 1992–: The Right Honourable The Viscount Norwich CVO




  1. ^ "John Julius Norwich:'Deep down, I'm shallow. I really am'", The Telegraph, 04 Jun 2008
  2. ^ Yardley, Jonathan. "John Julius Norwich's memoir, "Trying to Please," reviewed by Jonathan Yardley", The Washington Post, 5 September 2010
  3. ^ "Venice in Peril — Trustees". Retrieved 20 December 2015. 
  4. ^ "Welcome to NADFAS". Retrieved 20 December 2015. 
  5. ^ "Another cracker from John Julius Norwich". 28 November 2013. 
  6. ^ BLUME, MARY (3 December 1986). "Some Literary Feats for Your Yule Stockings" – via LA Times. 
  7. ^ "A Daughter's Life with Daddy Issues". The New York Times. 2 April 2009. Retrieved 20 December 2015. 
  8. ^ "Page 2394". The Peerage. Retrieved 15 April 2016. 


  • Leaders & Legends: John Julius Norwich (In: Old Times; Winter/Spring, 2008)

External links

  • Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by the Viscount Norwich
  • Penguin books short biography
Peerage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Alfred Duff Cooper
Viscount Norwich
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