Simon Sebag Montefiore

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Simon Sebag Montefiore
Simon Sebag Montefiore 2011.jpg
Born (1965-06-27) 27 June 1965 (age 52)
London, United Kingdom
Residence London, United Kingdom
Nationality British
Education Ludgrove School
Harrow School
Alma mater Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge
Occupation Author
Spouse(s) Santa Palmer-Tomkinson
Children 2
Parent(s) Stephen Eric Sebag Montefiore
Phyllis April Jaffé

Simon Jonathan Sebag Montefiore (/ˌsmən ˌsbæɡ ˌmɒntɪfiˈɔːri/; born 27 June 1965) is a British historian, television presenter and award-winning author of popular history books and novels.[1][2]

Early life

Simon Montefiore was born in London. His father was Stephen Eric Sebag Montefiore and his brother is Hugh Sebag-Montefiore. They are descended from a line of wealthy Sephardi Jews who were diplomats and bankers all over Europe and who originated from Morocco and Italy. At the start of the 19th century, his great-great-uncle, Sir Moses Montefiore, was an international financier who worked with the Rothschild family and who became a philanthropist.[3] His mother, Phyllis April Jaffé, comes from a Lithuanian Jewish family of scholars. Her parents fled the Russian Empire at the beginning of the 20th century. They bought tickets for New York City, but were cheated, being instead dropped off at Cork, Ireland. Due to the Limerick boycott in 1904 his grandfather Henry Jaffé left the country and moved to Newcastle, England.

Montefiore was educated at Ludgrove School and Harrow School.[4] He read history at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge[4] where he received his Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD).[5] He won an Exhibition to Caius College.[6]


Montefiore worked as a banker, a foreign affairs journalist, and a war correspondent covering the conflicts during the fall of the Soviet Union.

Montefiore's book Catherine the Great & Potemkin was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize, the Duff Cooper Prize, and the Marsh Biography Award.[7] Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar won History Book of the Year at the 2004 British Book Awards.[8] Young Stalin won the LA Times Book Prize for Best Biography,[9] the Costa Book Award,[10] the Bruno Kreisky Award for Political Literature, Le Grand Prix de la Biographie Politique[11] and was shortlisted for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.[12] Jerusalem: The Biography was a number one non-fiction Sunday Times bestseller and a global bestseller and won The Book of the Year Prize from the Jewish Book Council.[13] His latest history is The Romanovs, 1613–1918.

Montefiore's debut novel King's Parade was published in 1991. The Spectator called the book "embarrassing" and "extremely silly".[14] Montefiore is also the author of the acclaimed novels Sashenka and One Night in Winter. One Night in Winter won the Political Novel of the Year Prize[15] and was longlisted for the Orwell Prize.[16] He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and Visiting Professor of Humanities at the University of Buckingham.

Personal life

Montefiore lives in London with his wife, the novelist Santa Montefiore, and their two children.[4]

Movies and TV Drama Series

Several of Montefiore’s books are now being developed as either movies or TV drama series. In February 2017, Angelina Jolie announced that she was developing ‘Simon Sebag Montefiore’s Catherine the Great and Potemkin’ with Universal Studios.[17]. Also in early 2017, the film studio Lionsgate Films announced it had bought Montefiore’s Jerusalem: the Biography to make it into a long running multi episodic TV drama series which will be ‘character-driven, action-filled account of war, betrayal, faith, fanaticism, slaughter, persecution and co-existence in the universal city through the ages.’ [18]. Montefiore has likened it to Game of Thrones [19]. In April 2016, 21st Century Fox announced that its animated division Blue Sky Studios, makers of the Ice Age series, had bought ‘’Royal Rabbits of London’’, the children’s series of books written by Montefiore and Santa Montefiore, to develop into an animated feature film. [20].


Montefiore's last non fiction book The Romanovs 1613–1918 (2016) was accused of containing historical errors by a Swedish historian.[21] However, it has also received many favourable reviews. Olga Grushin in the New York Times observed that the book is 'Spellbinding...This monumental work is an essential addition to the library of anyone interested in Russian history'. [22] Stephen Kotkin in the Wall Street Journal praised the book and noted that 'No author writes better than Montefiore whose perceptiveness and portraiture here are frequently sublime... a marvellous read and the last third from fin de siecle insanity to revolutionary cataclysm is dazzling...'. [23] The historian Antony Beevor noted that the book provided 'Epic history on the grandest scale'.[24] For The Observer John Kampfner described Montefiore's book as 'Riveting...the research is meticulous and the style is captivating'.[25]

Fiction Reviews

Montefiore has written a Moscow Trilogy of fictional thrillers, set in Russia. These have received positive reviews. Sashenka (2008) was described by the Washington Post as 'Spellbinding. Sashenka is a historical whodunit with the epic sweep of a Hollywood movie. Montefiore is a natural storyteller who brings his encyclopedic knowledge of Russian history to life in language that glitters like the ice of St. Petersburg'. [26] The Wall Street Journal praised 'This superb novel. Sashenka is unforgettable. Inspiring. Montefiore proves a matchless storyteller, his prose harrowing and precise.' [27]

One Night in Winter (2013) was described by The Guardian as 'A gripping thriller about private life and poetic dreams in Stalin’s Russia… A gripping pageturner… Whether its subject is power or love, a darkly enjoyable read.' [28]

The last novel in the trilogy, Red Sky at Noon (2017), was called 'an exciting fast-paced adventure and a lament for love in dark and brutal times' by the Mail on Sunday [29] ; 'a deeply satisfying pageturner - mythic and murderous' by The Times [30] and ‘brilliant on multiple levels… offering historical accuracy, a fine empathy for his characters and a story that illuminates the operatic tragedy of Stalin’s Russia' by Booklist. [31]


Non Fiction
  • King's Parade (1991)[32]
  • My Affair with Stalin (1997)[33]
  • Sashenka (2008)
  • One Night in Winter (2013)
  • Red Sky at Noon (2017)
Children's books (with Santa Montefiore)
  • Royal Rabbits of London (2016)
  • Royal Rabbits of London: Escape from the Tower (2017)


  • Jerusalem: The Making of a Holy City, 3 part series, 8 December 2011 – 23 December 2011[34]
  • Rome: A History of the Eternal City, 3 part series, 5–19 December 2012[35]
  • Byzantium: A Tale of Three Cities, 3 part series, 5 December 2013 – 19 December 2013[36]
  • Blood and Gold: The Making of Spain, 3 part series, 8 December 2015 – 22 December 2015[37]
  • Vienna: Empire, Dynasty And Dream, 3 part series, 8 December 2016 – 22 December 2016[38]


  • Speeches that Changed The World


  • Jerusalem: The Making of a Holy City, BBC, 2011[39]
  • Byzantium and the History of Faith

Notes and references

  1. ^ Jonathen Rosen (28 October 2011). "Caliphs, Crusaders, and the Bloody History of Jerusalem". New York Times. Retrieved 24 January 2016. 
  2. ^ Ward, Vicky (22 January 2008). "History in the Making". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 4 May 2009. 
  3. ^ David Shasha (15 June 2010). "Moses Montefiore: The Most Important Jew of the 19th Century". Huffington Post. Retrieved 27 January 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c "Simon Sebag Montefiore". Newsnight Review. BBC News. 18 July 2008. Retrieved 4 May 2009. 
  5. ^ Simon Sebag Montefiore. "About the author". Retrieved 25 January 2016. 
  6. ^ Hermione Eyre (28 January 2011). "The historian who introduced David Cameron to Prince Charles". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 24 January 2016. 
  7. ^ "Catherine the Great & Potemkin by Simon Sebag Montefiore". 
  8. ^ Galaxy British Book Awards: History Book of the Year 2004
  9. ^ "2007 Los Angeles Times Book Prizes Awarded". Los Angeles Times. 25 April 2008. Retrieved 4 May 2009. 
  10. ^ Anderson, Hephzibah (2 January 2008). "A.L. Kennedy's 'Day,' Montefiore's 'Young Stalin' Win Costas". Bloomberg L.P. Retrieved 4 May 2009. 
  11. ^ "Simon Sebag Montefiore – The Author". Orion Books. 2008. Retrieved 4 May 2009. 
  12. ^ Flood, Alison (26 August 2008). "Biographer celebrates 'fairy gold' prize win". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 May 2009. 
  13. ^ "NJBA Winners". Retrieved 25 January 2016. 
  14. ^ Caroline Moore (17 May 1991). "Made young with young desires". The Spectator. 
  15. ^ Sarah Thrift (19 March 2014). "Political Book Awards winners announced". Politicos. Retrieved 25 January 2016. 
  16. ^ "The Orwell Prize long list". Retrieved 25 January 2016. 
  17. ^ Hollywood Reporter, 22 Feb 2017.
  18. ^ Hollywood Reporter, 5 March 2017.
  19. ^ Evening Standard, 15 June 2017.
  20. ^ Variety, 18 April 2016.
  21. ^ Svenska Dagbladet, Dick Harrison: [ "Den sista tsardynastin: Romanov 1613–1918 Groteska sakfel om tsardynastin"], 11 June 2017
  22. ^ New York Times, 16 May 2016.
  23. ^ Wall Street Journal, 20 May 2016.
  24. ^ Financial Times, 15 January 2016.
  25. ^ The Observer, 25 January 2016.
  26. ^ Washington Post, 11 January 2009.
  27. ^ Wall Street Journal, 5 December 2008.
  28. ^ The Guardian, 21 September 2013.
  29. ^ Mail on Sunday, 8 June 2017.
  30. ^ The Times, 3 June 2017.
  31. ^ Booklist, 1 November 2017.
  32. ^ "Made young with young desires » 17 May 1991 » The Spectator Archive". 
  33. ^ "My Affair With Stalin". Goodreads. 
  34. ^ "Jerusalem: The Making of a Holy City - BBC Four". BBC. 
  35. ^ "Rome: A History of the Eternal City - BBC Four". BBC. 
  36. ^ "Byzantium: A Tale of Three Cities - BBC Four". BBC. 
  37. ^ "Blood and Gold: The Making of Spain with Simon Sebag Montefiore - BBC Four". BBC. 
  38. ^ "Vienna: Empire, Dynasty and Dream - BBC Four". BBC. 
  39. ^ "BBC - Jerusalem - The Making of A Holy City - Media Centre". 

External links

  • Author website
  • Appearances on C-SPAN
  • 'By the Book' interview with the New York Times
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