Lord Norwich, the 2nd Viscount Norwich, who has died aged 88, was an aristocratic man of letters and, as a historian, travel writer and television personality, was better known as John Julius Norwich.
The only son of the Conservative politician, diplomat and writer Duff Cooper (who would be created Viscount Norwich in 1952) and the society beauty Lady Diana Cooper, Norwich became one of the best-known cultural pundits of his generation. The author of numerous monumental and often multi-volume books on subjects ranging from Sicily, Venice and Byzantium to Shakespeare’s history plays and the papacy, he founded the Venice in Peril Fund and was a popular lecturer on opera and the arts.
After graduating from Oxford with a Second in Modern Languages, in 1952, following in his father’s footsteps, Cooper, as he then was, joined the Foreign Office as Third Secretary to the British Embassy in Belgrade, then as Second Secretary in Beirut. On his father’s death in 1954 he inherited the viscountcy. Ten years later he left the Diplomatic Service to become a writer and broadcaster.
In 1952 he had married Anne Clifford, daughter of Sir Bede Clifford, one-time governor of the Bahamas, with whom he had a daughter, the historian Artemis Cooper, and a son, Jason, an architect. Later, it became an open secret that he had had an illegitimate daughter with Ricki Huston, wife of the film director John Huston. When Anne discovered her husband’s infidelity, she is said to have had a breakdown, though John Julius insisted that she got over it quite quickly.
After divorcing Anne in 1983 (Allegra, his daughter by Ricki Huston, was adopted by John Huston after her mother’s death in a car accident), he married, secondly, in 1989, Mollie Philipps (née Makins), daughter of the 1st Baron Sherfield, GCB, GCMG.
He was appointed CVO in 1992 after curating an exhibition at the V & A marking the 40th anniversary of the Queen’s accession to the throne.
Lord Norwich is survived by his wife and by the son and daughter of his first marriage.
He is succeeded in the viscountcy by his son, Jason, born in 1959.
2nd Viscount Norwich, born September 15 1929, died June 1 2018