a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


A dubious honour


Foreign holidays
John Julius Norwich Writer
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

And we went twice to Aix-les-Bains and on the third year we went to Geneva, League of Nations. This was now 1938, so the war was getting pretty close. I think my mother was... I think she really chose it because I think she was having a bit of a fling with the Swiss minister, Carl Burckhardt who was a very remarkable, fascinating man. He's been in the... he'd governed Danzig at one moment and later, after the war, he found himself the Swiss minister in Paris where my mother was ambassadress, so that was quite a thing. But he was a great friend, he was sweet to me. I knew... I always knew him very, very, well. I think there may have been a little bit of itsy-bitsy going on there, I'm not quite sure, but I think there was.

Anyway, that was the last holiday before the war and there were two winter holidays skiing. The first one was in Italy in Sestriere, and that was in 1936, Christmas... I mean winter '36, '37. And I remember we went by train, of course, as one always did in those days. And I remember waking up in the High Alps and seeing snow-capped mountains like I'd never seen before and thick, thick snow everywhere. And a huge sign on Turin station saying, 'Mussolini ha sempre ragione' which means... And I said to my mother, 'What does that mean?' And she says it means Mussolini is always right. And I said, 'But you were telling me the other day about the Pope and how he was infallible, how he was always right. What happens if the Pope and Mussolini disagree?' And she said, 'Well it just shows you how idiotic the whole thing is' and left it at that. So those were my six foreign holidays that I had before the war in France and in Italy. And then came the war.

John Julius Norwich (1929-2018) was an English popular historian, travel writer and television personality. He was educated at Upper Canada College, Toronto, at Eton, at the University of Strasbourg and on the lower deck of the Royal Navy before taking a degree in French and Russian at New College, Oxford. He then spent twelve years in H.M. Foreign Service, with posts at the Embassies in Belgrade and Beirut and at the Disarmament Conference in Geneva. In 1964 he resigned to become a writer. He is the author of histories of Norman Sicily, the Republic of Venice, the Byzantine Empire and, most recently, 'The Popes: A History'. He also wrote on architecture, music and the history plays of Shakespeare, and presented some thirty historical documentaries on BBC Television.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Carl Burckhardt

Duration: 2 minutes, 4 seconds

Date story recorded: 2017

Date story went live: 03 October 2018