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The unworldly PG Wodehouse


Paris – my parents' new home
John Julius Norwich Writer
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And after that my father had a year or two as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster which was one of those ministerial jobs which mean whatever you want it to mean. He was actually in charge of MI5 and MI6 and all that thing. Until 1st January 1944 when Winston made him his official representative to General de Gaulle in Algiers on the understanding... this is already '44, we knew we were winning, it was only a matter of months before Paris was liberated, we knew that. And he got this job to go to Algiers to General de Gaulle on the understanding that when Paris was liberated, he would be the first post-war ambassador in Paris. So my parents spend about eight months in Algiers and then they went on to Paris afterwards. Paris was liberated at the end of August, by mid-September they were there staying first of all in the Hotel Bristol, because the embassy was absolutely full of the belongings of all the English families who'd left everything there when they'd got out in 1940 and the Germans had respected the diplomatic immunity of the British embassy. They'd been very conscientious about that. So the embassy was absolutely full of people's tennis racquets and, you know, everything they'd... All their belongings they'd left there and it was a long time, over two or three weeks while all this was cleared out and it was made ready for occupation during which time they stayed at the Bristol across the road. And on the first night in the Bristol, came down with Mr and Mrs PG Wodehouse. And that was a bit of a problem too because the Wodehouses spent the entire war in Berlin in the Adlon broadcasting to the Americans saying what nice chaps the Germans really were and so my father wrote in the next day and said, 'Look, I'm sorry, I cannot spend the next three or four weeks going up and down in the lift with the Wodehouses, I really can't. So the Wodehouses were shifted to somewhere else. I don't know who paid for them, they seemed to be enormously rich.

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: Paris, Charles de Gaulle, PG Wodehouse

Duration: 2 minutes, 27 seconds

Date story recorded: 2017

Date story went live: 03 October 2018