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Evelyn Waugh


Iris Tree
John Julius Norwich Writer
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[Q] There was Iris Tree...

Iris Tree of course but Iris was very seldom there. Iris was my mother's greatest and oldest friend and if she'd been in London, in England, she'd be there all the time but Iris had gone off I think at that time with Krishnamurti, you remember who… thought he was God and he turned out not to be. And he had a sort of centre, an ashram in the Ojai Valley in California, and Iris was there a lot of the time. She was a rolling stone and I got to know her really well only after the war when she went to live in Rome. I used to see quite a lot of her there. But Iris had been wonderful. Iris, she was a real eccentric. She was the daughter of Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, the great actor and had started as an actress herself and had been involved with my mother in The Miracle at a very early stage.

But then, I remember she and my mother in the late 1920s were both desperate to have a child and my mother just went round to all the doctors, did what she could. Iris, typically, went and lay prone on the erect penis of the Cerne Abbas Giant, that huge white figure, 4th century figure carved into a hillside in Dorset at Cern Abbas. Iris went and lay on that for a night. It worked. Her child, her son is 6'7" and he is now a psychiatrist in Stockholm. Quite odd.

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: Iris Tree, Krishnamurti, Cerne Abbas Giant

Duration: 2 minutes, 8 seconds

Date story recorded: 2017

Date story went live: 03 October 2018