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.


Yugoslavia's unspoilt charm


My mother's plan backfires
John Julius Norwich Writer
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

I knew it was my mother. My father, I should've said, my father had died on the first of January, 1954, and my mother was in a pretty bad way. She was missing him quite, quite dreadfully and it's true to say she... she felt she needed me. She was living in Paris and she was always determined that I would be sent to Paris, which would've been ideal, obviously, from her point of view. But I always told her that there was no way I was ever going to be sent to Paris because it was less than 10 years and she and my father had been these very, very famous, hugely successful ambassadors in Paris and me, as a very junior diplomat, to be there again, it would've been impossible for my boss, for the new ambassadors, you know. I mean, me going off to these sort of, to all my mother's smart friends every weekend and meeting them all the time and my mother, obviously, having to invite them and me being the third secretary. It would've been terribly embarrassing for them and my mother, I think, frankly, would probably rather have overshadowed them, you know. And she had this lovely house in the country looking at, you know, it would've been terrible. And I always told her it's never going to happen and they never would. 'Oh, don't you be silly, darling, I'm sure I can fix it.' And she couldn't, she never did, but what she did do, I think, she rang up... when she heard I was going to Moscow, she rang up the Foreign Office and said, 'Please, please, don't send him to Moscow, send him to Paris.' They said, 'Look, well, we can't send him', yes, I'm making this up, but I know that it's what happened. And they said, 'I'm sorry, we really can't send him to Paris, he's the last person in the world we can send to Paris at this moment.' 'Well, then if you can't send him to Paris, send him somewhere at least a bit closer.' And I think she was thinking of Belgium or Holland, you know, or something like that. So, they sent me to Belgrade, which was, in fact, much, much, perhaps deliberately, I think, you know, it was nearer than Moscow, but it didn't have an airport and Moscow did. I could've flown back from Moscow in four hours. To get back from Belgrade would've taken me two days on the Orient Express. And so that one blew up in her face, rather, and Belgrade it was. Blew up in my face too, because I'd much rather have gone to Moscow.

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, Belgrade, Moscow

Duration: 2 minutes, 43 seconds

Date story recorded: 2017

Date story went live: 03 October 2018