Gyles Brandreth

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Gyles Brandreth
Gyles Brandreth - Waffle TV.jpg
Brandreth at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013
Lord Commissioner of the Treasury
In office
11 December 1996 – 2 May 1997
Prime MinisterJohn Major
Preceded byMichael Bates
Succeeded byGraham Allen
Member of Parliament
for City of Chester
In office
9 April 1992 – 8 April 1997
Preceded byPeter Morrison
Succeeded byChristine Russell
Chancellor of the University of Chester
Assumed office
17 March 2017
Preceded byThe Duke of Westminster
Personal details
Born (1948-03-08) 8 March 1948 (age 73)
Wuppertal, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
Political partyConservative
Michèle Brown
(m. 1973)
ResidenceBarnes, London, England
Alma materNew College, Oxford

Gyles Daubeney Brandreth (born 8 March 1948) is a British actor, broadcaster, writer and former politician.

Brandreth was educated at the University of Oxford and subsequently worked as a television presenter, theatre producer, journalist, author and publisher. He was a presenter for TV-am's Good Morning Britain in the 1980s, and has been regularly featured on Channel 4's game show Countdown and the BBC's The One Show. On radio, he makes frequent appearances on the BBC Radio 4 programme Just a Minute.

In 1992, Brandreth was elected to the House of Commons as the Conservative MP for the City of Chester constituency. He served until he was defeated in 1997, and resumed his career in the media. He has written both fiction and non-fiction books, and makes appearances as a public speaker.

Early life[edit]

Brandreth was born on 8 March 1948 in Wuppertal, West Germany, where his father, Charles Brandreth, was serving as a legal officer with the Allied Control Commission.[2] After moving to London with his parents at the age of three, Brandreth was educated at the Lycée Français in South Kensington and Bedales School in Petersfield, Hampshire, where he met his friend Simon Cadell.

Brandreth then went to study Modern History and Modern Languages at New College, Oxford,[3] where he met Rick Stein.[2] While at Oxford, he directed the Oxford University Dramatic Society and was President of the Oxford Union[3] in Michaelmas term, 1969, and edited the university magazine Isis. He was described in a contemporaneous publication as "Oxford's Lord High Everything Else".[4] Christopher Hitchens suggested that Brandreth "set out to make himself into a Ken Tynan. Wore a cloak."[5]


In the 1970s Brandreth hosted the ITV children's show Puzzle Party.

He has appeared on Countdown more than 300 times, in Dictionary Corner, including Carol Vorderman's final episode in 2008, making more appearances than any other guest. He also appeared on TV-am's Good Morning Britain. He was known for his collection of jumpers, of which some were sold in a charity auction in 1993.

Brandreth hosted the short-lived game show Public Opinion in 2004.[6] In 2006 he appeared on the television series That Mitchell and Webb Look, on the fictional game show "Numberwang", satirising his appearances in Countdown's Dictionary Corner. In 2007 he guest-starred in the Doctor Who audio play I.D.. From July to August 2009 he hosted the game show Knowitalls on BBC Two. In April 2010 he appeared on BBC Radio 4's Vote Now Show. He also made a cameo appearance as himself in Channel 4 sitcom The IT Crowd, in the episode "The Final Countdown".

A frequent guest on BBC television panel shows, he has appeared on five episodes of QI and six episodes of Have I Got News for You. He has also appeared in episodes of Channel 5's The Gadget Show, and is a contributor to the BBC's early evening programme The One Show. He has appeared in two episodes of the TV adaptation of Just A Minute, as part of the show's 45th anniversary. In 2013 he was a guest on the Matt Lucas Awards.

He appeared on Room 101 in 2005, while Paul Merton was host, successfully banishing the Royal Variety Performance and the British honours system into Room 101, saying that he would never accept an honour himself.[7] In 2013 he clarified that position, stating that he had "no fundamental objection to the honours system", and that he selected the honours system for Room 101 because he could "tell funny stories about it".[8]

In 2019, Brandreth appeared on series 1 of Celebrity Gogglebox alongside Sheila Hancock. In 2020, it was announced Brandreth would be returning for Series 2, however this time alongside Maureen Lipman.[9][10]

In 2020, Gyles Brandreth and actor Sheila Hancock replaced Timothy West and Prunella Scales in a two episode series of Great Canal Journeys travelling down the River Thames.[11] In the first episode Timothy West gave the two novice canal boaters a crash course in barging.[12] They also went down the Staffordshire Waterways in 2019 for another two episode series.[13]


Brandreth has presented programmes on London's LBC radio at various times since 1973, such as Star Quality. He frequently appears on BBC Radio 4's comedy panel game Just a Minute.[2] He has appeared on several episodes of Radio 4's political programme The Westminster Hour, explaining his thoughts on how to make the most of being a government minister. From 2003 to 2005 Brandreth hosted the Radio 4 comedy panel game Whispers.

In 2006, Brandreth appeared in the Radio 4 comedy programme Living with the Enemy which he co-wrote with comedian Nick Revell, in which they appear as a former Conservative government minister and a former comedian. In 2010 he broadcast a Radio 4 documentary about his great-great-great-grandfather, Benjamin Brandreth, the inventor of a medicine called "Brandreth's Pills". He is the host of the Radio 4 comedy panel show Wordaholics, first aired on 20 February 2012. He appeared on the Radio 4 programme The Museum of Curiosity in August 2017, to which he donated a button that was once owned by a famous actor.

In April 2019, Brandreth began co-hosting a podcast titled Something Rhymes With Purple alongside friend and colleague Susie Dent.[14] The podcast discusses aspects of the English language such as historic or unusual words and their origins, as well as the origins of popular phrases and sayings.


Since the 1970s Brandreth has written various books about Scrabble, words, puzzles and jokes, for adults and children and co-founded the Games & Puzzles magazine. He wrote an authorised biography of actor John Gielgud, as well as lipogrammic reworks of Shakespeare. In the 1980s, Brandreth wrote scripts for Dear Ladies, the television programme featuring Hinge and Bracket. Brandreth is also the creator of a stage show called Zipp! which enjoyed success at the Edinburgh Festival and had a short run in the West End.[15]

Brandreth has kept a diary. In 1999, he published his diaries between 1990 and 1997, written during his days as a politician, called Breaking the Code.[16]

In September 2004, Brandreth's book on the marriage of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, Philip and Elizabeth: Portrait of a Marriage was published.[2] In July 2005, he published a second book on the Royal Family, entitled Charles and Camilla: Portrait of a Love Affair, which concerns the three-decade love affair between Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.[2]

Brandreth has written a series of seven works of historical fiction called The Oscar Wilde Murder Mysteries, in which Oscar Wilde works with both Robert Sherard and Arthur Conan Doyle.[17]

Over the years he has written and appeared in a number of comedic one-man shows and toured in a number of venues. Shows have included The One-to-One Show in 2010–2011, Looking for Happiness in 2013–2014 and Word Power in 2015–2016.[18]

Brandreth has also written a book entitled Have You Eaten Grandma? which is about the English language and correct grammar.[19]


Brandreth was a Conservative Member of Parliament (MP), representing the City of Chester, from 1992 to 1997. He proposed a private member's bill which became law as the Marriage Act 1994. In 1995, he was appointed to a junior ministerial position as a Lord of the Treasury, with his role being essentially that of a whip.[20][21]

He later published a book of his diaries from his time as a whip, Breaking the Code. After his parliamentary career, he broadcast some of his reminiscences on BBC radio as Brandreth on Office and The Brandreth Rules in 2001, 2003 and 2005.

In August 2014, Brandreth was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian opposing Scottish independence in the run-up to September's referendum on that issue.[22] In May 2016, Brandreth told The Spectator that he was likely to vote for the UK to stay in the European Union in the following month's referendum on the issue.[23] In 2019, Brandreth confirmed that he had voted to remain, but accepted the result of the referendum and believed that the government had to "get Brexit done".[24]

Other activities[edit]

Brandreth is a former European Monopoly champion,[25] and president of the Association of British Scrabble Players,[26] having organised the first British National Scrabble Championship in 1971.

He is also the president of the Oscar Wilde Society. The society was founded in September 1990 by a group of fans of Wilde and his work. It is a non-profit organisation that aims to increase knowledge, enjoyment and study of Wilde's life, personality and works. It organises lectures, readings and discussions, as well as visits to places connected with him.[27][28]

Brandreth hosts an annual Oscar Wilde party to celebrate the writer's birth. Guests have included Stephen Fry, Joanna Lumley, Derek Jacobi, Julian Fellowes and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall[27][29] The venues are often places of interest in Wilde's life, for example the Langham Hotel where The Picture of Dorian Gray was commissioned.[30] In August 2005, he appeared in a production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night at the Edinburgh Festival.

He is an after-dinner speaker and held the world record for the longest continuous after-dinner speech, twelve-and-a-half hours, done as a charity stunt. With his wife, he founded a Teddy bear museum. Located in Stratford-upon-Avon for 18 years, it was relocated to the Polka Theatre in Wimbledon, London.[31] In 2016, the museum moved to Newby Hall in Yorkshire.[32] He is a patron of the National Piers Society and vice-president of charity Fields in Trust (formerly the National Playing Fields Association).

Brandreth awarding a degree to a student at a 2017 graduation ceremony at the University of Chester

In 2014, Brandreth was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters (DLitt) from the University of Chester.[33] In December 2016, he was named the university's chancellor, and officially took the role on 17 March 2017.[34]

Personal life[edit]

Brandreth met his future wife, Michèle Brown, at Oxford University and they married in Westminster in 1973.[35][36] They reside in Barnes, Southwest London[37] and have three grown-up children: Benet, a barrister; Saethryd, a journalist; and Aphra, a former government economist and now financial director of a veterinary business,[38] and who is mother of their first grandson, Kiyo.[39] Aphra was the Conservative candidate in the 2019 United Kingdom general election for the constituency of Kingston and Surbiton,[38] but did not win the seat.

In 2021, following the death of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Brandreth said, "The duke showed me great friendliness over 40 years but royalty offer you friendliness, not friendship, and you have to remember the difference."[40][41]

Selected bibliography[edit]


  • Created in Captivity (1972), a study of prison reform
  • The Funniest Man on Earth (1974), a biography of Dan Leno
  • The Joy of Lex: How to Have Fun with 860,341,500 Words (1980), ISBN 0-688-01397-X
  • Everyman's Indoor Games (1981), ISBN 0-460-04456-7
  • The World's Best Indoor Games (1981), ISBN 978-0394524771
  • The Book of Mistaikes (1982), ISBN 0-7088-2194-4
  • The Scrabble Brand Puzzle Book (1984), ISBN 0-671-50536-X
  • A Guide to Playing the Scrabble Brand Crossword Game (1985), ISBN 0-671-50652-8
  • The Great Book of Optical Illusions (1985), ISBN 0-8069-6258-5
  • Everyman's Classic Puzzles (1986), ISBN 0-4600-2466-3
  • The Scrabble Companion (1988), ISBN 0-09-172698-0 (with Darryl Francis)
  • World Championship Scrabble (1992), ISBN 0-550-19028-7 (with Darryl Francis)
  • Under the Jumper: Autobiographical Excursions (1993). ISBN 0-86051-894-9
  • Breaking the Code: Westminster Diaries, 1992–97 (1999), ISBN 0-297-64311-8
  • Brief Encounters: Meetings with Remarkable People (2001), ISBN 1-902301-95-1
  • John Gielgud: An Actor's Life (2001), ISBN 0-7509-2690-2
  • The Biggest Kids Joke Book Ever! (2002), ISBN 0-233-05062-0
  • The Joy of Lex: An Amazing and Amusing Z to A and A to Z of Words (2002), ISBN 1-86105-399-1
  • The Word Book (2002), ISBN 1-86105-398-3
  • Philip and Elizabeth: Portrait of a Marriage (2004), ISBN 0-7126-6103-4
  • Charles and Camilla: Portrait of a Love Affair (2005), ISBN 1-84413-845-3
  • The 7 Secrets of Happiness (2013) ISBN 978-1780722047
  • Word Play (2015) ISBN 978-1-473-62029-2
  • Messing About in Quotes (2018) ISBN 978-0-19-881318-7
  • The Oxford Book of Theatrical Anecdotes (2020) ISBN 978-0-19-874958-5
  • Philip: The Final Portrait (2021) ISBN 978-1-44-476960-9



  1. ^ "Gyles Brandreth". Desert Island Discs. 14 January 2011. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Gyles Brandreth Biography". Retrieved 10 August 2013.
  3. ^ a b "Gyles Brandreth (New College, 1967)". 19 January 2017. Retrieved 8 March 2021.
  4. ^ Cherwell Guide 1972
  5. ^ Farndale, Nigel (2 June 2010). "An audience with Christopher Hitchens". The Daily Telegraph. London, UK.
  6. ^ "Public Opinion". UK Game Shows. Retrieved 18 March 2020.
  7. ^ "Room 101 with Gyles Brandreth". BBC. 5 October 2005.
  8. ^ ChatPolitics (30 August 2013), Gyles Brandreth on Tony Blair, the monarchy, and 'Just A Minute', retrieved 7 August 2016
  9. ^ "Curtis Brown". Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  10. ^ "Lloyds Bank sponsors Channel 4's Celebrity Gogglebox in first ever TV sponsorship | Channel 4". Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  11. ^ David Brown. "Great Canal Journeys - Series 11 - Episode 1". The Radio Times. Retrieved 1 December 2020.
  12. ^ Michelle Marshall (8 November 2020). "Gyles Brandreth details 'frightening' boat problems he suffered on Great Canal Journeys". The Express. Retrieved 1 December 2020.
  13. ^ Collis, Emily (21 March 2021). "New episode of Great Canal Journeys uncovers history of Stourport". Kidderminster Shuttle. Retrieved 18 June 2021.
  14. ^ "Something Rhymes With Purple podcast archive". Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  15. ^ London Theatre. "Zipp! The Musical with Gyles Brandreth at Duchess 23 Jan 03". London Theatre. Retrieved 20 April 2018.
  16. ^ "Gyles Brandreth: Author, Broadcaster, Actor, Entertainer". Retrieved 19 March 2016.
  17. ^ "The Oscar Wilde Murder Mysteries by Gyles Brandreth". Retrieved 19 March 2016.
  18. ^ "Gyles Brandreth books and biography | Waterstones". Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  19. ^ "Gyles Brandreth". Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  20. ^ "The Brandreth Rules". BBC News. 10 January 2006.
  21. ^ "Book Gyles Brandreth - Contact speaker agent - JLA". Archived from the original on 2 June 2009.
  22. ^ "Celebrities' open letter to Scotland – full text and list of signatories". The Guardian. 7 August 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  23. ^ "The Spectator poll: Are You In or Out? Bob Geldof, Tim Rice & Joey Essex have their say". The Spectator. 27 May 2016. Retrieved 8 March 2021.
  24. ^ Holmes, David (8 November 2019). "Ex-Chester Tory MP Gyles Brandreth hopes daughter can follow him into politics". Cheshire Live. Reach plc. Retrieved 22 March 2021.
  25. ^ Mount, Harry (7 April 2003). "Portrait of a driver: Gyles Brandreth". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 21 January 2009.
  26. ^ "Gyles Brandreth". ABSP. Retrieved 9 June 2012.
  27. ^ a b "Camilla to join Gyles Brandreth to mark 161st anniversary of Oscar Wilde's birth". Royal Central. 16 October 2015. Retrieved 19 March 2016.
  28. ^ "Welcome to the website for". The Oscar Wilde Society. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
  29. ^ "Oscar Wilde party at The Langham". Tatler. Retrieved 19 March 2016.
  30. ^ "Events". Oscar Wilde Society. Retrieved 19 March 2016.
  31. ^ "Polka Theatre - World-class theatre for children". Archived from the original on 15 October 2011. Retrieved 19 March 2016.
  32. ^ "Gyles Brandreth's 1,000 teddies move to Newby Hall". BBC. 24 May 2016. Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  33. ^ "Honorary Graduates 2014". University of Chester website. Retrieved 12 March 2019.
  34. ^ "University's new Chancellor to be Gyles Brandreth". University of Chester. 8 December 2016. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  35. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 9 February 2017.
  36. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 9 February 2017.
  37. ^ "Famous Residents of Richmond-upon-Thames". 18 December 2015. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
  38. ^ a b "The Good Life, Surbiton's Community Newspaper". Issue 45, March 2019, page 8.
  39. ^ Lynn Barber. "Turned out nice again | Culture". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
  40. ^ Thomson, Alice. "Gyles Brandreth: 'Exile, deaths and abdications . . . Prince Philip saw it all, so he had perspective'" – via
  41. ^ Brandreth, Gyles (9 April 2021). "The Philip I knew was the best of company – and the best of men" – via
  42. ^ "Here Comes Golly". Retrieved 12 March 2019.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Peter Morrison
Member of Parliament for the City of Chester
Succeeded by
Christine Russell
Academic offices
Preceded by
The Duke of Westminster
Chancellor of the University of Chester