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Gyles Brandreth

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Gyles Brandreth
Brandreth in 2022
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 76)
Wuppertal, Germany
Political partyConservative
Michèle Brown
(m. 1973)
Children3, including Aphra
Residence(s)Barnes, London, England
EducationNew College, Oxford (BA)

Gyles Daubeney Brandreth (born 8 March 1948) is a British broadcaster, writer and former politician. He has 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 Member of Parliament (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, in Allied-occupied Germany, where his father, Charles Brandreth, was serving as a legal officer with the Allied Control Commission.[2] He is the great-great-great-grandson of Benjamin Brandreth.[3] He has stated that he is a descendant of Jeremiah Brandreth.

He moved to London with his parents at the age of three and was educated at the Lycée Français in South Kensington, and Bedales School in Petersfield, Hampshire, where he befriended Simon Cadell.[4]

Brandreth studied Modern History and Modern Languages at New College, Oxford,[5] where he met Rick Stein.[2] While at Oxford, he directed the Oxford University Dramatic Society and was President of the Oxford Union[5] in Michaelmas term, 1969, and was a regular contributor to the university magazine Isis. He was described in a contemporaneous publication as "Oxford's Lord High Everything Else".[6][full citation needed] Christopher Hitchens suggested that Brandreth "set out to make himself into a Ken Tynan. Wore a cloak."[7]


Brandreth with Judi Dench at the London Palladium in 2023

Brandreth has appeared in the Dictionary Corner on the game show Countdown more than 300 times, including Carol Vorderman's final edition in 2008, making more appearances than any other guest. He 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.[8] 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 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 eight episodes of QI and six episodes of Have I Got News for You. He has 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 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.[9] 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".[10]

In October 2019, Brandreth appeared in series 3 of Richard Osman's House of Games, winning two of the five episodes.

Also in 2019, Brandreth appeared on series 1 of Celebrity Gogglebox alongside Sheila Hancock.[11] In 2020 and 2021, Brandreth returned for Series 2 and 3, alongside Maureen Lipman.[12] In 2022, he appeared in the series with Joanna Lumley and Carol Vorderman.[13][14] In 2023, he returned with Lumley for Series 5, as well as Susie Dent.

In 2020, 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.[15] In the first episode Timothy West gave the two novice canal boaters a crash course in barging.[16] They went down the Staffordshire Waterways in 2021 for another two-episode series.[17]

On 16 October 2021, Brandreth appeared alongside Anne Hegerty as a celebrity contestant on the ITV show Beat the Chasersdescribed as Gogglebox in celebrity guise—in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital.[18] On 24 October 2022, Brandreth appeared on Bargain Hunt: BBC 100th Birthday Special to commemorate the BBC's 100th Anniversary. His team mate was Tony Blackburn.[19][20]


Brandreth has presented programmes on London's LBC radio at various times since its launch in 1973.[21] He has frequently appeared on BBC Radio 4's comedy panel game Just a Minute.[2] On several episodes of Radio 4's political programme The Westminster Hour, Brandreth has shared his thoughts on how to make the most of being a government minister.[22] From 2003 to 2005 Brandreth hosted the Radio 4 comedy panel game Whispers.[23][24]

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.[25][26] 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."[27] For a period he was the host of the Radio 4 comedy panel show Wordaholics, first aired on 20 February 2012.[28][29] 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.[30]

In April 2019, Brandreth began co-hosting a podcast titled Something Rhymes with Purple alongside friend and colleague Susie Dent.[31] 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.[32]


Brandreth at the Chiswick Book Festival

Since the 1970s, Brandreth has written books for adults and children about Scrabble, words, puzzles and jokes, and co-founded the Games & Puzzles magazine. He wrote an authorised biography of actor John Gielgud, and lipogrammic reworks of Shakespeare. In the 1980s, Brandreth wrote scripts for Dear Ladies, a television programme featuring Hinge and Bracket.[33] Brandreth created the stage show Zipp!, which enjoyed success at the Edinburgh Festival and had a short run in the West End.[34]

In 1999, he published diaries chronicling his days as a politician between 1990 and 1997, called Breaking the Code.[35]

In September 2004, Brandreth's book on the marriage of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, 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 the then-Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles.[2]

In 2021, following the death of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Brandreth wrote, "The duke showed me great friendliness over 40 years but royalty offer you friendliness, not friendship, and you have to remember the difference."[36]

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.[37]

Brandreth has written and toured in a number of comedic one-man shows, including The One-to-One Show in 2010–2011, Looking for Happiness in 2013–2014 and Word Power in 2015–2016.[38]

Brandreth has written a book entitled Have You Eaten Grandma?, about the English language and correct grammar.[39]


Brandreth was a Conservative 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.[22][40]

He broadcast reminiscences of his parliamentary career on BBC radio as Brandreth on Office and The Brandreth Rules in 2001, 2003 and 2005.[22]

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.[41] 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.[42] 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".[43]

Gyles and George Knitwear[edit]

Brandreth is known for the colourful, humorous jumpers he has designed and worn throughout his career. He has stated on the BBC that "it's all I'm really known for."[9] Collaborating with artist and knitwear designer George Hostler, Brandreth created hundreds of jumper designs that appear in books he and Hostler authored and produced under their knitwear label, Gyles & George.[44]

Brandreth has a room in his London home devoted to his jumpers, and claims to have one for almost every occasion. To name just a few examples: he has a knitted jumper emblazoned with a green frog that he has worn for appointments with princes (Philip and Charles); on other royal occasions, he has worn sweaters featuring corgis and crowns. He has appeared on television talking about rail strikes wearing a jumper that features a steam locomotive, and wore a sweater bearing the words "The End" on the day Boris Johnson resigned. And he has a Scrabble-themed jumper which he wears in his capacity as president of the Association of British Scrabble Players.[45][46]

To strike a more serious note, he wore lounge suits rather than novelty jumpers when serving in Parliament, though he has stated: "The first time I spoke in the House of Commons, I heard John Prescott on the bench opposite me muttering 'woolly jumpers ha ha ha.' He could see I was thrown and he carried on. Eventually I had to pause and point out to Mr Prescott that the joy of a woolly jumper is that you can take it off at will. Whereas the blight of a woolly mind is that you're lumbered with it for life."[47][22]

In 2020, Brandreth partnered with American designer Jack Carlson to revive the label for the 21st century, with Gyles & George joining Carlson's collective of brands, Blazer Group. They have collaborated to re-release many of Brandreth's original designs, including a jumper with the words "I'm a Luxury" across the front, famously worn by Diana, Princess of Wales, and another featuring the words "What the **** is going on?" (the back reads: "Don't ask me"). They have also released a popular collection of sweaters themed around the Signs of the Zodiac.[44][48]

Aside from Brandreth himself, the brand's models and prominent customers have included Joanna Lumley, Floella Benjamin, Hugh Bonneville, Jane Asher, Elton John, Pete Davidson, Ziwe Fumudoh, Blanca Miro, Dwyane Wade, Keith Richards, and Diana, Princess of Wales.[47]

In 2023, the Petersfield Museum opened an exhibition dedicated to Gyles & George and Brandreth's personal collection of jumpers.[49][50]

Other activities[edit]

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

Brandreth is a former European Monopoly champion,[51] and president of the Association of British Scrabble Players,[52] having organised the first British National Scrabble Championship in 1971. Since 2015 he has been the president of the Oscar Wilde Society, which was founded in 1990.[53]

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.[54] In 2016, the museum moved to Newby Hall in Yorkshire.[55] He is a patron of the National Piers Society and vice-president of charity Fields in Trust (formerly the National Playing Fields Association).

In 2014, Brandreth was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters (DLitt) from the University of Chester.[56] In December 2016, he was named the university's chancellor,[57] and officially took the role in March 2017.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

Brandreth met his future wife, Michèle Brown, at Oxford. Five years later, with Brown working as a television reporter and Brandreth in theatre, the couple decided to have a "quiet wedding". They were married at Marylebone Register Office on 8 June 1973, with actor Simon Cadell, Brandreth's best friend from school, as a witness.[58] The couple have lived in Barnes, southwest London, since 1986.[59][60]

They have three children, including Aphra, a former Conservative councillor in Richmond.[61] She is deputy chair of the Conservative Women's Organisation and was the party's unsuccessful candidate for Kingston and Surbiton at the 2019 United Kingdom general election.[62][63] In October 2023, Aphra was selected as a parliamentary candidate again for the 2024 general election, this time for the constituency of Chester South and Eddisbury.[64]

Brandreth is a vegetarian, and stopped drinking alcohol in 1997 to lose weight.[60]

Selected bibliography[edit]




  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". bookbrowse.com. Retrieved 10 August 2013.
  3. ^ Brandreth, Gyles (2013). The 7 Secrets of Happiness: A Reluctant Optimist's Journey. New York, NY: Early Bird Books. p. v. ISBN 9781480467033.
  4. ^ "Gyles Brandreth On Writing Oscar Wilde And The Candlelight Murders". Shots. 2007. Retrieved 8 December 2022.
  5. ^ a b "Gyles Brandreth (New College, 1967)". alumni.ox.ac.uk. 19 January 2017. Retrieved 8 March 2021.
  6. ^ Cherwell Guide 1972
  7. ^ Farndale, Nigel (2 June 2010). "An audience with Christopher Hitchens". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022.
  8. ^ "Public Opinion". UK Game Shows. Retrieved 18 March 2020.
  9. ^ a b "Room 101 with Gyles Brandreth". BBC. 5 October 2005. Archived from the original on 12 December 2021.
  10. ^ ChatPolitics (30 August 2013), Gyles Brandreth on Tony Blair, the monarchy, and 'Just A Minute', archived from the original on 12 December 2021, retrieved 7 August 2016
  11. ^ "Curtis Brown". www.curtisbrown.co.uk. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  12. ^ "Lloyds Bank sponsors Channel 4's Celebrity Gogglebox in first ever TV sponsorship | Channel 4". www.channel4.com. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  13. ^ Manning, Charlotte (8 June 2022). "Dame Joanna Lumley beams in Celebrity Gogglebox first look snaps with Gyles Brandreth – and she's even wearing one of his iconic jumpers". Metro. Retrieved 29 September 2022.
  14. ^ Jones, Gemma (27 June 2022). "Gyles Brandreth explains friendship with Carol Vorderman as they appear on Gogglebox". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 29 September 2022.
  15. ^ Brown, David. "Great Canal Journeys – Series 11 – Episode 1". Radio Times. Retrieved 1 December 2020.[permanent dead link]
  16. ^ Marshall, Michelle (8 November 2020). "Gyles Brandreth details 'frightening' boat problems he suffered on Great Canal Journeys". The Express. Retrieved 1 December 2020.
  17. ^ Collis, Emily (21 March 2021). "New episode of Great Canal Journeys uncovers history of Stourport". Kidderminster Shuttle. Retrieved 18 June 2021.
  18. ^ "Aphra Brandreth to stand for Tories in father Gyles's old seat". 30 October 2023. Retrieved 29 May 2024.
  19. ^ "BBC One - Bargain Hunt, Series 63, BBC 100th Birthday Special". BBC. Retrieved 29 May 2024.
  20. ^ "Bargain Hunt: BBC 100th". www.pressreader.com. 24 October 2022. Retrieved 29 May 2024.
  21. ^ Maher, Bron (9 October 2023). "'Groundbreaking' and 'dreadful': Brandreth, Myrie and Kearney among those paying tribute to LBC at 50". Press Gazette. Retrieved 29 May 2024.
  22. ^ a b c d "The Brandreth Rules". 10 January 2006. Retrieved 29 May 2024.
  23. ^ "BBC Radio 4 Extra - Whispers, Series 1, Episode 1". BBC. Retrieved 29 May 2024.
  24. ^ Guide, British Comedy. "Whispers - Radio 4 Panel Show". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 29 May 2024.
  25. ^ "BBC Radio 4 Extra - Living with the Enemy, Episode 6". BBC. Retrieved 29 May 2024.
  26. ^ Guide, British Comedy. "Living With The Enemy - Radio 4 Sitcom". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 29 May 2024.
  27. ^ Mahoney, Elisabeth (28 December 2009). "Brandreth's Pills". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 29 May 2024.
  28. ^ "BBC Radio 4 - Wordaholics, Series 1, Episode 1". BBC. Retrieved 29 May 2024.
  29. ^ Guide, British Comedy. "Wordaholics - Radio 4 Panel Show". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 29 May 2024.
  30. ^ "BBC Radio 4 - The Museum of Curiosity, Series 11, Episode 4". BBC. Retrieved 29 May 2024.
  31. ^ "Something Rhymes With Purple podcast archive". acast.com. Archived from the original on 16 August 2019. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  32. ^ "Word nerd? Try 'Something Rhymes with Purple'". RNZ. 19 July 2019. Retrieved 29 May 2024.
  33. ^ Brandreth, Gyles (16 September 2021). Odd Boy Out: The 'hilarious, eye-popping, unforgettable' Sunday Times bestseller 2021. Penguin UK. p. 69. ISBN 978-0-241-48373-2. Retrieved 8 March 2022.
  34. ^ London Theatre (8 June 2016). "Zipp! The Musical with Gyles Brandreth at Duchess 23 Jan 03". London Theatre. Retrieved 20 April 2018.
  35. ^ "Gyles Brandreth: Author, Broadcaster, Actor, Entertainer". www.gylesbrandreth.net. Archived from the original on 27 January 2016. Retrieved 19 March 2016.
  36. ^ Thomson, Alice. "Gyles Brandreth: 'Exile, deaths and abdications . . . Prince Philip saw it all, so he had perspective'" – via www.thetimes.co.uk.
  37. ^ "The Oscar Wilde Murder Mysteries by Gyles Brandreth". www.oscarwildemurdermysteries.com. Retrieved 19 March 2016.
  38. ^ "Gyles Brandreth books and biography – Waterstones". www.waterstones.com. Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  39. ^ "Gyles Brandreth". www.penguin.co.uk. Archived from the original on 14 September 2018. Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  40. ^ "Book Gyles Brandreth – Contact speaker agent – JLA". www.jla.co.uk. Archived from the original on 2 June 2009.
  41. ^ "Celebrities' open letter to Scotland – full text and list of signatories". The Guardian. 7 August 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  42. ^ "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.
  43. ^ 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.
  44. ^ a b Brandreth, Gyles (22 October 2021). "Gyles Brandreth: Why I'm bringing back my 'greatest knits'". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 14 April 2023.
  45. ^ "The return of the Eighties slogan jumper". Financial Times. 24 November 2021. Retrieved 14 April 2023.
  46. ^ "Gyles Brandreth on his famous & fabulously fun knitwear". Country and Town House. 25 September 2016. Retrieved 14 April 2023.
  47. ^ a b Leaper, Caroline (24 December 2022). "Gyles Brandreth: Why I have a separate room devoted to my jolly jumpers". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 14 April 2023.
  48. ^ "Gyles & George Launch a Collection of Zodiac Sweaters". Town & Country. 25 March 2022. Retrieved 14 April 2023.
  49. ^ Gyles Brandreth jumpers over the decades go on display and viewers ones too (UK) (fun story), retrieved 14 April 2023
  50. ^ "Gyles Brandreth: Fun and Fabulous Jumpers | Petersfield Museum". www.petersfieldmuseum.co.uk. Retrieved 14 April 2023.
  51. ^ Mount, Harry (7 April 2003). "Portrait of a driver: Gyles Brandreth". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 21 January 2009.
  52. ^ "Gyles Brandreth". ABSP. Retrieved 9 June 2012.
  53. ^ "Welcome to the website for". The Oscar Wilde Society. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
  54. ^ "Polka Theatre – World-class theatre for children". www.polkatheatre.com. Archived from the original on 15 October 2011. Retrieved 19 March 2016.
  55. ^ "Gyles Brandreth's 1,000 teddies move to Newby Hall". BBC News. 24 May 2016. Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  56. ^ "Honorary Graduates 2014". University of Chester website. 21 November 2017. Retrieved 12 March 2019.
  57. ^ "University's new Chancellor to be Gyles Brandreth". University of Chester. 8 December 2016. Archived from the original on 16 December 2016. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  58. ^ "My most memorable meal: Gyles Brandreth". Sainsbury`s Magazine. Retrieved 13 August 2022.
  59. ^ Wintle, Angela. "Gyles Brandreth: 'I paid to keep a phone number that gave the impression I was still north of the river'". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 13 August 2022.
  60. ^ a b Webb, Claire (16 July 2022). "Gyles Brandreth: 'My wife and I don't want to go to bed feeling low – so we watch Emily in Paris'". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 13 August 2022.
  61. ^ Poulter, Rory (6 May 2022). "Richmond Conservatives end their silence on wipe-out – single victor is 91-year-old party veteran". Twickenham Nub News. Retrieved 13 August 2022.
  62. ^ "Kingston & Surbiton parliamentary constituency – Election 2019 – BBC News". Retrieved 13 August 2022.
  63. ^ "About Aphra Brandreth". Aphra Brandreth. Retrieved 13 August 2022.
  64. ^ "Aphra Brandreth to stand for Tories in father Gyles's old seat". BBC News. 30 October 2023. Retrieved 31 October 2023.
  65. ^ "Here Comes Golly". Biblio.co.uk. Retrieved 12 March 2019.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for the City of Chester
Succeeded by
Academic offices
Preceded by Chancellor of the University of Chester