Mrs Bradley

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Mrs Beatrice Adela Lestrange Bradley
First appearance Speedy Death
Created by Gladys Mitchell
Portrayed by Mary Wimbush (BBC Radio)
Diana Rigg (TV)
Gender Female
Occupation Psychiatrist
Title Mrs later Dame
Family Maiden name unknown
Spouse(s) Widowed (thrice)
Nationality British

Beatrice Adela Lestrange Bradley is a fictional detective created by Gladys Mitchell. Mrs (later Dame Beatrice) Bradley is Mitchell's most significant and long-lived character, appearing in 66 novels that were published between 1929 and 1975.[1]

Appearance and personal attributes[edit]

Bradley is often described in reptilian terms: “a deadly serpent basking in the sun or of an alligator smiling gently while birds removed animal irritants from its armoured frame”; or “a hag-like pterodactyl”. Perhaps the most amusing description is to be found in Dead Men’s Morris (1936), where she has “the maternal anxiety of a boa-constrictor which watches its young attempting to devour their first donkey”! In later years, she is known as ‘Mrs Crocodile’, a nickname given to her by her secretary Laura Menzies—although originally coined by the village lunatic Mrs Gatty in The Saltmarsh Murders (1932).[2]

Mrs Bradley's life[edit]

Childhood and Education[edit]

Mrs Bradley (maiden name unknown) was born in Yorkshire, of English stock, with “only a drop” of Highland blood. The year of birth is unknown, although, as she was fifty-seven on her first appearance in 1929, and went to school in the 1870s, we must assume that she was born in 1872, and so, presumably, on her last appearance in 1984, is 111-112. She was brought up “so far as religious matters were concerned, by the Church of England”.

She attended a small private school sometime in the 1870s, whose Old School Tie was “a blasphemous combination of gold, silver and purple”; a school friend “chiefly remember[ed her] in the gym and at cricket, and being so jolly good at maths, and English, and music, and playing up Miss Poppleweather”. However, on one occasion she stated that she did not go to school and was taught by her father, learning “to read … Lewis Carroll, and the Bible, and the Swiss Family Robinson, …and not to lose our tempers when we argued”.

Mrs Bradley had a very successful academic career, being “holder of all the doctorates I've ever heard of except that of Doctor of Divinity”, including an honorary degree from Oxford.[3]

Private Life[edit]

By her first husband, an unscrupulous man of French and Spanish descent “who cornered wheat on Wall St. and then slipped up and all the wheat fell on him”, she had Ferdinand Lestrange, born on her eighteenth birthday. He studied at Oxford from 1908 to 1911, was called to the bar in 1914, fought in the Great War from 1914 to 1917, but was invalided out in June, 1917. He is knighted by the time of The Saltmarsh Murders (1932), and, like his distinguished mother, wrote—on forensic medicine, as “he knows what doctors have to know about the law” and was married twice: in St. Peter’s Finger (1938), he is married to Juliet; in When Last I Died (1941), he is married to Caroline—and has a son, Derek, aged seven. In a later book, he has a daughter, Sally ; although, on her first appearance, Sally is not Mrs. Bradley’s granddaughter, but her great-niece. These are but some of the many inconsistencies surrounding the Bradley/Lestrange clan. Mrs. Bradley once stated that Ferdinand was her only son, but she is later revealed to have had another son, by her second husband: “the apple of her eye”, an authority on tropical diseases, living in India. In an even later book, she states that she has “other sons”—at least three children. Although she originally only had two husbands, by the early 1940s, she has been married thrice.

As well as having two (or more) sons, Mrs. Bradley also had an unofficial daughter: Laura Catriona Menzies, who replaced Mrs. Bradley’s earlier secretaries—Nancy and Miss Cummings, and acted as her assistant in crime solving, and, in some cases—12 Horses and the Hangman’s Noose (1956), Skeleton Island (1967)—even taking over from her, much to the reader’s alarm and dismay. She was married three times (although the earlier books say only twice) —“a woman who marries three times is almost bound to be either super-normal, abnormal, or sub-normal”. One honeymoon was spent in the south of France “in the days when she was young and had been in love”, and another at Amalfi.[3]


Mrs Bradley is described as being "one of the most famous of modern women," preeminent in her sphere, and of commanding intellect and erudition. Both to Deborah and the staff of Hillmaston School, she is "the Mrs. Bradley." As "psychiatrist and consulting psychologist to the Home Office," with "degrees from every university except Tokyo," she is immensely distinguished, her services in constant demand, her reputation, both in her professional and amateur capacities, wide and unquestioned.

Her publications include "her famous popular book on hereditary tendencies towards crime," the Small Handbook to Psycho-Analysis (1929), a paper on "the psychology of martyrs, both Christian and otherwise," and another "On the Psychology of the Re-orientation of Paranoics." At the Scheveningen Conference in 1964, she delivers a paper on "Traumatic Regicides, with special reference to the death of Charles I."

She was awarded a DBE in 1955/1956.[3]


Mrs Bradley was portrayed by Diana Rigg in the television series The Mrs Bradley Mysteries and on radio by Mary Wimbush.


  1. ^ Rosemary., Herbert, (2003-01-01). Whodunit? : a who's who in crime & mystery writing. Oxford University Press. p. 22. ISBN 0195157613. OCLC 252700230.
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  3. ^ a b c