Brandreth was born in Wuppertal, Germany, where his father, Charles Brandreth, was serving as a legal officer with the Allied Control Commission. After having moved to London with his parents at the age of three, Brandreth was educated at the Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle (as it is called today), Bedales School, where he met his friend Simon Cadell, and New College, Oxford. He was President of the Oxford Union in 1970 and edited the university magazine Isis. He was described in a contemporaneous publication as "Oxford's Lord High Everything Else". Christopher Hitchens suggested that Brandreth "set out to make himself into a Ken Tynan. Wore a cloak." He went on to become a theatre producer, politician, journalist, author and publisher as well as, later, turning TV presenter.
In the 1970s he hosted the ITV children's show Puzzle Party.
Brandreth has appeared on Countdown more than 300 times in Dictionary Corner, making more appearances than any other guest, most notably Carol Vorderman's final episode in 2008. He has also appeared on TV-am. He was known for his collection of jumpers, of which some were sold in a charity auction in 1993. In 2006, he appeared on the television series That Mitchell and Webb Look, satirising his appearances in Countdown's Dictionary Corner on the fictional game show Numberwang. In 2007, he guest-starred in the Doctor Who audio play I.D. In 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 makes a cameo appearance as himself in Channel 4 sitcom The IT Crowd in the episode "The Final Countdown".
A frequent guest on BBC panel shows, he has appeared on two 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 He is a contributor to the week-nightly BBC1 show 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.
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. 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-grandfather, Benjamin Brandreth, the inventor of a medicine called 'Brandreth's Pills'. He is the host of the BBC Radio 4 comedy panel show Wordaholics, first aired on 20 February 2012.
Since the 1970s Brandreth has written various books about Scrabble, words, puzzles and jokes, for adults and children. He wrote an authorised biography of John Gielgud, the actor, 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. 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. In July 2005, he published a second book on the Royal family, named 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. Brandreth has also written six works of historical fiction, placing Oscar Wilde at the centre of murder mysteries, in which Wilde works with both Robert Sherard and Arthur Conan Doyle.
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. 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. He has stated an opposition to the British honours system, and said he will never accept one himself. 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.
He is a former European Monopoly champion, and President of the Association of British Scrabble Players, having organised the first British National Scrabble Championship in 1971. In August 2005, he appeared in a production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night at the Edinburgh Festival. He is an after-dinner speaker, and he held the world record for the longest continuous after-dinner speech, at 12 and a half hours, done as a charity stunt. With his wife he founded the Teddy Bear museum, formerly located in Stratford-upon-Avon, and now relocated to Wimbledon, London. He is a Patron of the National Piers Society.
Brandreth has been married to Michèle Brown since 1973. They met at Oxford University and have three children. He has at various times claimed Jeremiah Brandreth, executed leader of the Pentrich Rising of 1817, to be a 'forebear'.
Oscar Wilde and the Candlelight Murders by Gyles Brandreth
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: John Murray Publishers Ltd (January 10, 2008)
Amazon: Oscar Wilde and the Candlelight Murders
Amazon Kindle: Oscar Wilde and the Candlelight Murders
London, 1889. Oscar Wilde, celebrated poet, wit, playwright and raconteur is the literary sensation of his age. All Europe lies at his feet. Yet when he chances across the naked corpse of sixteen-year-old Billy Wood, posed by candlelight in a dark, stifling attic room, he cannot ignore the brutal murder. With the help of fellow author Arthur Conan Doyle he sets out to solve the crime -- but it is Wilde's unparalleled access to all degrees of late Victorian life, from society drawing rooms and the bohemian demi-monde to the underclass, that will prove the decisive factor in their investigation of what turns out to be a series of brutal killings. The Oscar Wilde Murders is a gripping detective story of corruption and intrigue, of Wilde's growing success, of the breakdown of his marriage, and of his fatal friendship with Aidan Fraser, Inspector at Scotland Yard...Set against the exotic background of fin-de-siecle London, Paris, Oxford and Edinburgh, Gyles Brandreth recreates Oscar Wilde's trademark sardonic wit with huge flair, intertwining all the intrigue of the classic English murder mystery with a compelling portrait of one of the greatest characters of the Victorian age.
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