Gyles Brandreth Biography
Gyles Brandreth was born in a British Forces Hospital in
Germany, where, in the aftermath of the Second World War, his father, Charles
Brandreth, was serving as a legal officer with the Allied Control Commission and
counted among his colleagues, H Montgomery Hyde, who, in 1948, published the
first full account of the trials of Oscar Wilde. In 1974, at the Oxford Theatre
Festival, Brandreth produced the first stage version of The Trials of
Oscar Wilde, with Tom Baker as Wilde, and, in 2000, he edited the
transcripts of the trials for an audio production starring Martin Jarvis.
He was educated at the Lycée Français de Londres,
at Betteshanger School in Kent, and at Bedales School in Hampshire. Like Robert
Sherard, Brandreth went on to New College, Oxford, where he was a scholar,
President of the Union and editor of the university magazine, and then, again
like Sherard, embarked on a career as an author and journalist. His first book,
Created in Captivity (1972), was a study of prison reform; his first
biography, The Funniest Man on Earth (1974), was a portrait of the
Victorian music-hall star, Dan Leno. More recently he has published a biography
of the actor, Sir John Gielgud, as well as an acclaimed diary of his years as an
MP and government whip (Breaking the Code: Westminster Diaries 1990-97)
and two best-selling royal biographies: Philip & Elizabeth: Portrait of a
Marriage and Charles & Camilla: Portrait of a Love Affair.
Robert Sherard's forebears included William Wordsworth. Gyles
Brandreth's include the somewhat less eminent poet, George R Sims (1847-1922),
who wrote the ballads Billy's dead and gone to glory and Christmas
Day in the workhouse. Sims was also the first journalist to claim to know
the true identity of 'Jack the Ripper'. Sims, a kinsman of the Empress Eugénie
and an acquaintance of both Oscar Wilde and Arthur Conan Doyle, was arguably the
first 'celebrity columnist' and well-known in his day for his endorsement of an
'infallible cure for baldness': 'Tatcho - The Geo R Sims Hair Restorer'.
As a broadcaster, Gyles Brandreth has presented numerous series
for BBC Radio 4, including A Rhyme in Time, Sound Advice and
Whispers - coincidentally the title of Robert Sherard's first
collection of poetry. A regular guest on Just a Minute and
Countdown, his television appearances have ranged from being the guest host
of Have I Got News for You to being the subject of This Is Your
Life. On stage he has starred in an award-winning revue in the West End and
appeared as Malvolio in a musical version of Twelfth Night in
Edinburgh. With Hinge & Bracket he scripted the TV series, Dear Ladies;
with Julian Slade he wrote a play about A A Milne (featuring Aled Jones as
Christopher Robin); and, with Susannah Pearse, he has written a new musical
about Lewis Carroll, The Last Photograph.
He is married to the writer and publisher Michèle
Brown. They have three children: a barrister, a writer and an environmental
This biography was last updated on 08/05/2011.
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