Barbara Taylor Bradford

Barbara Taylor Bradford
Born Barbara Taylor
10 May 1933
Leeds, Yorkshire, England
Residence New York City, US
Occupation Novelist
Spouse(s) Robert Bradford (1963-present)
Parent(s) Winston and Freda Taylor

Barbara Taylor Bradford OBE, (born 10 May 1933) is a best-selling British-American novelist. Her debut novel, A Woman of Substance, was published in 1979 and has sold over 30 million copies worldwide.[1] It ranks as one of the top-ten bestselling novels of all-time. To date, she has written 29 novels — all bestsellers on both sides of the Atlantic.


Barbara Taylor was born in Leeds, in Yorkshire, England[2] to Freda and Winston Taylor.[3] Before Taylor Bradford's birth, her parents had had a son, Vivian, who died of meningitis. She would later describe her mother as having "put all her frustrated love into me."[4] Winston Taylor was an engineer who had lost a leg serving in the First World War.[3]

She would later fictionalise her parent's marriage in her 1986 novel, An Act of Will.[3] Fellow Yorkshire writer Alan Bennett attended the same nursery school as Taylor Bradford in the Leeds suburb of Upper Armley.[3] As a child during World War II Taylor Bradford held a jumble sale at her school, and donated the £2 proceeds to the 'Aid to Russia' fund. She later received a handwritten thank-you letter from Clementine Churchill, the wife of Prime Minister Winston Churchill.[5]

Taylor Bradford's biographer, Piers Dudgeon, uncovered evidence that her mother, Freda, was the illegitimate daughter of Frederick Robinson, 2nd Marquess of Ripon, a local Yorkshire aristocrat.[3] Taylor Bradford's grandmother had worked as a servant for the Marquess. Dudgeon told Taylor Bradford that her grandmother had had three children by the Marquess, and after some hesitation, she allowed Dudgeon to publish the book.[3]

Although initially angry at Dudgeon's discovery, she later said that "I came round. There's no stigma now."[3] Taylor Bradford's grandmother would later spend time in a workhouse.[3] She would later explore the workhouses of her ancestors in the ITV television series, Secrets of the Workhouse which broadcast in 2013.[6]

Taylor Bradford met her husband, American film producer Robert Bradford, on a blind date in 1961 after being introduced by the English screenwriter Jack Davies.[3][7] They married on Christmas Eve in 1963, and the couple moved permanently to the United States. She has been an American citizen since 1992.[8] Barbara and Robert Bradford live in Manhattan in New York City.[3] The couple have no children.[4]

She decided to be a writer at the age of ten after she sent a story to a magazine.[3] She was paid 7s 6d for the story, with which she bought handkerchiefs and a green vase for her parents.[3] Taylor Bradford left school at 15, and after a spell in the typing pool of the Yorkshire Evening Post, she became a reporter for the newspaper.[3] As a reporter at the post, Taylor Bradford sat alongside Keith Waterhouse.[3] Taylor Bradford moved to London at the age of 20 as the fashion editor of Woman's Own magazine, and would later work as a columnist on the London Evening News.[3] Taylor Bradford later had a column on interior decoration that was syndicated to 183 newspapers.[3] Taylor Bradford's first efforts at fiction writing were with four suspense novels, which she later abandoned.[3] Taylor Bradford would subsequently describe "interviewing herself", saying that "I was in my late thirties. I thought: what if I get to 55, and I've never written a novel? I'm going to hate myself. I'm going to be one of those bitter, unfulfilled writers."[3]

In December 2013, Bradford auctioned forty pieces of jewellery that had been given to her by her husband at Bonhams in London.[9] Taylor Bradford donated the money raised from the auction of her jewellery to two relatives in England.[10]

Taylor Bradford has been awarded honorary doctorate from Leeds University, the University of Bradford, Mount St. Mary's College, Sienna College and Post University in Connecticut.[3][8] Taylor Bradford was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in the Queen's 2007 Birthday Honours list for her contributions to literature. Her original manuscripts are archived at the Brotherton Library at Leeds University beside those of the Brontë sisters.[8]

In her youth Taylor Bradford read Charles Dickens, the Brontë sisters, Thomas Hardy, and the French novelist and performer Colette.[11] Taylor Bradford regards the Irish historian and author Cornelius Ryan as her literary mentor, Ryan encouraged her writing and was the first person other than her mother that Taylor Bradford told she wanted to be a novelist.[12] Her favourite contemporary authors are P. D. James, Bernard Cornwell and Ruth Rendell.[5]

Taylor Bradford's wealth has been estimated at between £166-174 million.[13][14] Her wealth has fed two persistent rumours, that she owns 2,000 pairs of shoes,[3][15] and that the lake in her former house in Connecticut was heated for the benefit of her swans.[13] Taylor Bradford addressed the rumours in a 2011 interview, tracing the shoes rumour to a joke, and the heated lake to the fact that the previous owners of the house had installed it.[16]

Writing career

Her first novel, A Woman of Substance, became an enduring best-seller and according to Reuters, it ranks as one of the top-ten best-selling novels of all time.[17] A Woman Of Substance has been followed by 28 others – all best-sellers on both sides of the Atlantic.

Bradford's books have sold more than ninety-two million copies worldwide in more than ninety countries and forty languages. Ten of her books have been made into television mini-series and television movies, produced by her husband, Robert Bradford.

Recurring plotlines and common themes

Some of Bradford's novels follow a common pattern. A young woman of humble background rises in business through years of hard work, often involving enormous self-sacrifice. As Bradford is often quoted: "I write about mostly ordinary women who go on to achieve the extraordinary."


Five of her television adaptations were re-released on DVD in the UK in September 2008 by Acorn Media UK. These are A Woman of Substance; Hold The Dream; To Be The Best; Act of Will and Voice of the Heart. A Woman Of Substance, Hold The Dream and To Be The Best were reissued on DVD by Acorn Media in the US in May 2012. Act Of Will and Voice Of The Heart remain available on DVD in the US through Infinity Video.



The Emma Harte Saga
The Ravenscar Trilogy
Other fiction


Interior design
Children's religious writing


  1. "Barbara Taylor Bradford on BBC HARDtalk". Retrieved 27 January 2011.
  2. Barbara Taylor Birth Index. England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1916-2005 database on-line. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2008. Original data: General Register Office. England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes. London, England: General Register Office.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 Rachel Cooke (8 October 2006). "You can never be too rich". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
  4. 1 2 Angela Wintle (15 March 2013). "My Family Values - Barbara Taylor Bradford". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
  5. 1 2 Jessica Slater (22 October 2009). "The World of Barbara Taylor Bradford". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
  6. Ben Dowell (17 June 2013). "Barbara Taylor Bradford: Fifty Shades of Grey is "not even sexy"". The Radio Times. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
  7. Barbara Taylor Bradford (22 December 2013). "Barbara Taylor Bradford: my golden husband". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
  8. 1 2 3 "Barbara's Biography". Random House. Retrieved 9 March 2014.
  9. "Bonhams Presents Selected Jewels from the Collection of Barbara Taylor Bradford". Bonhams. December 2013. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
  10. Simon Cable (25 September 2013). "Author Barbara Taylor Bradford sells £1.5m of jewels to turn two of her relatives into women of substance". The Daily Mail. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
  11. "Booky Ramblings Interviews Barbara Taylor Bradford". Blogspot. 14 February 2014. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
  12. Sophie Morris (25 September 2006). "My Mentor: Barbara Taylor Bradford on Cornelius Ryan". The Independent. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
  13. 1 2 Daunta Kean (26 September 2010). "Sapphires and steel: The glittering life of global bestseller Barbara Taylor Bradford". The Independent. Retrieved 20 February 2014.
  14. Joe Knipe (20 July 2010). "The 10 highest-earning women in the UK". This Is Money. Retrieved 20 February 2014.
  15. Marianne Macdonald (20 July 1997). "The BTB Effect". The Independent. Retrieved 20 February 2014.
  16. Katie Jarvis (11 October 2011). "Cotswold Character: Barbara Taylor Bradford". Cotswold Life. Retrieved 20 February 2014.
  17. "Author Bradford attributes success to stamina". 9 January 2007. Archived from the original on 28 July 2011. Retrieved 11 May 2011.

External links

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