Historical Fact Meets Imagination

The new series Queen Charlotte gives the Bridgerton Universe more backstory by mixing historical fact and imagination. It is a spin-off series that not only fans can enjoy, but anyone who likes a good period romance with the characters navigating the difficulties of the era and their own identity.

By Jaeeun Kim

Picture: LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX © 2023 Netflix, Inc.

Dear readers, the royal love story of Queen Charlotte and King George the 3rd in the Bridgerton Universe has landed on Netflix. Unlike the first two seasons of the Bridgerton series, which were based on the novel written by Julia Quinn, Queen Charlotte was written by Shonda Rhimes, the head of Shondaland – a highly successful production company most known for producing Grey’s Anatomy. Bridgerton is based on the Regency period ruled by Prince Regent, who later became George the 4th, but the Royal family’s presence is not significant in the novel. However, in the Bridgerton series, the presence of Queen Charlotte, the character based on the real Queen Charlotte, is much bigger, eventually leading to its own spin-off series, Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story. As a period series, Queen Charlotte depicts royal romance, politics, the fashion of the ›ton‹ with a slight modern touch, including its own soundtrack which contains classical versions of famous pop songs such as I Will Always Love You.

Young Princess Charlotte is supposed to marry the King of England, George the 3rd. The engagement is against her will, so she decides to escape the wedding. However, she meets the king right before she manages to escape. Charlotte does not go over the wall of the palace, but somehow the King pushes her away and she struggles to figure out why. The show focuses on the love between Queen Charlotte and King George, and the political issues related to ›The Great Experiment‹, which is an attempt to integrate non-white people into the high society, an imaginary device in the show.

The Great Experiment

The most significant difference between the Bridgerton universe and the actual history would be, of course, the Great Experiment which resulted in the idealistic multiethnic high society that seems so natural in the Bridgerton series. In the series Queen Charlotte, it is revealed that the reason behind the great experiment is to justify the king’s choice of marrying Queen Charlotte, a princess with Black heritage. How accurate is this compared to real history?

Modern-day historians debate whether Queen Charlotte had Black ancestors, a theory started by J. A. Roger in the year 1940 and developed by the historian Mario de Valdes y Cocom. Cocom argues that the royal physician’s description of her had ethnic characteristics. He assumes that her Black ancestry goes all the way up to Margarita de Castro y Sousa and her family, a Black branch of the Portuguese royal house. It is still controversial if Queen Charlotte was the first mixed-race member of the British royal family,

Unlike the series, the real history of the British aristocracy was not widely opened to non-white people, and the ethnic demographic was heavily inclined to white people. However, there are examples of non-white people in the ›ton‹, or the aristocratic society, including Dido Elizabeth Belle, the daughter of Sir John Lindsay and a slave named Maria Belle. She was born as a slave, but her father brought her back to England and raised her. Sir Lindsay later freed her and admitted her as a legitimate daughter in his will. Dido was educated with her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray as her companion rather than her maid. Dido was not treated equally as other gentlewomen because of the racism in the 18th century, but she was the only mixed-raced figure to be treated as a partial member of the ton. So, the ethnic demographic of the high society was not completely white, but only white people were treated as legitimate members and there were no central socialites of colour such as Lady Danbury or the Duke of Hastings.

The Love Story of King George and Queen Charlotte

George the 3rd, or ›farmer George‹, was known as a very good family man who was devoted to his wife and never had a mistress, and all 15 children he had were with Queen Charlotte. Six hours after Queen Charlotte arrived on the Great Britain shore, they married and stayed loyal to each other until Queen Charlotte died in 1818. It was widely known that they were a happily married couple, even if they had some struggles due to King George’s illness that started in 1765, got worse in 1789 and became permanent in 1811. Even if they were separated, the Queen remained as the guardian of King George until the day she died. The Buckingham House, which is now known as the Buckingham Palace, was one of the many gifts that King George gave to Queen Charlotte.

India Amarteifio as Young Queen Charlotte and Corey Mylchreest as Young King George in the Netflix production Queen Charlotte. Picture: NICK WALL/NETFLIX © 2023 Netflix, Inc.

Some of the details about the character Queen Charlotte were based on the known facts of the real Queen Charlotte, such as her interest in the high society. She was a big fan of gossip in the upper society and she was the first person to hold the ›Debutante Ball‹, which lasted till the 1950s before Queen Elizabeth the 2nd cancelled the tradition. This is one of the reasons that made the presence of the queen so important in the romance of the Bridgerton series compared to the book, which eventually led to the character getting her own spin-off series. Other small details such as her love of Pomeranian dogs or the fact that she was the first person to bring the tradition of Christmas trees to the United Kingdom are also reflected in the series, which makes the character and the series seem more based on the actual historical figures.

Queen Charlotte presents the younger version of some characters from Bridgerton, such as Lady Danbury, Violet Ledger who later becomes Violet Bridgerton, and most importantly, Queen Charlotte herself. As the Bridgerton series focuses on the Bridgerton siblings and their romances, not a lot is known about these older characters, as their main role in the Bridgerton series was as matchmakers for the younger generation, guiding them into a true love match. Queen Charlotte shows not only the younger version of these characters struggling through their youth and own romance, but also how they support each other personally and socially. This depicts them as women who had and still have their own desire, secrets and ambitions.

The Prequel and its Link to the Bridgerton Universe

Compared to the charisma or maturity they conveyed in the Bridgerton series, the actors manage to make the characters more relatable on their own in the new season. Ruth Gemmell who plays Violet Bridgerton presents the woman with her own desire for love, more than the soft mother figure who is dedicated only to her children in the Bridgerton series. And the actors playing the younger versions of the characters show the growth the characters experience by their mistakes and flaws while navigating through high society.

India Amarteifio, the lead of the series, presents a young, stubborn queen who is not afraid to carry through her wishes and protect her love. Arsema Thomas, the actor of younger lady Danbury, depicts an ambitious young woman who has to stand up for herself against a society that discriminates its new multi-ethnic members. The balanced depiction between the characters as their own and the characters that we know from the previous series attracts both those who already enjoyed the Bridgerton Universe and those who did not watch the previous series.

Queen Charlotte stresses from the very first episode, that »this is the story of Queen Charlotte from Bridgerton. It is not a history lesson. It is fiction inspired by fact. All liberties taken by the author are quite intentional.« However, the quite accurate details and altered facts make the series an enjoyable period romance. The subtle twists of historical fact are one of the aspects of a successful series that keeps audiences interested even after watching by comparing the real history and the series. A second season of Queen Charlotte has not yet been confirmed, but the series is a perfect mixture of historical fact and imagination that suits the main theme of the Bridgerton series by providing trivia for those who have been fans since the first season and interesting character representation for those who are not familiar with the series.

Geschrieben von
Hinterlasse einen Kommentar

Deine E-Mail-Adresse wird nicht veröffentlicht. Erforderliche Felder sind mit * markiert