Dear Gentle Reader,
Another season of the Bridgerton series has come out last week, and this time it is the story of our beloved Queen Charlotte and her great love with King George the Third. And what a besotting, intoxicating, heart-wrenching tale it is.
The genre of historical fiction in general, and Queen Charlotte in particular, has fascinated me. Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story begins with a disclaimer, reminding all viewers that it is indeed “fiction inspired by fact”. It is incredible to watch handpicked documented moments in history woven into a beautiful spiel, giving us an opportunity to immerse ourselves entirely into another world and imagine how it all went down centuries ago. It may not all be fact (and sure, it is important to differentiate between the two), but it is history-adjacent. And by connecting those dots, Queen Charlotte paints a glorious picture. What follows is an epic love of resilience and dedication.
Creating a storyline that signifies the black community and casting appropriate actors for these roles have pushed people to learn more about the real history of those periods. After Bridgerton, the existence of a considerably large black population in England at varying levels of social status, including a few being members in the Regency-era aristocracy, has been revealed to the masses – negating the argument that having black characters in a Regency-era period drama is historically inaccurate.
However, beyond that, Queen Charlotte’s racial background in the show and the Great Experiment plotline are works of fiction. The show side-steps the topics of slave-trade and slavery, creating a much more simplified alternate reality – that of two distinct communities, who co-existed but did not mingle due to discriminatory reasons, were pushed together when a white king married a mixed-race queen. Aristocratic members of the black community were given titles and estates, and also regarded as equal members of the ton. Yet, the security of their position in society and the success of the Great Experiment depended on securing the position of the queen, and her ability to produce heirs.
In a way, Bridgerton’s success can be partly attributed to the conscious decision of moving past tokenism and writing characters whose race is just one part of what makes them who they are.
A large part of Bridgerton’s appeal is its production. The show reels you into Regency England, with its fine costumes, impeccable balls and a truly romantic rendition of 1800s England. Once you’re hooked, you cannot look away. The writing of the show is impactful, but the actors bring it to life in staggering ways, with India Ria Amarteifio (Young Queen Charlotte) and Arsema Thomas (Young Lady Danbury) stealing the show with their chemistry.
Yet, the storytelling goes beyond the words and the actors saying them. It lies in the frames. With King George’s mental health being a significant theme, his fits are punctuated by twisting frames which subtly, but eloquently, show him spiralling. This cinematographic technique is further used to show the moments of Queen Charlotte and Lady Danbury’s worlds shattering. One of my favourite moments from the show was when Charlotte, overwhelmed by her circumstances, falters in her step – shown by a gradually tilting frame. The frame shifts back into place as she regains her composure by the outstretched steadying hand of the endearing Brimsley from his usual place – five paces behind her.
Queen Charlotte and King George’s love has been written about in history. He was entranced by her, considered her to be his physician and the greatest friend a man could ask for. King George was frequently seen kissing his wife on the cheek 20 years into their marriage and they slept in the same bed for decades until King George showed severe symptoms of his deteriorating mental health. Theirs was known to be a great love – a rarity in the royal world where one married for every other reason but that. And they had 15 children together. Now all of these are facts!
However, Queen Charlotte adds devotion, grief and compassion to these historical facts. The first two Bridgerton seasons show a passionate love, the kind that ignites fire and the kind you read about in books. But Queen Charlotte tells us a story of real love, the kind that you fight for, the kind that is not always easy, and the kind that is resilient and enduring. Real love felt by real people, when the dust clears and the rose-tinted glasses come off.
Despite the confusion and betrayal Charlotte felt after she found out about George, she took fate into her own hands – a theme traced across the motivation of all the heroines of the show. She ended Dr Monroe’s torturous treatment, and chose to treat George with compassion and love. She even declared to choose his happiness and soul over his sanity. And she continued to do so, holding his hand, supporting him with kind words and “hiding from the heavens” with him.
It is no mystery that King George’s health deteriorated over time, but till the last scene their devotion to one another was palpably evident. And that was when I shed a tear (well, multiple tears).
“We are untold stories,” says a fierce Lady Danbury. Queen Charlotte narrates the becoming of the two most influential women in the Bridgerton universe – Queen Charlotte and Lady Danbury. We watch Charlotte rise above her circumstances to become a headfast, firm and benevolent queen. She not only supports her husband, through an unexplainable, mentally crippling disease, but also takes responsibility for her people. Lady Danbury single-handedly endures her old, un-appreciating husband, solidifies her station in society and leads her community in the ton – all while having her heartbroken. Between them blooms a strong friendship, telling harsh truths and withstanding terrible fates together.
It is the stories of these unbelievably strong women, who stand tall against a world that does not care about them, that make Queen Charlotte a powerful watch.
So, dearest reader, it is safe to say that Queen Charlotte is the best Bridgerton story to come out till date. And it is filled with love – all kinds of love. Charlotte and George’s strong love that perseveres and survives, Lady Danbury and Lord Ledger’s fleeting love that saves them both from the drudgery of their lives, and Brimsley and Reynolds’s binding love that leaves Brimsley dancing alone in the moonlight decades later.
We truly are happy that Charlotte did not go over the wall. You can stream it now on Netflix.