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Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story – TV series review

Queen Charlotte poster

TV series: Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story
Released: May 2023 

During the recent coronation weekend we were determined to steer clear of the relentless news coverage which was obsessed with every detail of the ridiculous archaic royal spectacle. The whole putrid affair reeked of being an anachronistic vestige of a bygone age. A new sovereign, succeeding purely by birthright, would be anointed an audacious supremacy by a high priest, only to then be expected to grant favour and legitimacy back to them in return.
And with an elected government of a now-majority unreligious populace forced into recognising this awkward, meaningless symbiotic and mutually self-serving relationship between monarchy and church, it is most odd that such a mystical compact between an imagined deity and what is implied to be their earthly representative should still be in play in this day and age. 
Yet, for many it was a welcomed immersion into something of a nostalgic cultural curiosity, not having been around to witness the last coronation of a British monarch that occurred way back in 1953. 

As an antidote and reluctant nod to the royal circus before us, we instead opted to spend the weekend watching the latest installment in the Bridgerton TV franchise. After all, if myth, fantasy and frivolous costumed entertainment were to be imbibed, then why not the alternative narratives confected by Shondaland and Netflix instead? Having enjoyed the first two Bridgerton seasons, each of which covered the betrothal of one of the eligible Bridgerton family siblings, we approached this new spin-off season with glee! As it turns out, this season is devoted to a non-Bridgeton and one of the key but secondary characters whom we had the privilege of meeting before; the feisty and spirited Queen Charlotte.

At the time this piece was published, the series was ranked No.1 on Netflix’s list of TV series. So much has been written on every little aspect of this runaway hit that it may very well be the more palatable and successful royal entertainment phenomenon of the year.

Reimagining history / The Experiment

While the Bridgerton series is based on real royals, this particular re-telling of Queen Charlotte and King George III’s love story set in Georgian-era London is not entirely historically accurate. At the start of episode 1, a title card narrated by Lady Whistledown reads, “Dearest gentle reader, this is the story of Queen Charlotte from Bridgerton. It is not a history lesson. It is fiction inspired by fact.”
As TIME magazine reviewer Judy Berman asserts, this spin-off season fixes the biggest problem with the earlier two seasons, being its anachronistic (or alternate-reality) Regency Britain, which didn’t seem to make sense. And if we are to conveniently overlook the unsavoury aspects of a Regency England, such as its lack of modern sanitation in our rose-tinted (and rose-smelling) version of history—as Tracy E Robey explains in her insightful article following the release of Bridgerton Season 2—then why not condone some other liberties be taken in an uplifting re-telling of the historic royal love story in the Ton? As Judy Berman aptly puts it: “Unlike BridgertonQueen Charlotte is grounded in reality. It’s just that the society it captures isn’t Georgian England but our own.”
This six-episode spin-off centers around The Great Experiment, a concept established by Princess Augusta (King George III’s mother) and the House of Lords. Prior to the marriage between Charlotte (a suitable Black and minor princess from the German Duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz with no interest in politics) and King George III (a white man of Hanoverian background) the British noble class was entirely white. Their interracial relationship and Charlotte’s role as Britain’s first Black queen would signal a turning point in societal structure, and the Great Experiment was the palace’s attempt to de-segregate the Ton and grant more land and status to people of color. 
As such, we see how Lady Agatha Danbury, the social influencer and marriage ‘broker’ whom we previously became acquainted with in Bridgerton Seasons 1 and 2, and her husband Lord Danbury were bestowed their titles at Charlotte and George’s wedding in episode 1. They are later given a new, bigger home by the palace and end up hosting the first ball of the season. As the series progresses, Queen Charlotte’s responsibilities as the face of the Great Experiment grow more and more evident, as she and her close friend and confidante Lady Danbury advocate for continued, lasting de-segregation of the Ton. 
Given the prevailing reality, could you even imagine a Britain royal household that is racially integrated, with a House of Lords and the Royal Court somehow not just accepting but actually plotting to endorse a foreign princess of colour such as Meghan Markle? Probably not. How dare an ambitious commoner actress, whose father is white and mother black, should dare to worm her way into British royalty, never mind another one albeit of purely white background has also done it. Well, this series dares to portray such an alternative reality. And it does so with such style and flair.

Was Queen Charlotte really black?

Some historians who have researched this question say Charlotte was of African descent and was Britain’s first black royal. Historian Mario De Valdes y Cocom argues that Charlotte was directly descended from a black branch of the Portuguese royal family: Alfonso III and his concubine, Ouruana, a black Moor. 
There’s something quite perverse yet satisfying in seeing, albeit through a bit of wishful reframing of history, how people who have been otherwise been deemed unworthy and denied specialness by virtue of their “inferior” ethnicity and skin colour could suddenly be elevated and who would then embrace, relish and then run with the conceit of operating in the realm of such bestowed privilege; in a way that is neither less or more unworthy than their predecessors.
For are we not all driven by the same universal pursuit of happiness, ambition, power and love, no matter our station in life?

Two timelines - a true love story

The story and action in this spin-off season Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story is presented switching between two timelines. One tells of Charlotte, the young 17-year old bride imported from Germany who was swiftly wedded to a George (without her awareness of his delicate mental state) in an arrangement. In this earlier time thread, we see how the couple meet for the first time (just moments before the wedding) and then struggle to find an operating equilibrium as George’s insecurities about his ability to hold it together threatens his relationship with his new bride. But the spark between the two is doubtless and Charlotte is determined to not only stand by the her reluctant suitor whom she has no doubt fallen in love with. 
The other is a fast-forward to the future when the marriage of Charlotte and George has not only endured but been fruitful in having managed to produce many children. And yet none of these have themselves produced an heir, again throwing the future and survival of the royal line into question (although we are told there have been illegitimate offspring produced by the son’s liaisons with courtesans). The later situation provides an opportunity to review in a different time and context what it means to feel the obligation of a crown prince to produce an heir for family and country.

The loving legacy of King George III

According to author Janice Hadlow in her book A Royal Experiment: The Private Life of King George III, George III was a very different man to the one the Americans know of as “the mad king’ from whom they won their independence. That’s the snide and witty character we see portrayed in the musical Hamilton. Rather, Hadlow asserts how remarkable he was for his radical pursuit of happiness in his private life with his wife, Queen Charlotte, and their 15 children. Yes, history records that they did indeed live a happy and fulfilled sex life, producing a total of 15 offspring, with only 13 of them living to adulthood. 
George III was the first of Britain’s three Hanoverian kings to be born in England and the first to identify as native of the nation he ruled. But this was not the only difference between him and his predecessors. Neither of the previous Georges was faithful to his wife, nor to his mistresses. Both hated their own sons. And their children were angry, jealous, and disaffected schemers, whose palace shenanigans kick off Hadlow’s juicy narrative and also made their lives unhappy ones.
Disillusioned by his childhood amidst this cruel and feuding family, George III came to the throne aspiring to be a new kind of king―a force for moral good. And in order to that new kind of king, he had to be a new kind of man. Against his awful family background―of brutal royal intrigue, infidelity, and betrayal―George fervently pursued a radical domestic dream: he would have a faithful marriage and raise loving, educated, and resilient children. 


This prequel/spin-off to the TV adaptation of Julia Quinn’s Regency Era Bridgerton romance novels comes to us via a soapy, progressive sensibility of producer Shonda Rhimes. For showrunner Rhimes it is her most hands-on writing role since Inventing Anna, the TV serialisation about the real-life Anna Delvey saga. Producer Rhimes had previously delegated Bridgerton to creator Chris Van Dusen and writer Jess Brownell, who takes the reins for the coming Bridgerton Season 3. But with writing for this spin-off in the direct hands of the master, who also gave us Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, the Bridgerton universe becomes the best version of itself: a romantic, escapist love story with a maturity and depth of substance that only adds to its cultural exoticism and eroticism. Bridgerton was already a popular and well-received contemporised ‘post-historic’ phenomenon. But it has taken this latest spin-off Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story to unlock and cement the premise’s full potential.
Over the six episodes, the story of Charlotte & George marriage touches on matters of race, mental health, bodily autonomy and, eventually, the meaning of desire and long-term partnership past middle age, all issues handled skilfully and treated with due gravitas without killing the fantasy. 


Given the two parallel time frames each of the key characters are played by two actors. Young Charlotte is played to perfection by India Amarteifio. She embodies a naive yet brave and stoic young queen who is determined to make the best of her situation, once she realises what and whom exactly she has married. Young George is played charmingly by Cory Mylchreest, who finds the right balance between a sincere but hesitant young man wanting so much to fulfil his role as husband and monarch yet anguished by mental predicament to impose himself on the person he has not doubt been smitten by. 
One of the more endearing scenes in episode one is the moment the two first meet. And the chemistry between the two actors is palpable. The other pivotal scene in a later episode is when a frustrated Charlotte confronts her George who has been evading her if he really loves her. She tells him she would readily walk away if he admits he feels nothing for her. He insists he can’t love her but eventually admits to his love for her while she promises that can overcome the hurdles together. You can’t help rooting for the two who immediately convince us that they were indeed made for each other.
As established in the earlier Bridgerton Seasons 1 & 2, the same actors continue to play the principle female roles of older Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel), Lady Agatha Danbury (Adjoa Andoh) and Lady Violet Ledger Bridgerton (Ruth Gemmell) with confidence and conviction. Young Lady Danbury is played by Asema Thomas whom we see quickly transform from dutiful young trophy wife to royal confidante and then widow and socialite. No explanation is offered as to why her eyebrows have developed into a dramatic arch in her later years!  
Michelle Fairley as George’s mother Princess Augusta is suitably calculating and distrusting. But she softens when she eventually realises her daughter-in-law’s genuine priority is her son’s welfare and happiness. James Fleet reprises his earlier appearance in 3 episodes of Bridgerton Season 2 as the confused and mentally unsound but harmless senior King George III.

Same-sex relationship

A delightful sidebar to the main story comes in the form of a gay relationship betweeen Brimsley (Sam Clemmett) and Reynolds (Freddie Dennis). Perhaps it is no more than a tokenistic nod to the overarching attempt for diversity in the casting and conjectured details developed for the story. But it could very well have been true, knowing such a sub-plot would never have been recorded in history, even if true.
Brimsley serves as Charlotte’s “shadow” who was first introduced in Bridgerton as his older version (played by Hugh Sachs)While little was known of his character then, this spin-off fills us in with a lovely backstory in which he has a romantic relationship with King George’s valet whom he has to work very closely with. Chosen to be Charlotte’s right-hand man before she arrives, always to be found a few paces behind her, he becomes a large part of her life. And she in turn learns and grows to trust him as he helps her bend the rules in order to fully consummate her relationship with her George. 
Their surreptitious romance is inserted seamlessly into the larger plot and we eventually find out if their relationship endures or n

Landmark filming locations

Another fun aspect of watching this series for me was trying to identify the historic locations chosen:

  • Hampton Court Palace – Having been a prominent filming location in Bridgerton Seasons 1 & 2, serving as a home-base for the older Queen Charlotte, this historic palace returns in Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story. It was originally built by Cardinal Wolsey for King Henry VIII in the 16th century. It is a place I’ve visited on a number of occasions, the last of which was to sing in an outdoor performance of Handel’s Messiah in the courtyard as part of the London Philharmonic Choir back in 1997. I remember having a picnic out in the formal gardens during the interval and the noisy planes above, having taken off from Heathrow, drowning out the live concert preformance!
  • Belton House and Waddesdon Manor – Belton House, built in the late 17th centure and located in Lincolnshire, was chosen as King George III’s home. In the series, George lives at Kew Palace but the production team was unable to film at the actual palace. Belton House served as a filming location for Kew’s interior scenes, such as George’s bedchamber and the lab of his secret physician Dr. Monro. Waddesdon Manor was used for scenes of George’s observatory as well as exterior shots of the Kew Palace gardens and fields. Waddesdon Manor is also the location where Lady Danbury and Lord Ledger begin and develop their affair.
  • Blenheim Palace – Built sometime early in the 18th century, Blenheim Palace has served as a filming location for many globally popular projects, from Downtown Abbey to the Harry Potter films. The palace was used for multiple interior and exterior shots of what is supposed to be Buckingham House, such as when Queen Charlotte arrives in a carriage with King George III during her coronation. [Fun fact – Winston Churchill was born at Blenheim!]
  • Holburne Museum – This serves as a stand in for Lady Danbury’s new grand estate given to her after successful negotiations with George’s mother Princess Augusta.
  • Firle Place – Scenes at the Ledger estate were filmed at Firle Place, a manor house in Sussex which was built in the late 15th century by Sir John Gage.

Music soundtrack

As with the first two seasons of Bridgeton, the music in this spin-off season comprises 21st century pop hit covers played by the Vitamin String Quartet in a pseudo period style. 
According to musical director Alexandra Patsavas, the remake of Alicia Key’s If I Ain’t Got You featured a “first-of-its-kind orchestra made up of more than 70 women of color who hail from all over the world, including Sweden, South Africa, and France.” 
And who can forget that incredibly poignant cover of Whitney Houston/Dolly Parton’s I Will Always Love You playing in the final episode, when Princess Augusta thanks Queen Charlotte for making her son happy before the newlyweds begin dancing.  And then Young Brimsley and Reynold dance together to the music, and the scene fast forwards to Brimsley dancing to the song alone. Sigh!