Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story is Better than Bridgerton
I am a casual watcher of the show Bridgerton. Each season that has come out has been enjoyable. Though I have not read any of the books, Julia Quinn presents a fun and interesting take on the Regency era that Shondaland has adapted brilliantly for Netflix. Bridgerton is good entertainment, where I can be engaged while it's on-screen and then disengage and forget about it as soon as it's turned off. I started Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story with the same expectations, but I soon found myself thinking about it even when I was not actively watching. And now that I’ve finished it, I still find myself thinking about it because it was absolutely incredible. (Warning: Spoilers ahead)
There is just something more to Queen Charlotte. It might be that the titular characters are rooted in history rather than simply historical fiction. Queen Charlotte and King George III were real people, and there are a lot of similarities between their characters and them in real life. They were very much in love; they did have an alarming amount of children, and they did face relationship problems because of King George’s mental illness. It might also be that this show addresses so many social and political issues in a more upfront way, without them being the sole focus of the plot. Race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class are just some of the issues confronted in Queen Charlotte. It might even be the way that the show switches between the present Bridgerton period, where Queen Charlotte is a mother whose children have all grown up, and the past, where she was a young wife to a mysterious, frustrating man she’d never met.
But I think what really drew me in was the characters themselves and how they dealt with what life handed to them—both seasons of Bridgerton had good characters - well-written, appealing, and intriguing. I never truly connected with any of them, however. Their lives and problems seemed so silly; it was all just about marriage, money, and reputation.
Queen Charlotte is about love in all forms, and that makes you truly care about it. I cared about Charlotte and George. I cared about Brimsley and Reynolds. And I cared about Agatha Danbury and Violet Bridgerton (even though I had not while watching the original show). I empathized with them, as their love and struggles were so real and human. Charlotte was a stranger, alone in a new land with a new husband, trying to balance her role as queen in the Great Experiment and her role as a loving, dutiful wife to a king. George was a man facing mental illness in a time when it was not understood, undergoing horrific medical treatments so that he could fulfill his unwanted role as king and his wanted role as a husband. Brimsley and Reynolds held everyone together (shoutout to them because wow) while also managing to hold each other in secret at a time when their love was not legally allowed. Agatha and Violet both ended up widows but felt very differently about that based on their relationships with their husbands. Seeing them as older women who become friends and bond over things like “blooming gardens” lent a sense of simultaneous seriousness and silliness that I greatly appreciated.
Queen Charlotte just felt so much more meaningful. I sobbed watching the queen slide under the bed with her huge wig in the last episode to meet her husband in his safe space. Against all odds, Charlotte and George made their love work and continued to make it work. This show was so much more touching to me, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a new addition to their summer to-watch list.
Writer: Sarah Moloney
Artist: Sarah Moloney