Netflix’s Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story finally gives us an insight into both the secretive life of Bridgerton’s Queen and the real-life historical figure Queen Charlotte. But how close to history does the series stick?
For the past two seasons of Shonda Rhimes‘ hit period drama based on Julia Quinn’s books, we’ve relied on hints of what happens behind the palace walls, with Golda Rosheuvel ruling the role of the extravagant monarch. But Netflix’s prequel series finally lets us climb over, as India Amarteifio takes on the task of presenting Queen Charlotte’s youth, from her days as a German princess to how she became Britain’s queen by marrying King George, this time played by Corey Mylchreest. The six-episode limited series, which fulfils the Bridgerton universe’s quota of extravagant gowns, glittering jewels, and sexual tension, invites you to love what may be Bridgerton’s best love story yet.
All our ‚Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story‘ crushes, ranked
Is Queen Charlotte based on a real queen? Absolutely. Despite the Netflix series telling us in the opening moments that Queen Charlotte’s story „is not a history lesson,“ it’s certainly based on the second-longest-serving consort in British history. „It is fiction inspired by fact,“ we’re told. „All liberties taken by the author are quite intentional.“ We couldn’t help but want to know how many liberties were taken, so we’ve dug into the history books to get to know the real Queen Charlotte beyond the screen.
Who was Queen Charlotte and was she Britain’s first Black queen?
India Amarteifio as our Netflix Queen Charlotte.
Credit: Liam Daniel/Netflix
According to The Royal Household website(opens in a new tab), the German royal Queen Charlotte was born Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, the eighth child and youngest daughter of Duke Charles Louis Frederick of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and Princess Elizabeth Albertina of Saxe-Hildburghausen.
As the youngest child, Charlotte was educated(opens in a new tab) in subjects such as botany and natural history as well as traditional domestic things women were expected to learn at the time such as sewing. However, it appears very little was taught to her about politics before she was 17 when it became apparent she was going to marry King George III.
Despite Charlotte being born in Germany, Portuguese historian Mario de Valdes y Cocom has theorised(opens in a new tab) that she is a descendent of Margarita de Castro e Sousa, who was in the Black branch of the Portuguese Royal House. Valdes has connected Margarita de Castro e Souza’s ancestry to the 13th-century ruler Alfonso III and his lover Madragana(opens in a new tab), who Valdes believes was a Black woman.
However even though Charlotte’s ties to Margarita de Castro e Sousa are now a commonly known theory(opens in a new tab), her position as Britain’s first Black queen is still up for debate. Valdes, who studied portraits of Charlotte, has argued that she was mixed-race because artists at the time were told to downplay her more “African” features(opens in a new tab). However, other historians such as Hakim Adi(opens in a new tab), a professor of the History of Africa and the African Diaspora at the University of Chichester believe there is little evidence that Charlotte’s ancestor Madragana was Black. Adi told Insider(opens in a new tab), „The evidence is slender, to put it mildly,“ and that it depends on your definition of Blackness.
‚Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story‘ review: ‚Bridgerton’s best love story has arrived
Despite the historical arguments about the real Queen Charlotte’s ethnicity, Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story doesn’t go back and forth with the specifics on Charlotte and her brother’s ancestry. But the show brings her race to the forefront as young Lady Danbury (Arsema Thomas) tells Queen Charlotte that she is the “first of your kind.”
History tells us we have much to credit Queen Charlotte for hosting the first Debutante ball (opens in a new tab)where unmarried young women would be formally introduced to the monarch, an event which acted as a prelude to the matchmaking season — as we’ve seen in the opening scenes of Bridgerton. In 1780, a May ball was held by King George III in honour of his wife, (opens in a new tab)to raise money for the General Lying-in Hospital, which today is called The Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital(opens in a new tab). The May ball was so successful that it became an annual event at Buckingham Palace until the late Queen Elizabeth II cancelled it in 1958(opens in a new tab).
According to The Independent(opens in a new tab), Charlotte is credited with bringing Christmas trees to Britain, first decorating one at Queen’s Lodge, Windsor, in December 1800. In her German hometown Mecklenburg-Strelitz, it had been tradition to decorate a single yew branch in the parlour(opens in a new tab) but Charlotte decided to make a new tradition in England by decorating the whole tree. It’s a moment we see in the Netflix series as Charlotte notes their tree needs more colour.
What was the real Queen Charlotte’s relationship like with King George III?
India Amarteifio as Queen Charlotte and Corey Mylchreest as King George.
Credit: Liam Daniel/Netflix
One thing the Netflix series did not take any liberties with was the speed of Charlotte and George’s marriage. Queen Charlotte and King George III married at 9 p.m(opens in a new tab)., just six hours after Charlotte arrived in England, and were married until Charlotte died in 1818.
Charlotte married George when she was 17 and he was 22. While it seems that the new king’s journey to finding a wife was quick, it actually took him a year. Marriage was one of George’s priority when he ascended the throne in 1760, and Princess Charlotte seemed like the obvious choice(opens in a new tab) as she was Protestant and not the royal of a major country reducing the risk of any political tension, they deemed her a suitable and safe match. It’s in this way Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story stays pretty close to the truth on their journey down the aisle — although we don’t know whether the real Charlotte tried to climb over the palace wall. In July 1761, King George announced he was planning to marry Charlotte(opens in a new tab), a month later the marriage contract was signed, and a month after that the two were wed on Sept. 8 in the Chapel Royal at St James‘ Palace, meaning the couple never saw each other until their wedding day.
Another aspect of Charlotte and George’s relationship that Queen Charlotte sticks with is how King George suffered from mental illness(opens in a new tab) that would see him dubbed „the mad king“(opens in a new tab) or „Farmer George“(opens in a new tab) — a nickname the Netflix prequel references. According to the Royal Household(opens in a new tab), the king’s health issues were kept a secret from his wife in 1765. However, in 1788 his health worsened, eventually being deemed unfit to rule(opens in a new tab), and this caused an issue between Charlotte and her eldest son, the Prince of Wales, about who should assume the role of regent. The Regency Bill of 1765 stated that Charlotte would become regent if the king became permanently unable to rule. However, the birth of their son had complicated the law with a new heir, and the Prince of Wales was declared regent, a role that later became permanent as George IV.
Credit: Liam Daniel/Netflix
As depicted in the Netflix series, George’s mental illness caused difficulties for the couple’s relationship, particularly when George was declared permanently „mad“ and it led to him staying predominantly at Kew Gardens(opens in a new tab). Netflix’s Queen Charlotte depicts this in the final episode, as we see Charlotte visiting George at Kew with the news of their newborn grandchild. While in the show Charlotte sticks by him, the Historic Royal Palaces website(opens in a new tab) reports that the real Queen Charlotte struggled with the „manic behaviours“ associated with George’s illness, causing the couple to lead separate lives until Charlotte’s death in 1818(opens in a new tab) much like we see in Bridgerton and Queen Charlotte.
Little is known about the couple’s relationship before living their lives separately. However, according to The Royal Household website(opens in a new tab), Charlotte and George are to be credited for purchasing Buckingham Palace (then Buckingham House). St James’s Palace was listed as their official residence but George purchased the property for the couple to move into in 1762 and this was where Charlotte gave birth to 14 of their children.
Queen Charlotte also purchased the now infamous Frogmore House in 1792(opens in a new tab), the residence in the grounds of Windsor Castle in Berkshire that Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex owned as their UK base until asked to vacate it(opens in a new tab) in March. Frogmore House played a key part in celebrating King George III’s Golden Jubilee in 1809(opens in a new tab) as it hosted numerous festivities including „fireworks, illuminations, and an elegant supper.(opens in a new tab)“ Frogmore was also a country retreat for Charlotte and her unmarried daughters.
Like we see in the series, George’s time at Kew Palace was filled with 19th century treatments for mental illness. He underwent leechings and medicinal baths (opens in a new tab)under the guise of the royal family’s chosen doctor. In Queen Charlotte, the doctor is called Dr Monro (played by Guy Henry), but King George’s real doctor was Dr Francis Willis, whose treatments historian Amanda Foreman described to the BBC’s History Extra(opens in a new tab): „The treatments applied to the king reduced him to a childlike figure. If he became manic or overexcited, he was placed in a straitjacket (his “hated waistcoat”). He was denied a knife and fork at mealtimes, which meant much of what he ate was soft nursery food that could be eaten with a spoon or hands. The king wasn’t even allowed out of the house by himself and had to earn privileges such as seeing his family or using cutlery.”
Did Queen Charlotte have 13 children and what happened to them?
Charlotte and George’s first child, the Prince of Wales, later King George IV(opens in a new tab), was born almost a year after they married on August 12, 1762. While in the Bridgerton series we only meet Queen Charlotte and King George III’s nephew, Prince Friedrich of Prussia (one of Daphne Bridgerton’s suitors, played by Freddie Stroma), and learn of Ameilia’s death through a heartbreaking scene in Season 1, in which the Queen has to re-break the news to George because he doesn’t remember and it ends up with him shouting that Charlotte has “killed my child.” Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story tells us a bit more about the many children Charlotte and George had.
Golda Rosheuvel as Queen Charlotte in „Bridgerton“ Season 1.
Credit: Liam Daniel/Netflix
Despite the series focusing on Charlotte’s 13 children, she actually gave birth to 15 children in 21 years. Princes Octavius and Alfred died from smallpox as toddlers(opens in a new tab) meaning only 13 made it to adulthood, including Amelia who died at 27 from tuberculosis. The remaining children were: George, Prince of Wales; Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany; Prince William IV, Duke of Clarence; Charlotte, Princess Royal; Prince Edward, Duke of Kent; Princess Augusta Sophia; Princess Elizabeth; Prince Ernest, Duke of Cumberland; Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex; Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge; Princess Mary, Duchess of Gloucester; and Princess Sophia.
Unlike their parents, love and heirs did not come easy to Charlotte and George’s children, as up until 1817 there was only one legitimate grandchild born, Princess Charlotte, and she died during childbirth(opens in a new tab) to a stillborn son. As in Queen Charlotte, this resulted in a „baby race“ that as our Netflix Queen Charlotte puts it so eloquently told her children it’s “time to trade in the mistresses for respectable wives.” Up until 1817, a lot of Charlotte’s children, including the future King George IV(opens in a new tab), had many mistresses leading to illegitimate children. Before being married to Princess Adelaide, William had 10 illegitimate children(opens in a new tab), most of whom he had with actor Dorothea Jordan(opens in a new tab) — in the Netflix series, Queen Charlotte tells her son, „She is an actress. Break it off and find a suitable woman.“
The real Queen Charlotte did eventually get her grandchildren, which included the second longest reigning monarch, Queen Victoria.
It’s clear that while taking liberties with its historical accuracy, Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story does stick to the foundations of truth for Netflix Queen Charlotte’s story. But remember, it’s „not a history lesson.“
Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story is now available to stream on Netflix.(opens in a new tab)