Dear Readers, the Bridgerton universe is expanding with Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story. There’s plenty of charm in this royal romp and there’s a lot to love in these characters. This a fascinating new chapter for this universe fictionalizing real characters. As the beloved narrator says, this is in no way a history lesson. Instead, this is a love story between two people who faced the world together alone.
It makes sense to start with the Queen herself and India Amarteifio’s stunningly brilliant performance. She brings such a heart to each and every scene she’s in. She humanizes a historical figure who has caused fascination centuries after she was Queen. Her sheer force of will makes her a magnetic presence. Amarteifio seamlessly ties her younger version of the character with Golda Rosheuvel’s iconic Queen.
George III (Corey Mylchreest) is made incredibly sympathetic on Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine any former colonists objecting to being ruled over by such a sweet face and gentle spirit. This girl-bossing of a notorious historical villain could have ended in disaster in less capable hands. Instead, he’s the image of a man just doing his best while fighting tooth and nail against his own mind.
The way the series handles George III’s illness is beautifully compassionate and equally heartbreaking. While current theories regarding the monarch’s illness point to porphyria or bipolar disorder, this show never speculates. Instead, the series focuses on a man who does his best to protect those around him from the turmoil within. He shows his love for Charlotte in particular by doing battle with his mind. This is what makes him so endearing.
The younger Lady Agatha Danbury (Arsema Thomas) is a force of nature. Watching her come into her own is among one of the most endearing character journeys featured here. Her inner strength is evident in every scene and the foundation is set for the force of nature that she becomes in the larger Bridgerton universe. This is Lady Danbury’s coming-of-age story. She’s proof that a new beginning can come at any age.
Princess Augusta (Michelle Fairley) makes a compelling villain because she’s so grounded in reality. The way she puts up constant roadblocks in her daughter-in-law’s path is an all-too-common dynamic. Her attempts to protect her son are misguided and ultimately cause him more harm. This makes her a twofold villain. Ultimately, she is not the support that her son and daughter-in-law need in their most challenging moments.
When the show delves into the present, it’s equally hilarious and poignant. The switching back and forth between different timelines could have rapidly devolved. Instead, the characters that we’ve already met are given additional layers of depth. While Brimsley is largely in the background for the occasional comedic moment, here, he is a devoted protector of the Queen. He’s made more lovable because of this devotion and friendship.
If there’s anything about this series that doesn’t work, it’s the reveal that Lady Danbury and Violet’s father were romantically involved. This is an unnecessary way to manufacture drama. It also has uncomfortable ramifications for the “present” moment of the Bridgerton universe. If the goal was to move this character’s story forward, her relationship with the Queen’s brother may have been a better option.
Additionally, Black critics and fans have spoken at length about the continuing issues that the Bridgerton universe has in telling diverse stories. This continues to be an issue, and Black critics should be in the spotlight in leading this discussion. For fans outside of the Black community, it is best to listen to Black critics and fans about the problem this universe continues to have.
Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story succeeds because it knows exactly what it needed to be. Rather than simply being a prequel for the series, this story stands on its own. There is plenty of emotional depth to delve into with these characters. While the real people were problematic at the very least, these fictional counterparts are incredibly lovable. Hopefully, this series will be the beginning of more stories from this era. It has already integrated beautifully into this much-beloved romance franchise.
Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story is available to stream on Netflix.