What to Know About ‘Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story’

Queen Charlotte, with her withering glare and huge wig, was a key character in the first two seasons of Netflix’s hotly acclaimed series Bridgerton, set in racially diverse Regency England. . Played by Golda Rochevel, she is a hard-line matriarch who listens to gossip and has an eye for beauty.

She is now the subject of her own Netflix six-episode prequel series Queen Charlotte: The Story of Bridgerton, which tells the story of a young Charlotte (India Amaltaifio) as she begins to seize power. ing. Her viewers witness her whirlwind marriage to George III, meet her delinquent children, and come to a greater understanding of her motivations and her loneliness. She, of course, also gets a glimpse of the royal bedroom.

“‘The love of Queen Charlotte and King George united the nations’–that’s a line in Bridgerton, and for me it’s been said to the whole world,” said Shonda Rhimes, the show’s creator. said in a phone interview last week. “We tell the story of how their love brought the world together in very small ways.”

In line with the series-wide approach to diverse casting, “Bridgerton” Charlotte is also portrayed as of African and European descent, but in her case, the decision was that the real Charlotte was biracial. It was partly rooted in speculation by some historians that It has been the subject of much debate.

But what do we know about historical Charlotte? What are the terms of the discussion? And is that discussion irrelevant to a story that Rimes himself describes as a fantasy? We spoke with Rhimes and several historians about the series, which has been the most-watched show on Netflix worldwide since its release last week.

The basic facts about Princess Charlotte’s life are well documented. The real princess Sophie Charlotte was born in 1744 in Mecklenberg Her Strelitz, now part of Germany. When she was 17, she married George III, six hours after arriving in London. The couple had their first child, George IV, in 1762, followed by 14 more children of hers.

First 25 years of living together seemed happy and happy. Together they took part in plays, hosted concerts and even invited the young Mozart to perform in 1764. In 1788, George III suffered a serious mental illness and his manic and violent behavior worsened over time. In 1811, his son George IV took over his leadership duties as Prince Regent. George III was often isolated, living an increasingly separate life from Charlotte. She died in her 1818. George III died two years later.

For those details, the prequels are mostly faithful. Like the rest of the series, this series is unapologetic and creatively licensed. In fact, its license is central to its premise.

Since the beginning of the “Bridgerton” series, Rhimes and her team have worked on the idea put forward by some historians that Charlotte was a mixed-race woman and descended from a lineage. A black family of the Portuguese royal family. Many other historians disagree with that theory. However, in developing the new series, Rhimes chose not to argue, but rather to create a fictional tale with historical elements in a world she had already created, where Charlotte the Black Queen, lavished in jeweled and corseted gowns, bravely reigns. interested in remaining loyal to while taking care of the king.

“I got permission to really fantasize about telling the stories of the characters I was most fascinated with. It was an easy jumping off point for me,” Rhimes said. “This is not a history class. This is exactly the story of Queen Charlotte as we know it from Bridgerton.”

The idea that historical Princess Charlotte may have been biracial due to the black branch of the Portuguese royal lineage was prominently put forward by historian Mario de Valdes y Cocom in 1997. For PBS Frontline.However, many historians disputed the claim Alternatively, they argued, potential African heritage would have been removed to the point of being virtually untraceable.

Rhimes said she had no opinion on the real Queen Charlotte’s pedigree, but found it “interesting” but added, “How hard people have to say she’s not of color.” rice field. Arianne Cernock, a professor of British and European history at Boston University, said that Charlotte’s question about potential blackness was not a fixed thing, regardless of her skin color. He claimed he was missing a point.

“We know Queen Charlotte was of Portuguese ancestry,” Cernok said. “She was a German princess and the daughter of a duke,” she continued, adding, “When Charlotte arrived in England in 1761, she spoke no English.”

“Positioning this multicultural past within the family forces people to think about what Britishness is,” she added.

Nevertheless, the prequel has also been criticized for its treatment of race, particularly for failing to acknowledge those who were enslaved in the British colonies during the reign of George III. The pinnacle of the British role in the transatlantic slave trade.

Britain was a major trader of enslaved people in the mid-to-late 18th century, said Brooke Newman, a history professor at Virginia Commonwealth University who studies British royals. A similar sentiment was echoed by Newman, who believes the Queen is not black and has no ties to the Portuguese nobility. other critics They said the show effectively helped cover up racism in Britain.

Newman said of historical Charlotte, “She has benefited from the expansion of slavery and the empire,” adding, “Therefore, rehabilitating her into a more sympathetic historical figure would be highly problematic. I think there is,” he said.

Rhimes said race was not ignored in the prequel. White characters comment on Charlotte’s “very brown” skin, and she experiences race-based microaggressions. In an early scene, Charlotte’s teeth and build are examined by the King’s mother, Princess Augusta.

“It felt like someone had been sold out,” Mr. Rhimes said.

Rhimes said her vision for Charlotte was driven by her desire to give viewers a new image of powerful, independent black women on screen.

“Even though it’s a historical drama, it had to do with the strength and grace of black women,” Rhimes said.

She also said, “great experimenta government order to redistribute titles to non-white aristocrats, rather than simply focusing on interracial couples.

The Great Experiment may be fictional, but black prominence in London society at the time is rooted in historical fact. For her role as the show’s historical advisor, Polly Putnam authored historical reports on Queen Charlotte, King George III, and what life was like for blacks in her 18th-century London. Some became paid servants, abolitionists, successful businessmen, and even aristocrats.

“We have a very interesting group of people, but I know a lot of black Londoners have been activists,” Putnam said. “Many of them were involved in the abolitionist movement. From there, this took off in earnest from his late 18th century to his early 19th century.”

These facts helped provide the basis for creating the kind of Charlotte Rhimes envisioned: a young black woman who could be as empowering as any character she creates.

“People always say, ‘I write smart strong women,’ but I don’t know stupid weak women,” Rhimes said. “So I don’t write them. I write women I know and who I am surrounded by.”

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