It's a great year for Bridgerton fans, as the Bridgerverse continues to expand with its latest offering, Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story. The prequel, brimming with equal parts sex, emotion and heartbreak, offers viewers an insight into the early life of Queen Charlotte, featuring a new cast to bring life to the younger versions of the series' well-loved characters. But, how well does Queen Charlotte fit with the Bridgerton narrative it predates? We had our writers watch the first two episodes, here's the verdict...
Laurel As a lifelong fan of period dramas, Jane Austen adaptations and silly-trouser adjacent media, I have a lot of feelings about Bridgerton. Whilst it may not be my all-time favourite entry to the genre, I am in favour of how it has shaken it up, waving an anachronistic fan made of synthetic feathers at prescriptivism when it comes to how we present the past in film and TV. The show so far is funny, sexy and addictive, plus it’s really great to see major streaming budgets allocated to genres such as romance and costume-drama, which are often dismissed in a pretty sexist way as unserious or too niche.
That’s not to say that some of the questions levelled at it don’t hold water, in particular those surrounding the alternative history creator Shonda Rhimes has written as a background to Bridgerton’s diverse depiction of Regency nobility, which could have been explored more in the first two series. Queen Charlotte: a Bridgerton Story, as well as providing more telenovela style antics in gorgeous settings, could have also provided a backstory to how the marriage of teenage Queen Charlotte to King George III brought greater equality to the Cinematic Bridgerverse.
However, if you’re hoping for much additional worldbuilding in this area, the first two episodes might prove a little disappointing. The match is presented as an accident, the king's new bride is chosen due to an important - but extremely vague - 'trade deal', and not fully vetted for suitability in the eyes of the palace before the wedding. With that the matter is breezed through as quickly as possible, causing me to feel unsure of the level of significance this step is supposed to have in this world. However, the social challenges faced by the Danburys, an upper-class black family given titles by the king's mother with the aim of nudging society forward, suggest that this theme may develop as the series continues.
With the royal wedding done and dusted by the end of the first episode, Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story moves on to the show's main preoccupation: sex. As any Bridgerton fan knows already: unless they're especially chill, don't watch this with your parents. Although King George's unwillingness to get close to his new bride is a major plot point, barely a scene passes where characters aren't getting it on, talking about it, or performing some weird kind of historical sex ed involving charcoal-sketched diagrams, like a kind of horny pictionary. An extended discussion about the king's “bits” left me in major doubt about the writers' grasp of British slang - but the show is so much larger-than-life that I don’t think it cares if it makes you cringe, and is all the more memorable for it.
This series securely continues Bridgerton’s reputation of being a super-fun watch. As Queen Charlotte and Lady Danbury, India Ria Amarteifio and Arsema Thomas are perfectly cast as younger versions of Golda Rosheuvel and Adjoah Andoh. Amarteifio holds focus effortlessly as a character we already know to be charismatic, funny and opinionated, and a subplot connecting the events of the queen’s early marriage to Bridgerton’s main timeline allows the older generation to shine. While plot specifics could potentially make the central romance between Charlotte and King George (Cory Mylchreest) feel a bit underwhelming, the actors’ palpable chemistry keeps things compelling - so far at least. With its soapy plotlines and lack of nitpicking when it comes to period-accurate details, Bridgerton may not be for everyone, but this prequel successfully offers an extra dose of escapist fun for the series’ (many) admirers.
I must say, it felt really nice to be back in the world of Bridgerton. The introduction alone was enough to get me excited, the preface voiced by Lady Whistledown telling me “All liberties taken by the author are quite intentional. Enjoy.” is such a fun way to relay that this is essentially fantasy with some bits of history mixed in. There’s a lot to compliment even right at the beginning, from the tone set by Lady Whistledown’s narration to even the opening credits - a huge shoutout to whoever designed those. They were beautiful, and the first credits I have actively wanted to watch in quite a while.
Having only seen a couple of stills and the first teaser trailer, I knew very little going into my watch, so the fast-forward to the ‘present’ early into the show was such a surprise! Whilst the show still spends most of its time on its ‘origin’ storyline, I really enjoyed the scope of events I got to see. The queen being a match-maker for her family was a particularly fun premise, as seeing ther in this role offered me new insight and connections between the characters. One of the prequel’s strengths as a whole was the degree to which it reshaped my pre-existing understanding of the characters, something that other prequels I’ve seen have not always achieved.
The younger versions of the main Bridgerton characters are well cast, I feel each actor brought the spirit I was used to seeing with each character - not an easy feat for roles that have already been so well-established within the main series. The central star, India Amarteifio, shines as Queen Charlotte, with a very watchable performance that made me really empathise with the character. She brings sparks of the performance we have seen in Bridgerton, in the older version of the queen, and I look forward to seeing how Amarteifio develops the character in future episodes as the narrative moves further towards the beginning of the ‘modern’ Bridgerton plot. Arsema Thomas is also supremely well cast, her depiction of the young Lady Danbury is another stand out for me. To be honest, I could have stood to have a prequel with a focus on this character instead!
I'm really enjoying the show so far, it delivers everything I was expecting from a Bridgerton spinoff: beautiful outfits, sexy sexiness, and repressed Brits. If you enjoy Bridgerton there is nothing here that will disappoint you. I’ll no doubt dip in again this bank holiday as I try to avoid the coronation (by watching a fictional one...)
Edited by Florence Strang Boon.