Warning: This article contains spoilers for Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story.
Queen Charlotte, Netflix’s highly anticipated Bridgerton prequel spinoff from Shonda Rhimes, debuted last week to much acclaim. But as people have watched the series, questions about the show’s historical accuracy have reemerged, especially as Queen Charlotte, unlike Bridgerton, is centered around real people.
Mainly set over 50 years before Bridgerton begins, Queen Charlotte puts the love story between Queen Charlotte (India Amarteifio) and King George III (Corey Mylchreest) during the first year of their marriage front and center while looping in how their love story helped to integrate English society. Meanwhile, in Regency England’s present-day between Bridgerton seasons 2 and 3, an older Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) faces a succession crisis after her only granddaughter dies in childbirth and none of her 13 adult children have produced any legitimate heirs to inherit the throne.
Netflix’s Bridgerton universe, which is based on a romance book series by Julia Quinn, has long been at the receiving end of criticism for its historical accuracy. Slavery, imperialism, and colonialism are just a few of the realities of the British Empire not addressed within Bridgerton or Queen Charlotte. However, viewers have long been torn on whether they want Netflix’s Regency romance shows to address those realities.
In one thread, fashion historian Dr. Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell points out several portraits shown early in the season, which is set around 1761, of royals born long after Charlotte and George’s marriage. One is of Queen Adelaide, the wife of the future King William IV (played by Sophie Harkness and Seamus Dillane, respectively). The other two are of Queen Victoria—referenced at the end of the series when her parents, Edward and Victoria (Jack Michael Stacey and Florence Dobson), inform Queen Charlotte they’re expecting a child they believe is a girl—and Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, both of whom were born after the real Queen Charlotte died in 1818.
Chrisman-Campbell had previously praised Bridgerton’s attention to detail in how it replicated artwork, so the inclusion of artwork created decades after the show’s primary timeframe and involving royals not yet born stood out to her in contrast. It’s possible that the portraits were nodding to how Queen Charlotte resolved her family’s succession crisis. Many called her out for criticizing the discrepancy, pointing out that it was a fictional story. But others saw the backlash as conflating her criticism over production design with criticism over bigger elements of the show, like its casting.
The debate over historical accuracy loomed enough over Queen Charlotte that the limited series kicked off with a written and stated disclaimer read by Bridgerton’s salacious gossip columnist Lady Whistledown (Julie Andrews).
“It is not a history lesson,” Whistledown states of the television season viewers are about to watch. “It is fiction inspired by fact. All liberties taken by the author are quite intentional.”
It seems to act as both an explanation and a preemptive response to critics, none of which seem to include someone pointing out minor details that might not be historically accurate to the show’s Georgian setting.
On one hand, the show might try to get ahead of outcries for a disclaimer as some critics did with The Crown’s melodrama. Charlotte, who doesn’t appear in the first three Bridgerton novels set before her death (The Duke & I, The Viscount Who Loved Me, and An Offer From a Gentleman) but is a fan-favorite in the show, is essentially a creation by Bridgerton’s writers; Rhimes wrote almost every episode of the spinoff.
It might try to get ahead of the people who take issue with Queen Charlotte leaning into the theory that the real-life Queen Charlotte was Black or the idea that an interracial royal marriage existed over 250 years ago. And it might even be a response to the people who might wish to point out how many cans of worms Bridgerton’s race-conscious casting choices opened up since its first season by making their love story the catalyst to creating a more equal English society.
But between the many articles separating fact and fiction—including one from Netflix—and numerous deep dives on TikTok, people are very interested in what is real about the series and what isn’t. The question of the real Charlotte’s race is very much part of that conversation.
@historyho Was Queen Charlotte Britain’s first black queen? #bridgerton #queencharlotte #queencharlottebridgerton #perioddrama #historytok ♬ original sound – Mina Moriarty
@moorishlighthouse Moor history! This for the “Moors were just NORTH AFRICAN haters! Bring on the next hoop yall want us to jump through! #queencharlotte #queencharlottebridgerton #moorishhistory #moorish #blackhistory #netflix ♬ Spooky, quiet, scary atmosphere piano songs – Skittlegirl Sound
But some have called afoul for there being such a focus on the historical accuracy of a show like Queen Charlotte when other royal historical dramas like The Great don’t get as much scrutiny.
“Now we all know that Queen Charlotte has been on Bridgerton season 1 and season 2, but for some reason, all of a sudden, with Queen Charlotte getting her own show, there is a problem,” @colorfullstory said. “And it’s quite pathetic to see some of you, especially you Americans, coming out of the woodwork, saying that this is inaccurate history.”
And while that debate is likely to continue as more people watch Queen Charlotte, another realization has dawned on some viewers. Queen Charlotte’s King George, who is framed as a sexy and sympathetic heartthrob (as well as Queen Charlotte’s true love match), is the exact same King George that Americans were taught was a mad tyrant ruling when the country declared independence. In more recent years, Hamilton characterized King George (played by Jonathan Groff in the original Broadway cast) as a scorned ex-boyfriend because of the Revolutionary War.
@bespokebri The more you know #kinggeorge #hamilton #queencharlotte #bridgerton ♬ You'll Be Back – Jonathan Groff & Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton
@mariawatcheseverything #stitch with @Hodan #greenscreen this is a sign that all historical figures need to be rewritten by women from here on out #kinggeorge #queencharlotte #hamilton #shondarhimes #shondaland #foryoupage #coreymylchreest #fyp #americanrevolution #britishmonarchy #jonathangroff #queencharlottebridgertonstory ♬ You'll Be Back – Jonathan Groff & Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton
“This is the part about the series that I can’t get over, and I don’t think we’re talking about this enough,” @mariawatcheseverything explained. “Like, the team over at Shondaland that wrote Queen Charlotte wrote it so well that they actually got us to start simping over a British monarch that actually existed. This man, the baby girl right here, Mr. written by a woman fictional character of our dreams, was the same King George that was trying to tax tea in America.”