As we all know, “Bridgerton” is a Netflix phenomenon with two series and more to follow. A period drama set in the Regency period of 1810-1820 when King George III of England went completely mad and had to be replaced by his son, George, Prince of Wales, – who would eventually go on to become King George IV of England in 1820 – it has millions of hopelessly devoted followers. Produced by Shondaland for Netflix and created by Chris Van Dusen, the show is based on Julia Quinn’s Regency romance literary series set in London’s ton – the high society of the United Kingdom during the late Regency era and the reign of King George IV. Our host is the welcoming voice of Julie Andrews, “Bridgeron’s” own Lady Whistledown, an author of gossip columns. While the royal characters in the “Bridgerton” series are based on real-life historical figures, their depiction is primarily fictional. That said, many of the historical details, like the illness of George III, have a basis in fact.
Queen Charlotte is one such royal character expanded upon in the show’s prequel “Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story.” Written by Shonda Rhimes and Quinn, the six-part series is set in 1761, with flashforwards to our usual “Bridgerton” of 1817 – with our regular batch of “Bridgerton” actors taking over from their younger selves. The series features a talented cast, including India Amarteifio as the young Queen Charlotte (with Golda Rosheuvel resuming her role as the aging Charlotte in 1817), newly arrived in London from Mecklenburg-Strelitz, in present-day Germany, to marry the young George III (Corey Mylchreest with James Fleet taking over in 1817), who has just recently ascended to the throne.
The prequel also sheds light on the backstory of characters like young Grimsley, the Queen’s secretary (Sam Clementt with Hugh Sachs resuming his role 1817), who is revealed to be gay and in a relationship with King’s secretary Reynolds, played by Freddie Dennis. And then there is the young Lady Agatha Danbury (Arsema Thomas with Adjoa Andoh resuming her role in 1817). The prequel reveals that she was unhappily married to an older man, Lord Henry Danbury (Cyril Nri), and then had an affair with Lord Ledger (Keir Charles), Violet Bridgerton’s father, upon Danbury’s death. Violet is played by Connie Jenkins-Greig, with Ruth Gemmell resuming her role of the “Bridgerton” family matriarch in 1817.
It’s all just as delicious as the original “Bridgerton” series, with the two Lady Danbury’s taking all the acting honors in their respective periods. Everything, and everybody, is sumptuous, and there are some gorgeous love scenes between George and Charlotte. Unfortunately, George is already in the early stages of his mental illness. The medical establishment once raised the possibility that he had porphyria. This has been disproved, and it is generally believed that he had bipolar disorder with psychotic episodes. The past was never a good time (is there any?) to have a mental illness, and here, the scenes where the young George has to undergo the most horrific treatments by his sadistic physician (straight out of Bedlam!) are hard to take. That is why I am issuing a warning: even certified “Bridgerton” fans may not be able to tolerate some of the scenes in “Queen Charlotte.” Otherwise, like the parent franchise, it’s divinely decadent entertainment.