When Bridgerton premiered on Netflix in 2020, it quickly became the biggest hit on the streaming giant, at that time, with 82 million households watching the Shonda Rhimes’ Regency era creation. With charming characters, ornate set design, bops turned into orchestral arrangements, and plenty of intense passion, the Shondaland series won over audiences with this magic formula. Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story takes that formula and amps it up in this prequel centered on the vivacious Queen Charlotte (played by both Golda Rosheuvel & India Amarteifio), her relationship with King George (Corey Mylchreest), and the lives of Lady Danbury (played by both Adjoa Andoh & Arsema Thomas) and Dowager Viscountess Violet Bridgerton (played by both Ruth Gemmell & Connie Jenkins-Greig).
Led by Rosheuvel and Amarteifio, this prequel is a stunning addition to the Bridgerton-verse.
Truncated down to six episodes, as opposed to eight, Queen Charlotte is a deep dive into her beginnings as a leader of British royalty without sacrificing a quality storyline. Bridgerton’s Queen Charlotte, is fierce, determined, and unapologetic. Thankfully, Amarteifio brings that same energy, by channeling Rosheuvel’s rendition of the character at a younger age that’s just as spirited. Amarteifio’s mannerisms, even down to her speaking cadence, mirror Rosheuvel’s so well and with the rest of the cast bringing their A-game, it’s easy to get swept away in the fanfare that Bridgerton became known for.
This prequel feels so grandiose, yet intimate. From the costumes, set design, locations, and orchestral arrangements (they even feature Beyoncé), everything is on a grander scale. But what would you expect from a show about the illustrious Queen Charlotte?
While this serves as backstory for Queen Charlotte, it also explores the narratives of Lady Danbury and Violet Bridgerton. While both have played important roles in the past two Bridgerton seasons, their stories are investigated further through the expansion and diversification of the Ton – England’s high society in the Regency era. The Ton, as we know it, includes individuals from all races and the catalyst for that is Queen Charlotte’s marriage to King George.
Bridgerton creator Shonda Rhimes used history to inform romantic fiction, being able to create a world that includes everyone. That same goes for Queen Charlotte, but gives more context into the racial dynamics established within the Ton, allowing race to play a greater role than previous seasons of Bridgerton. While Rhimes has been scrutinized in the past for how race is depicted within Bridgerton, the series and this spin-off isn’t designed to be a sociological revelation, but rather a sweet escape from reality.
Rhimes is also known for building passionate love affairs throughout the Bridgerton-verse and Queen Charlotte is no different. From beginning to end, the show reads like a romance novel that knows how to build chemistry and make it steamy. Whenever Amarteifio’s Queen Charlotte is on-screen with Corey Mylchreest’s King George sparks fly, much to the chagrin of Princess Augusta, played by the cleverly casted Michelle Fairley (aka Catelyn Stark from Game of Thrones).
The spin-off highlights the challenges with marriage and love through Queen Charlotte, Lady Danbury, and Violet Bridgerton within this fictionalized time period, as well as finally bringing a queer relationship to the Bridgerton-verse. But the problems that occur in relationships that are loveless, navigating mental health challenges, and finding love after love are relatable today.
While the show focuses on love it also becomes the most feminist-centered of the Bridgerton-verse. Queen Charlotte, Lady Danbury, and Violet Bridgerton each explore self-autonomy, relationships, power dynamics, and privilege that pushes their characters to navigate a system designed for them to only be seen. But these three make themselves heard and make change as best as they can along the way.
What’s refreshing about this spin-off is the focus on Black women. As Lady Danbury, nonbinary actor Arsema Thomas shines just as brightly as Amarteifio’s Queen Charlotte. Both actors dive into the nuances of Regency era racial and gender politics as younger versions of Lady Danbury and Queen Charlotte to provide exploration into Rhimes’ fantasy world where Black women can be just as powerful (if not more so) as anyone else in the series.
With the show taking place in the past and present, there’s room for new plotlines to come into the mix for Bridgerton season 3. But until then, Queen Charlotte is more than enough to satiate fans of the Bridgerton-verse.
Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story is streaming now on Netflix.