Despite being long (the finale at 86 minutes was practically a movie) — and I know, I thought Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3was long — Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story is supremely bingeable and oddly touching. Since we watched her preside over the Ton in Bridgerton, Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) has fascinated us.
As an alternate history of the Regency Period, the show based on Julia Quinn’s novels featured a woman of colour as the Queen and people of colour holding high office and moving in high society. For sure there was an interesting story of how this came to be — in fact a prequel waiting to be made. What the public wants, the public gets and so you have Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story, which is set in two timelines — 1814, when the death of the Queen’s only legitimate grandchild creates a crisis in succession and 1761, when the 17-year-old Charlotte (India Amarteifio) comes from a tiny country in Europe to be married to the charming but mercurial King of England, George (Corey Mylchreest).
Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story (English)
Runtime: 53 – 86 minutes
Creator: Shonda Rhimes
Cast: India Amarteifio, Adjoa Andoh, Michelle Fairley, Ruth Gemmell, Corey Mylchreest, Golda Rosheuvel, Arsema Thomas, Sam Clemmett, Freddie Dennis, Hugh Sachs as Brimsley, Julie Andrews
Storyline: How Charlotte came to England as a teenager to marry King George and became a formidable monarch of later years
The switches between the two timelines are seamless and it is a great joy to see the flashes of the grand matriarch in the young queen negotiating her way in a new country, trying out the “great experiment.” While Charlotte has her adversaries including the Dowager Princess of Wales and the King’s mum, Augusta (Michelle Fairley, Game of Throne’s Catelyn Stark), the king’s doctor Munro (Guy Henry), and the Prime Minister, Lord Bute (Richard Cunningham), she has her allies too.
Agatha (Arsema Thomas), the intimidating Lady Danbury (Adjoa Andoh) of 1814, is navigating her way through the treacherous waters of polite society, trying to be colour-blind, and is a friend to Charlotte. There is also Charlotte’s secretary, Brimsley (Sam Clemmett), who will always walk five paces behind his queen, wishing only the best for his feisty monarch. In fact one of the endearing things about Queen Charlotte is 50 years later, Brimsley (Hugh Sachs) is still five paces behind the Queen, still the steadying influence behind Her Majesty.
The mini-series also tells the story of Violet Reed (Connie Jenkins-Greig), an intelligent, beautiful young woman who grew up to be the Dowager Viscountess Bridgerton (Ruth Gemmell). We know where Eloise gets her Blue Stocking leanings from. In 1814, Lady Whistledown (voiced by Julie Andrews) continues to give a running commentary of all the scandals.
The grand, infinitely tragic and passionate love between George and Charlotte, rife with mental health issues and machinations, is surrounded by smaller love stories that are equally tender and poignant. There is the love which cannot be spoken of between Agatha and Violet’s father Lord Ledger (Keir Charles), Agatha and Charlotte’s brother Adolphus IV (Tunji Kasim, Ned from Nancy Drew), and the one between Brimsley and King’s secretary Reynolds (Freddie Dennis).
There are also the widows, Violet and Agatha, dealing with their losses in different ways. While Violet mourns her husband in church, Agatha who loathed her husband, Lord Danbury (Cyril Nri), looks for ways to avenge herself for all his petty cruelties.
Apart from the towering wigs, clothes, jewellery (gorgeous) and music (pop standards set to classical music), Bridgerton is also known for the steamy sex and Queen Charlotte does not disappoint in that department either (even though that garden analogy was a bit ewww…). The acting is pitch-perfect with each of the characters inhabiting their roles comfortably. A stunning feast for the senses, Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story, is everything a prequel should be.
Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story is currently streaming on Netflix