If you, like me, absolutely smashed through Bridgerton on Netflix, you were probably left wondering about a few things and went down a rabbit hole of “what really happened?!” afterwards. Well, here are a few gems to help you sort the fact from fiction.
Where did this story come from?
Sorry to be the party pooper, but Bridgerton is not a true story. The Netflix series is based on the historical romance novels by Julia Quinn. So, inspired by what life was like centuries ago, but with a heavy layer of fantasy added. Think of it like Jane Austen meets Mills & Boon. It’s a similar story with Outlander, which is based on the saucy novels by Diana Gabaldon. Although if the time travelling in Outlander didn’t serve as a tip-off to its fiction status for you, we have bigger issues to deal with.
What year is Bridgerton set in?
Bridgerton is set in the early 19th century during the Georgian era (because King George III was on the throne). For some context of the mood in England at the time, the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act became law in 1807, making the slave trade illegal throughout the British Empire, but it took 20 years to get through parliament.
Was King George III really mad?
Yep. Old mate was officially delusional. So much so that his son, also George, a.k.a. Prince of Wales, acted as regent for nine years until King George III died in 1830.
Was Queen Charlotte Black in real life?
Ok, so this issue has been a heated debate since the 1940s when Joel Augustus Rogers, a.k.a. J.A. Rogers, wrote Sex and Race Volume 1. Queen Charlotte was born Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in 1744, and many portraits of her point to her African heritage. Frontline investigated the issue, reporting that Charlotte “was directly descended from Margarita de Castro y Sousa, a Black branch of the Portuguese Royal House”. But even though Charlotte’s great-great-great-great-granddaughter is the current Queen, Elizabeth II, the British Royal family has seemingly never gone on the record to clarify the matter. And we probably shouldn’t hold our breath waiting tbh.
Could women earn their own money in the 1800s?
Women who did work back then were pretty much limited to domestic services (shout out to Daphne’s lady’s maid, Rose, who schools the poor Duchess in sex ed) or the textiles industry (like Bridgerton’s dressmaker, Genevieve, and her dubious French accent). It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution later in the 1800s that women had more options for work, but the conditions were woeful. So back in Bridgerton times, a “proper lady’s” prime job was to marry well and procreate. Hence why Lady Whistledown is absolutely living her best life, earning her own coin incognito.
Side note: when I’ve had a bad day, I go and watch the 2005 Pride and Prejudice (much quicker than the 6-hour BBC series) to remind myself that I am not Charlotte forced to marry the awful Mr Collins because she is a “burden” on her family. Perspective is everything. You’re welcome.