Netflix’s new drama Bridgerton gives us Queen Charlotte who is charming, her own, fun, bossy, gossipy, well-dressed, confused, pro-Pomeranian – oh, and she’s black. Like a lot of the characters in this version of Regency London.
But as Nicola Coughlan recently tweeted: “If you see Bridgerton and think it’s anachronistic because it’s brilliantly diverse and in brilliant technical color – you’re right. We serve you * Fantasy * Regency London. Bright, bold and beautiful. ”
Despite this, the idea of re-imagining the real historical figure of Queen Charlotte as a black queen did not come out of nowhere. Here’s what you need to know:
Who was Queen Charlotte?
Queen Charlotte was born in a castle in the Duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (in present-day Germany) as the daughter of a duke and princess. In 1961, newlywed 22-year-old King George III decided that 17-year-old Charlotte would create a suitable wife.
She was transported to London, where the marriage took place on the day of her arrival at St. James’s Palace. (This was also the first time the bride and groom had ever met.) She did not speak English at the time – but she quickly learned the language of her new home.
Less than a year later, Charlotte gave birth to her first child: the future King George IV. In total, the couple had 15 children, 13 of whom survived into adulthood. However, their last child, Princess Amelia (called “Emily”), tragically died at the age of 27.
The couple seems to have enjoyed a relatively close and loving relationship. But then George III began to suffer from disturbing attacks of mental illness (which led to delusions and mania). This led to many intrigues about whether the queen or her eldest son would serve as regent if the king became mentally incapable of ruling, and it was a time of great uncertainty.
This also led to personal trouble for the queen. As her husband’s condition became more difficult, it strained their marriage. From 1804 she slept separately, ate separately, and avoided seeing him alone — and after Emily’s death in 1810 he slipped further into so-called “madness,” to the point that his eldest son George was appointed Prince Regent and ruled instead. him.
Queen Charlotte died in 1818, and a little over a year later her husband accompanied her to the grave.
Her personality in Bridgerton has very little to do with her personality in real life, as Golda Rosheuvel explains: “Yes, she is the Queen of Charlotte, but she is the Queen of Charlotte in the world of Bridgerton. She is the creation of creator / showrunner Chris Van Dusen who creates … wealthy, dirty rich, snuff addicts, dedicated to her family, loves gossip and is divinely in love with her husband who is slowly going crazy. “
Was Queen Charlotte actually black?
Almost at the time, she was not considered a Black or a mixed race. But it has since been suggested that she is Queen Charlotte I did is of Black African descent in his family, and the creators of Bridgerton followed up on the idea – by making the king’s wife a confident Black woman.
Netflix tells us: “Queen Charlotte, played by G old Rosheuvel, is considered the first member of the mixed race of the British royal family. She came from Margarita de Castro y Sousa, the black branch of the Portuguese royal house. “
And Adjoa Andoh, who plays Lady Danbury, adds: “Queen Charlotte, as some people know and some may not know, was a descendant of Afonso III of Portugal and his African mistress, so she was a mixed race. It is very nice to see a part of that history woven. “
The idea that Queen Charlotte is “widely considered” a mixed race is a bit strained, but it actually has some basis – and that is a debate among historians.
Historian Mario de Valdes y Cocom has argued that Charlotte’s origins can be traced back to the 13th-century ruler Alfonso III and his mistress Madragana, who may have been Moors (and therefore a black African). This connection to Madragan comes through Charlotte’s 15th-century ancestor Margarita de Castro e Souza, a member of the Portuguese nobility, who – some argue – may have been Black.
The historian also claims that Queen Charlotte has prominent “African features” in contemporary portraits. However, this idea has also been challenged and delved into stereotypes and racial assumptions.
Other historians have pointed out that the evidence that Madragana or Margarita were black is rather thin. Madraganu was recorded by one Portuguese royal chronicler as a Moor, but this claim was disputed by another; it is also suggested that she was “Mozarab”, a group with its own ethnic and cultural history in Europe.
And then, even if she’s Queen Charlotte I did they have one black ancestor five centuries ago (15 generations), some wondered if they would accurately describe it as a mixed race.
Why did Bridgerton invent Queen Charlotte as the Black Queen?
Well, why not? It’s a creative choice.
As Golda Rosheuvel herself says, “This is truly a period of drama like you have never seen before, because it is set in the twenty-first century. I can catch it, deal with it and how it relates to me. I think having the Black Queen is really interesting and joyful and celebrating the modern world as well. “
Adjoa Andoh adds: “My reaction to the scripts was ‘hurray’ and ‘about time’. I think it is especially for color actors because we are in the history of this country from before Roman times, in all walks of life. “
And as showrunner Chris Van Dusen says, “Bridgerton is not a lesson in history.”
He says: “Our show is for a modern audience, which contains modern themes and characters, so we took the liberty of re-imagining. Our race in the series is an example of how we mixed history in a fictional world.
“Starting a career at Grey’s Anatomy and knowing that Shondaland has always cast its series in a way that reflects the world we live in, we felt from the start that we would have a similar opportunity with our casting here. Bridgerton is not a blind world. That would mean that race is not taken into account.
“Race is considered, and many historians believe that Queen Charlotte was the first English queen of the mixed race. That theory resonated with us immensely. What if Queen Charlotte was recognized as a mixed race in 1813? What would that look like? What would happen? What if this Queen of England used her power to raise other people colored in that society? And that’s where the fictional part came in. ”
And producer Shonda Rhimes adds: “Chris understood the world at the time, but he allowed it to be invented as much as he needed to. There wasn’t really a Bridgerton then, so it wasn’t like this was a document. It allowed Chris to create the world he wanted to live in. He took one possible fact, and that is that Queen Charlotte was a woman of color, extrapolated her and built a world out of her in terms of the way society flowed. “
Bridgerton arrives on Netflix on December 25, 2020. Looking for something else to watch? Watch our guide to the best series on Netflix and the best movies on Netflix or visit our TV guide