If you were captivated by “Queen Charlotte” on Netflix, then you’ll love this novel inspired by the “Bridgerton” spin-off. It reveals the untold story behind the series and delves deeper into the lives of Queen Charlotte and King George (link to Ratingperson).
A Deeper Dive into History
When you binge-watched “Bridgerton,” it felt like escaping into a picturesque world of romance and glamour. Yet, beneath all the opulence, the show’s historical accuracy may have been called into question. But fear not! Netflix’s first foray into spin-offs brings us “Queen Charlotte,” a limited series that dares to explore the real story. This six-episode series zooms in on the true historical anchor of “Bridgerton”: the real-life queen consort, Queen Charlotte, who was a delightful addition to the original material by Julia Quinn (link to Ratingperson).
The Story Unveiled
In “Queen Charlotte,” we meet a young version of the queen, played by India Amarteifio, who arrives in England as a teenager ready to marry the newly-crowned King George, portrayed by Corey Mylchreest. As their love story flourishes, it soon faces turbulent waters due to George’s mental health issues, threatening their marriage and destabilizing the monarchy. Much of this mirrors the real-life struggles of King George III and his marriage to Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.
The Real-Life Love and Tragedy
The real Charlotte was born into nobility, the daughter of a princess and a duke who ruled over the lesser-known principality of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in what is now Germany. At the age of 17, Charlotte was chosen by 23-year-old King George III to be his bride.
Legend has it that Charlotte’s journey across the choppy waters of the Channel left her terribly seasick, to the point where her diamond-encrusted wedding dress nearly slid off her emaciated figure.
Once married, Charlotte and George settled at Kew Palace, often strolling through the gardens without an escort (scandalous!) and attending plays and recitals arm in arm. The couple set out to produce an heir and a spare, and Charlotte gave birth to an impressive 15 babies, although sadly, two died before reaching adulthood.
George purchased what is now known as Buckingham Palace, as well as the tranquil countryside retreat of Frogmore House in Windsor. Their love and devotion are evident in the Royal Archives, with George rarely leaving Charlotte’s side and the couple exchanging few letters.
“Queen Charlotte” departs from the sweet-as-honey romances of previous seasons of “Bridgerton” as it delves candidly into the genuine marital struggles faced by Charlotte and George amidst his devastating mental illness.
The first 25 years of their marriage were filled with conjugal bliss. However, in 1789, King George experienced an extended period of mental illness that left him unable to fulfill his duties as monarch. “When the king fell ill, his inappropriate and manic behavior terrified and troubled the queen,” states the official website of Historic Royal Palaces. “Their relationship was never the same, and they led increasingly separate lives.”
The stress of her husband’s illness reportedly turned Queen Charlotte’s hair white, as she witnessed his deteriorating mental health. This somber aspect of the royal couple’s story is mirrored in “Queen Charlotte,” with the introduction of the grave character of Dr. Monro (played by Rob Maloney), which closely aligns with historical records. King George was isolated at Kew during his bouts of illness, undergoing treatments like bloodletting and cold baths, all of which Charlotte distrusted.
Historians still debate the exact nature of George’s illness. Some suggest he suffered from bipolar disorder, while others argue it was porphyria. His final relapse led to his son assuming the role of Prince Regent in 1811.
In her later years, Queen Charlotte suffered from edema, a condition that causes painful swelling beneath the skin. As her health declined, she became confined to her bedroom. True to her marriage vows, Charlotte remained a loyal and supportive wife from a distance, acting as George’s guardian until her death in 1818, a year before his passing.
Charlotte passed away surrounded by her children, in a chair that remains at Kew Palace to this day. Her state coffin was brought to Windsor Castle, where straw was laid on the cobblestones to ensure that the gravely ill king would not hear the funeral procession for his beloved deceased wife. Meanwhile, George’s health continued to deteriorate. He developed dementia, went blind from cataracts, and ultimately died of pneumonia.
A Message of Love
Shonda Rhimes, the showrunner and executive producer of “Queen Charlotte,” spoke about delving deeper into the romance of Queen Charlotte and King George. She hopes that viewers will come away from the series with a better understanding of the complexity of marriage.
“I was excited about showing people what that kind of love is, even though they know how it ends. I thought that was a challenge,” she said during Netflix’s Tudum event. “But I think the most important thing is that I want people to feel like this is what happens with true love.”
So, if you’re longing for more historical romance and drama, “Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story” is now available to stream on Netflix (link to Ratingperson).