Attention All Ladies of the Ton: “Queen Charlotte” is Taking Centre Stage and She Has Quite the Story
Shonda Rhimes’ methods need to be studied! Once again, she has executive produced a solid series, straight from the stables of her production company, Shondaland. If you are an avid follower of the Bridgerton franchise, you would recall that Queen Charlotte is the ever-regal Queen of England that hosts extravagant balls and matchmakes the seasons’ debutantes to the most eligible bachelors in the British empire and beyond.
Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story takes us back to when the Queen of England (Amarteifio) was just a young girl of seventeen from Germany, betrothed to a man whom she did not love and did not wish to marry all for the sake of power play and dirty politics. She leaves her home and family, moves to England, and marries George, the King of England (Mylchreest). They have multiple children and live happily ever after.
Sike! For the most part, that was not what happened; if it did, then it would mean that Rhimes has lost her touch. Even if it is a love story, her plots are never that straightforward; just ask Scandal. In a span of six episodes, the series was able to tackle the prevailing problems of eighteenth-century high society: if you were not born white, you were not entitled to privileges such as owning land or inheriting titles; you had to bribe your way to get them as the young Lady Danbury (Thomas) did.
If you were not born of nobility, your place was to serve those who were. If you were gay, you had to hide your love in corners and gardens because the fear of being beheaded is the beginning of wisdom. God forbid you were born a woman, for you only had three purposes in life: to serve your husband, to push out millions of babies, and to be used as nothing more than a sex object.
By careful selection and proper storytelling, these societal ills were brought together and formed the subplot of the series. Though important because, when you think about it, not a lot has changed in our modern day – women are still being objectified, your worth is defined by your net worth, racism still exists, and the LGBTQ+ community still struggles for acceptance. Agendas must agend, but Rhimes’ message is still as clear as day: seventeenth-century problems ought not to be twenty-first-century problems, but alas here we are.
The past and present lives of Queen Charlotte and the people that surround her collide, and even though the focus is more on the past, we see how the characters’ younger selves and the decisions they made impacted their present realities. Queen Charlotte was a rarity in her time, a woman born of mixed blood and no one that looked like her had ever been bestowed the honor of Queen.
If she had not asserted her dominance early and proved that she could carry the entire kingdom of England on her back, she would have “go(ne) over the wall.” It is no wonder that the present Queen Charlotte (Rosheuvel), now older and well wiser, is feared and revered in all of England. She makes all the decisions and shows the people that once used her race against her who is boss.
If the young Lady Danbury had not been smarter than her husband, she would not even be regarded as “Lady” in the first place for she would have been stripped of her title the minute Lord Danbury died. If it is anything the internet can collectively agree on, it is the fact that Ansema Thomas (the actor that played young Lady Danbury) is the breakout star of the show. She is a fan favorite and for good reason as well. It was quite obvious that Lady Danbury, from the earlier Bridgerton shows, was a woman who had loved and lost.
Every piece of advice she gave to the characters (she gave the best advice) always turned out to be timely and all her predictions always proved true. Why? Because she understood; her younger self understood what it was like to face the double jeopardy of being a woman and an oddball in English high society. It may be argued that because Queen Charlotte was light-skinned and, well a Queen, she was not subjected to the harshest reality of racism, but Lady Danbury was! Her dark skin and that of her late husband were always a barrier to them fully enjoying privileges.
Her husband was denied entry to clubs, her ball invitations were declined by other ladies of the ton, and she and her husband were not entitled to titles in the British Empire. If not for her being savvy and an excellent manipulator, she would not be the most respected lady of the ton. Her late husband may have been horrible to her (seriously, her husband was a menace), but the younger and older Lady Danbury (Andoh) are such a delight to watch.
King George and Queen Charlotte’s love story was doomed from the start. The showrunners tried to sugarcoat it with happy and mushy moments, but the sting of tragedy was always in the air. George’s mental health challenges were always a feature in their love story and did act as a barrier to their progress as a couple, but through it all, Charlotte was head over heels in love with him and that love never faded with time and age.
It never faded because, even though they started out as enemies, she loved “Farmer George” and not “King George” whose actions could make or mar England. In his lucid periods, he was not the typical imposing king. He was introverted, wise, kind, an avid naturist, a lover of astrology, and he loved Charlotte beyond his madness. He literally moved the heavens and the earth to be free from his madness and subscribed to the brutal methods of a quack to be a “whole man” for her. If your man does not go through torture tactics to prove his love for you, throw him away.
Her children may have been a disappointment in her later years, but Queen Charlotte lived A LIFE, and a fulfilling one at that. If not for this prequel, we probably would have only seen her as only a ceremonial head without substance. Who would have thought that the Queen of England had actually loved someone, or that she was not well-liked by her mother-in-law because of her race or that she was not allowed to be a girl before she was married off by her only immediate family (her brother)?
The one thing that does need explanation, and really it is surprising that it was not addressed, was how Queen Charlotte had a British accent when they clearly stated that she was from Germany. As far as the history of the Germans is concerned, they are not native English speakers. Was she taught how to speak the way the Brits did at an early age? Or did she learn it in her fundamental years? Rhimes need to get on Twitter and explain this as soon as possible.
In conclusion, it is safe to say that Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story is the best thing to come out of the Bridgerton franchise thus far. No, it is not too early to make that conclusion even though a new Collin-Penelope love story is in the works because truly, there has never been a show in the franchise that blended love and tragedy in such a sweet yet melancholic way.
Release Date: May 4, 2023
Streaming Service: Netflix
Director: Shonda Rhimes
Cast: India Ria Amarteifio, Corey Mylchreest, Ansema Thomas, Michelle Fairley, Sam Clemmett, Ruth Gemmell, Adjoah Andoh, and Golda Rosheuvel