"Bridgerton" fans have been eagerly awaiting: The prequel to the hit series "Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story" starts on May 4th on Netflix. But unlike the original, the spin-off is neither about debutantes nor about the siblings of the Bridgerton family who are looking for marital bliss in London's high society.
Instead, the "Bridgerton" creators tell the story of Queen Charlotte in six episodes of 60 minutes each, who already appears in "Bridgerton" as a cool monarch who has a soft spot for traditions and snuff.
With her rise to fame and power, the then 17-year-old became England's first black queen and laid the foundation for what was (for the time) a surprisingly tolerant 19th-century society. Only thanks to the marriage to King George III. it was possible for blacks to rise in British society and obtain land and titles of nobility. This means that without Charlotte being knighted, there would be neither the Duke of Hastings nor the extremely kind Lady Danbury or the charming Sharma family from season 2 in "Bridgerton" itself - at least not in the positions they occupy in "Bridgerton " condition.
"Queen Charlotte" deals even more intensively with the topics of equality, emancipation and equal opportunities. And the key data for the implementation of the prequel sound promising: Shonda Rhimes, who was already responsible for the successful series "Grey's Anatomy", took over the screenplay for "Queen Charlotte". Unlike "Bridgerton", the prequel is not based on the novels of the same name by US author Julia Quinn, but (at least in part) on true events.
With the arranged marriage to King George III. In 1761, the German princess Sophie Charlotte zu Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who came from Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, was introduced to the English nobility, not only fictitiously, but actually. This made her the second Queen of England. However, that Charlotte was black is a myth.
After all, the fable about the black Queen Charlotte from Germany does not seem to come entirely out of nowhere - in historical writings it is increasingly rumored that she had African roots and is said to have arisen from her mother's love affair with a slave. Experts, however, still deny this with conviction.
Set in 18th-century fictional London, the love story of King George III. In any case, Queen Charlotte predicted an enormous social change that laid the foundations for the unusually open and tolerant aristocracy from "Bridgerton". A step that was revolutionary at the time, which even the British court in the series describes as a "great experiment". The creators of "Queen Charlotte" are thus based on the history of Charlotte zu Mecklenburg-Strelitz, but take plenty of artistic liberty in order to be able to explain the unusually open "Bridgerton" world of the Regency era.
And even if the start of the series is initially strongly influenced by society, fans can look forward to the typical "Bridgerton" flair: the familiar, picturesque backdrop with impressive costume design and an eye for detail are strongly reminiscent of the concept of the classic. In addition, complex characters, surprising twists and humorous anecdotes round off the spin-off. And even the notorious Lady Whistledown is back as an omniscient narrator - at least in the scenes that play in the "future" (i.e. in "Bridgerton" times).
But not only Charlotte, but also other ladies of high society are the focus of the prequel. As established women, they have so far acted in the background in "Bridgerton" for the benefit of their descendants, while in "Queen Charlotte" they become symbolic figures for the strong women of that time. Through the story of Lady Violet Bridgerton and the origin of her belief in true love, as well as the intimidating, always direct Lady Danbury, whose past is marked by the injustices of a much older, misogynistic husband, the viewer gets an impression of the burdens of the time of female gender.
Meanwhile, insights into the family dynamics of the royal family reveal the queen's shattered relationship with her 13 adult descendants (there were 15 originally, two died young) and her futile efforts to maintain her own bloodline.
Also in the life of young Charlotte, the consummation of the marriage with King George III. through the act and the procreation of a royal offspring is the ultimate goal. The "Bridgerton" predecessor has correspondingly adventurous sex scenes that are based - at least in part - on the true love between the royal couple. Despite interpersonal difficulties with her insane and mentally ill husband, Charlotte stands by him unconditionally.
From the moment she tried to flee over the palace garden walls from her own wedding and her intended-to-be caught her in flagrante delicto, a bond seems to have formed between the two, rooted in their shared destiny: as descendants of their families, theirs to fulfill noble duties.
But while Charlotte takes on her duties far away from her German family in a foreign environment, the king suffers much more from the pressure that weighs on him. He repeatedly rejects the queen, seems beside himself and increasingly develops delusions. His wife's unconditional love becomes the light in his life. She guides and protects him in the best possible way - not only from his psychological suffering, but also from the outside world.
Meanwhile, Charlotte finds an ally and friend in young Lady Agatha, who - along with the royal couple's male servants (who sometimes have a secret love affair) - teaches her the duties of a queen. With her help, Charlotte ultimately not only secures the future of England, but also brings about a revolutionary change in which people of color also have a say and can be raised to the nobility.
"Queen Charlotte" tells the story of a society in which men rule the world, but secretly women actually pull the strings. As a spin-off, the series does exactly what it's supposed to do: it illuminates the world of "Bridgerton" in a new way that allows the viewer to understand how modern society came about in the first place.
Like the Netflix hit, "Queen Charlotte" is a bit reminiscent of a mixture of "Jane Austen" and "Gossip Girl" with lots of sex, spice and gossip. On top of that, there is also a (partly fictitious) historical background, in which the makers illustrate the increasing social striving for freedom and reason in the Age of Enlightenment.
The six-part series "Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story" will be available on Netflix from May 4th.