Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story (2023)

 

In this prequel to Bridgerton, we see a young Queen Charlotte (India Amartifio) sold off by her royal brother to marry King George of England (Corey Mylchreest). A spunky and opinionated girl, Charlotte isn’t about to put up with the fuss of marrying a total stranger, wearing a terrible, boring gown just because the English court wants it, and decides to caper off by climbing over the garden wall and disappearing. She’s halfway up it when a charming young man politely asks her where she’s headed, and declines to help her, since it would mean letting his new wife escape (but, he adds with a twinkle, she can leave if she really wants to, and if she sees him as a dull ogre).

 
Charmed into acceptance, Charlotte goes through with the marriage and is eager to get to know her new husband… only to be shocked when he takes her to a beautiful house on their wedding night and then leaves her for his own home elsewhere. She isn’t sure what’s required of her, but she’s certain a man and wife should spend their honeymoon together, not with him glued to his telescope watching the heavens and her languishing in boredom and isolation! As Charlotte navigates her own marriage, which is on the verge of being annulled, and her mother-in-law Princess Augusta (Michelle Fairley) attempts to find out if the marriage as been consummated, the young Agatha Danbury (Arsema Thomas) endures the forced attentions of her geriatric husband while dreaming of a better life. Since one of “our kind” married one of “their kind,” racial divides in England are about to change forever, and she wants to be on the cusp of everything.

 
But what’s wrong with George? Why has he not done his duty by his wife? What keeps him from Charlotte? And in the modern world, can Charlotte convince her children to marry and carry on the family name, when all of them are either childless or making “useless bastards” with their mistresses?

 
I really wanted to like this series, because it’s set in one of my favorite time periods (Georgian) and had an interesting premise. And the first episode, for the most part, was wonderful, as Charlotte stumbles across George, expresses her views frankly, and has a charming instance of trying to go over the garden wall. But as the series’ episodes unfolded, things stuck in my gullet. Mainly that there’s no real character development for George. By bringing forward his later illness in life (mental illness) and treatments, Charlotte and he are deprived of a genuine romance. There is no real time spent on getting them to know each other, or having them fall in love—instead, they spend several episodes apart, we barely see George, and then all they do once they randomly decide to be together is have graphic sex everywhere. I get it, this is Regency Porn, but it’s also trying to tell a story and there isn’t much of one, especially not a romance. The most meaningful things between Charlotte and George happen between the older couple, particularly at the end of the series, which has a real tearjerker moment… but frankly, an even sadder, more meaningful story for me would have been a George free of the mental illness that plagued him late in life, being a strong king and husband, winning over and wooing his wife. To contrast that with the old, deranged man who doesn’t know his loved ones would be even more heartbreaking.

 
A lot of the asides aren’t worth telling either—who cares if Violet. Brigerton is feeling horny and lonely after the death of her husband; what has that got to do with the main plot? Nothing, it’s just a way to insert a couple of familiar faces into the “present” part of the story, without advancing the plot. And I expected more intrigue from Agatha; instead, she’s mostly just suffering from rather a lot of sex with an ancient husband that she doesn’t want, and then going on to have an affair with a married man. It was exciting to see these characters’ younger selves at first, and then the enchantment wore off. I think we, the audience, deserved better. That aside, the costumes, hair design, and sets are wonderful. There’s less modern music than in the original series, but the acting is splendid. It’s so good, that it’s easy to transition between the younger and older selves – the actresses have studied their counterparts’ behaviors, expressions, ways of speaking, etc, and replicated them in their younger selves in such a way it’s both delightful and uncanny. To them, well done.
 
Sexual Content:
Lots of backside nudity, with the king wandering around naked on occasion, or shown making love to Charlotte with his bottom on display. Many sex scenes (I lost count, between their encounters, Agatha being ‘forced’ by her husband, and gay kissing sessions leading up to implied oral sex), illustrative sex poses in books and in drawings to help ‘educate’ the queen, lots of sexually related conversations about consummation, doing one’s duty, whether one is enjoying it, etc. A homosexual romance features as a subplot, and a heterosexual affair is another subplot.
  
Violence:
All manner of tortures is inflicted upon the king to ‘cure him,’ including water boarding, burning him with hot pokers, forcing him into tubs full of ice water, etc.
 
Other:
This follows the modern trend of weak-willed men, who are either doormats, controlled by others, or less intelligent than their female counterparts. It's a boring trope.

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