Season two of “Bridgerton” has brought us all closer to the characters we know and love. In this batch of episodes, we learn why Anthony Bridgerton sometimes has a hard time connecting with people and why Lady Danbury strongly believes in marriage, hence all that match-making, among other stories.
But out of all the season's new revelations, none come Queen Charlotte's bombshell of a backstory.
In season one, audiences see Queen Charlotte confidently residing on the throne alone, with no king by her side (but quite a few Pomeranians). It’s not until season two that we learn exactly how Queen Charlotte came to call the shots around town so independently.
As it turns out, Charlotte’s husband, King George III (James Fleet), is unwell from an undiagnosed illness, likely inspired by the real King George III’s supposed madness. His condition causes him to be confused about important events that have happened in his life. For example, he forgets the death of his daughter, Amelia.
Most of the time, King George III is cordoned off in a separate wing of the palace, his illness kept a secret from civilians. But in a touching moment after her disastrous wedding, Edwina Sharma (Charithra Chandran) encounters the volatile royal. She calms him down by pretending the wedding decorations are for his wedding to Charlotte, which actually took place decades prior.
One would never know, given her steely and serene demeanor, that Charlotte was dealing with such a stressful and heartbreaking situation behind the walls of the palace.
But perhaps their relationship explains Charlotte’s strength. Speaking to TODAY, Rosheuvel said King George III’s illness is the reason why Charlotte has become such a strong ruler: She had to be strong for both of them.
“The love that she and George have gives her the strength to be able to rule."
“The love that she and George have gives her the strength to be able to rule,” Rosheuvel said. “It gives her the strength to be able to make decisions. We don’t necessarily really see them in ‘Bridgeton,’ but that’s a layer that I have, and I take with me and as the character.”
An unnamed “Bridgerton” prequel, also starring Rosheuvel, will explore the early days of Charlotte and George’s relationship. Their marriage is part of “Bridgerton’s” foundational mythology: By marrying a Black woman, George supposedly ushered in the racially integrated version of the Regency era that the show takes place in.
Lady Danbury explains the connection during a season one conversation with Simon Basset (Rége-Jean Page): “Look at our queen. Look at our king. Look at their marriage. Look at everything it is doing for us, allowing us to become. We were two separate societies divided by color, until a king fell in love with one of us."
In Queen Charlotte, Rosheuvel — who grew up in England — sees echoes of Queen Elizabeth II and her relationship with Prince Philip, who died in 2021 after more than 70 years of marriage.
“I look at our own queen over here and there’s a lot to be said of the role,” Rosheuvel said. “People have a lot of opinions on the royal family. But I think there’s a grace, there’s an empathy, there’s a warmness and openness to people’s lives and their journeys. And I think Charlotte has to have that.”
The moment in episode six, when Charlotte's “secret” comes out, gives Queen Charlotte a new layer of vulnerability. Before then, she was mostly was a gossip-hungry, snuff-snorting monarch. Now, Rosheuvel said, we see more of her humanity.
“It would be very easy to just write a one-dimensional character who’s in the balls, who loves fashion, who loves to gossip, who’s very surface, but to have the intimacy and the vulnerable moments are really, really special because it makes her human,” the actor said.
“It makes her relatable, even with all the opulence that she has and that she’s surrounded by,” Rosheuvel continued. “I think audiences really relate to her because of those honorable moments. They see a human being.”
Queen Charlotte’s expanded backstory doesn’t change her, so much as explain her. She’s still back to her favorite hobby in season two: Chasing gossip, and chasing the woman who spreads it best.
The Queen's quest to unmask Lady Whistledown gives her a sense of purpose this season. Eventually, she wrongfully accuses Eloise Bridgerton (Claudia Jessie) of being the infamous scribbler and threatens to hurt her family’s reputation if she doesn’t come clean.
This tense interaction marks the first time the Queen uses her regal power against another character. “That was an interesting scene to play because we’ve not seen the queen as a threat,” Rosheuvel said.
Although she wants nothing more than to find Lady Whistledown, she’s undeniably amused by the anonymous writer’s words — even when they’re about her. Rosheuvel characterizes the Queen and Lady Whistledown’s relationship “a love affair,” that’s “mysterious” in its own “weird” way.
“It’s the person that really kind of gets your back up, but yet you have a lot of respect for them,” she said. “You admire them in some way. It’s kind of that yin and yang relationship: Hatred, yet that real hatred can turn into absolute passion and desire.”
Rosheuvel said she doesn’t know what will happen if, and when, her character learns what audiences already know: Lady Whistledown is Penelope Featherington. As Penelope gears up for a romance with Colin Bridgerton, perhaps in season 3, she may be pulled into the Queen’s orbit.
Nicola and I have talked about it and both of us are like, ‘Is it coming? What’s going to happen?’ I think a showdown there would be epic!”
In season three, Rosheuvel is hoping for a showdown between the two powerful women.
“I’d love to see (Cherlotte) and Whistledown get it on! Nicola and I have talked about it and both of us are like, ‘Is it coming? What’s going to happen?’ I think a showdown there would be epic!”
At the same time, she hopes for more of the soft side. “I’d love more of the vulnerability. I’d love to see that continue,” she said.