Following the success of Bridgerton, Shondaland decided to grant us a spinoff about Queen Charlotte the matchmaker monarch who has the power to name the "diamond of the season". Compared to Bridgerton, the arrival of Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story on Netflix might not be the talk of the 'ton'. But this spinoff deserves our attention, because Queen Charlotte is a darker but definitely better version of Bridgerton, as it takes us back in time to see Charlotte's journey as England's first black queen.
The new spinoff follows young Charlotte (India Ria Amarteifio) as she falls in love with George III (Corey Mylchreest) the king we barely see on Bridgerton. At the start of the show, we were introduced to 17-year-old Charlotte, a minor German princess who was betrothed to the King of England against her will. Refusing to marry a man she doesn't know, Charlotte plans to escape the castle wall on the day of her wedding, only to be found by George.
Charmed by the honest and gentle young king, Charlotte decides to go through with the wedding, believing that this arranged marriage will not be so bad afterall. But what seems to be the start of a fairytale suddenly turns into a nightmare when George refuses to spend the night with her, insisting that they live separately; Charlotte at Buckingham Palace and George at Kew Palace.
Trapped in a foreign country, the new queen spends her day in isolation without knowing why George wouldn't meet or live with her. Frustrated, Charlotte confronts George at his residence, where he was found studying astronomy in his private observatory. Afterwards, their relationship finally progressed into a passionate romance. George for reasons revealed in later episodes decided to spend more time with Charlotte and move to Buckingham Palace.
But their growing love for each other was haunted by a dark secret. The reason why George distances himself from Charlotte, as it turns out, was not selfish at all. It was revealed that George was suffering from a mental illness that often put him in a state of mania. During his psychosis episode, George falls into a delirious state where he couldn't remember who he is or anyone around him. All those times when they lived separately, George was finding a way to 'cure' his illness so that he could be with Charlotte. Even if he has to endure an extreme experiment which involves psychological and physical torture.
A Tender and Enduring Love
The story of George's illness makes the story feels heavier and darker. But instead of portraying George as a monster or a lunatic, this show opted for a more humanizing approach in tackling the issue of mental health. Despite his conditions, George was also written as a gentle soul who's passionate about science, astronomy, and agriculture.
We also get to see how other characters navigate the issue of race after Charlotte's coronation as queen. Famous for its colorblind casting, race was never openly discussed in Bridgerton. But young Lady Danbury (Arsema Thomas) who was trapped in an unhappy marriage paved her way into the queen's inner circle and became Charlotte's most trusted friend. It was because of her, that the black families finally could be accepted by the 'ton' and rewarded by lands and titles.
But at the end of the day, it was the story of tender and enduring love that makes this spinoff a much better show than Bridgerton. The plot, which goes back and forth between young Charlotte and present-day Charlotte, tells us how events of the past shaped her into the queen she is today. As a queen, she might come off as cold and moody, but she is a fierce lover and a loyal companion to George who never recovered from his illness. In the final moments of episode 6, the present day Charlotte finally went to see George, who remains confined in his palace. Under George's bed, where he often "hides from the heavens", Charlotte tells the good news that their son finally produced an heir. He then held her hand and said, "You did not go over the wall." "No, George. I didn't go over the wall," she said gently.
Charlotte's love story is bleaker than Daphne's and Anthony's, but it is also honest, tender, and real-the kind of love that breaks your heart and makes you feel warm at the same time. And that is what makes Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story this seasons' diamond.