If you have been following the Netflix drama series, Bridgerton created by Shonda Rhimes (or watched any of her spectacular works such as Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder etc), you'll get excited as I was when I heard this prequel spin-off was in the works.
Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story is the third instalment in the drama series and the best so far, in my opinion. From the first season, we are introduced to a stern, resilient and beautiful queen who delights in matchmaking during every debutante season. She's proud yet empathic and understanding where her husband, King George, is concerned because he's mentally ill.
Then the news is released that a prequel spin-off was in the works that would explore the love relationship between this interesting queen and her king. This miniseries premiered on May 4 and I can say it's a work of sophistication because Shonda Rhimes always delivers. Viewers were not disappointed.
This rollercoaster of royal love and life in the 1760s begins with a disclaimer voiced by the charming Julie Andrews:
“This is the story of Queen Charlotte from Bridgerton. It is not a history lesson – it is fiction inspired by fact. All liberties taken by the author are quite intentional. Enjoy.”
The opening scene of this miniseries focuses on Adolphus (played by Tunji Kasim) signing a contract of betrothal and marriage with a royal British envoy on behalf of his sister, Charlotte. She is to be the next Queen of England even though she’s never met her husband-to-be. Adolphus convinces her that they have no choice in the matter and journey immediately to England.
Arriving at the palace, Charlotte meets the dowager Princess of Wales, Augusta (played by Michelle Fairley), who examines her as one would examine a good or product. Charlotte is informed of her relevance and commitment to the British empire: "to make babies, lots of babies…"
So the new queen does not feel alone in a new country, the wedding guest list is expanded as well-known British citizens who are dark in complexion are given titles and invited to the wedding. When it was almost time, Charlotte attempts to climb the wall to escape marrying a man she had not seen. Then a handsome man talks her out of it and introduces himself as "just George".
The beautiful love story begins…will this marriage survive? Will Charlotte be able to bear the burdens that George carry?
When the first season premiered, viewers were excited because the plot, though not historically accurate, was brilliant, bold and steamy. It was a story about matchmaking in the London season and how it blossomed into true love. The second season continues with another love story and we rooted for the couple.
One central character in these two seasons that was amusing and compelling but remained enigmatic was Queen Charlotte.
This miniseries details the life of Queen Charlotte (again, not historically accurate) and how she came to be the Queen of England. The colourblind casting from the first season featuring actors of dark and brown skin raised a bit of an uproar on social media. In this miniseries, Shonda Rhimes explains it as "The Great Experiment", making the pieces fall in place.
I love the way Shonda Rhimes toyed with the plot and the characters. The plot is compelling as it focuses on themes of love, race, power, politics and mental health. The way the queen relates with the mentally sick king is compassionate and endearing.
The visual effects and editing are neat and remarkable. I love how the series is divided into two timeframes: the young 17-year-old Queen Charlotte, who is 'forced' to marry a handsome stranger and works to make the marriage a success; and the middle-aged Queen Charlotte, whom viewers are familiar with from the first and second seasons.
At the same time, we meet the young king, George (played by Corey Mylchreest) who fears he may harm his new bride and stays away from her while fighting mental illness with all the medical knowledge available at the time. Torture scenes disguised as mental treatment are frightening, heartbreaking and make me very weary of doctors 90% of the time.
We also see the younger selves of Lady Agatha Danbury and Lady Violet Bridgerton, the close friends of the queen. These scenes are interspersed with scenes featuring their older selves and how society should pay attention to their 'gardens' blooming because they too deserve a love story.
I admire the cast's chemistry. India Amarteifio's performance as Queen Charlotte is spectacular. It's like she's born for the role of a young and powerful queen. Her chemistry with Corey Mylchreest is impressive. Shonda has never been sex-shy in any of her films. In the first season, the sex scenes and nudity were explicit. In the second season, this was dialled down and even more so in this prequel. Still, the scenes are steamy and children should not be allowed to watch.
Overall, Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story is worth the watch. I rate it 4.5 stars out of 5. You may watch this miniseries without seeing the first and second seasons. But it makes the viewing experience better if you have watched the previous series.
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Other images are screenshots from the movie