Tighten up those corsets and snap open those folding fans, people: It’s swooning season. Which is to say: Bridgerton is back for season two. The Netflix series, produced by Shonda Rhimes and created by Chris Van Dusen, is based on the best-selling Regency-era romance novels by Julia Quinn. Spanning 1813 to 1827, the eight books chronicle the lives and loves and steamy hookups of the eight Bridgerton siblings (each novel focuses on a different sibling’s story), who are part of a well-off and well-respected family in high-society London, aka “the ton” — short for “le bon ton” or “good manners.” The first season of Bridgerton aligns most closely with the first book in the series, The Duke and I, and follows the eldest Bridgerton daughter Daphne’s story. The second season follows suit and pulls its major arc from the second novel, The Viscount Who Loved Me, about firstborn son Anthony. Both seasons dip into some of the later novels while making necessary changes, not just in the show’s racially diverse casting but with new or revamped story lines.
If you’re thinking, Umm, this seems like a lot, and I am already confused, you’re not alone! The Bridgertons may be named in alphabetical order, but for newbies to the ton, they’re easy to mix up. Add in all the other lords and ladies and dukes and anonymous gossip columnists who spend the social season in London and you have a whole mess of people to keep straight. Since some of us have already tackled this world in book form, we have insider knowledge that may be useful as you make your way through the TV show. Here’s a character cheat sheet to help you parse who’s who and what they’re all up to based on information from both the novels and season one (so yes, Dearest Reader, there are many spoilers). As you make your way through all the Regency scandals your heart desires, This Author advises you to prepare yourself.
The New Arrivals
Nothing like some fresh meat to shake up the ton.
Kate Sheffield/Kate Sharma
The most important new face in high-society London is our Kate. In the novels, she’s Kate Sheffield, the spinster elder half-sister of the 1814 social season’s Incomparable, Edwina. Kate has had to wait to come out to society until the same season as her younger sister because of the family’s dire financial situation. Things have been particularly rough since Kate’s father died five years prior, and both Kate and her stepmother Mary believe Edwina will be the one to secure a fortune and keep the family from becoming destitute. Much of this is because Kate has zero time for the niceties expected from women of the time. In short, she’s not afraid to speak her mind; in some cases, she can’t help it. Especially when it comes to a certain viscount she finds both abhorrent and charming. Hmm, I guess add falling for Anthony Bridgerton to the list of things Kate just can’t help. In the TV series, this character is Kate Sharma, still half-sister to the much more desired Edwina, still arriving on the Marriage Mart scene to make sure her sister makes a good match, and still not afraid to say what she thinks. Oh yes, and still very much into telling off a certain viscount while clearly fighting feelings for him. Do not forget that part.
Edwina Sheffield/Edwina Sharma
Kate’s younger sister in both book and TV form is quite lovely. You want to hate someone who is so popular but in this case, you can’t. The Incomparable of the season is kind and charming and makes it known that she would much rather be inside reading than roaming the countryside. In fact, in the novels, Edwina admits she thinks her perfect match would be some sort of scholar. But just because she isn’t as outspoken as her sister, doesn’t mean Edwina lacks a mind of her own. Most of her story has to do with figuring that out.
Mary Sheffield/Mary Sheffield-Sharma
Good on Julia Quinn for not making Lady Mary a trope-y evil step-mother. (That’s for a character in the next book!) She’s a woman who loves both of her daughters equally and makes sure they — especially Kate — know it. In the novel, Mary marries Kate’s father when Kate is just three, but assures her she was her child from the moment they met. It’s actually very nice. While Book Mary is just a widow managing her two daughters, TV Mary gets a much richer and more interesting backstory: She was a member of the ton until she fell in love with Mr. Sharma, Kate’s dad, and her family cast her out because he was not of English nobility. The Sharmas move to India and eventually, Mr. Sharma dies. When her youngest is of age, Mary brings her two daughters back to England in the hopes of finding Edwina a husband. Mary’s parents, Lord and Lady Sheffield, are brought in for the TV series, and they’re as terrible as you’d imagine people who disown their child for falling in love would be. However, they play a pivotal role in the plot.
What a good boy!!
Kate’s dog (in both the book and show) is not only the most mischievous little corgi to mingle with the likes of the ton, he is also a king, okay? And yes, I know that might be treasonous in a monarchy, but I said what I said.
Edmund Bridgerton, the late Viscount
Okay, maybe this is a little bit of a cheat, because we have certainly heard much of Edmund, father of all those Bridgerton kids. But it isn’t until season two that we actually meet him, and that’s because, as we learn in the second novel, Edmund’s untimely death due to a bee allergy (about ten years before the start of these Bridgerton shenanigans) is the motivation for so many of Anthony’s choices as an adult. He wasn’t even twenty when he had to take his father’s place as the head of the family. Anthony aside, what we learn in both the show and The Viscount Who Loved Me is that Edmund was a killer dad who wanted to spend as much time with his kids as he could — something unheard of in his day. Also, he and Violet had a love that is hard to live up to. Oh, and not surprisingly, he was a DILF, a term I bet Lady Whistledown would’ve used had she been made aware. Dearest Gentle Reader, behold the rarest of ton finds, a DILF of the First Water!
Invented for the TV series, Theo Sharpe works at the print shop that counts Lady Whistledown as a customer, is super into women’s rights, and appreciates conversations with well-read, curious people — even if they do happen from one of society’s most well-known families.
Lord Jack Featherington
Another TV-only character, Jack Featherington is the heir to the Featherington household. Younger and hotter than everyone expecred, the new lord arrives from the Americas in the possession of many guns, some ruby mines, and of course, secretssss.
The Familiar Faces
This lot has been around the ballroom before, but we could all use a refresher.
Anthony Bridgerton, Viscount
Oh, Anthony. Book Anthony and Show Anthony are pretty similar in that both were completely devastated by the loss of their father at a formative time in their lives and are 100 percent scarred from the grief and trauma they still have not fully processed. Fun, right? Anthony hides behind an inflexible notion of duty and responsibility so as to avoid any additional pain; in the novel, he harbors an intense fear of dying young like his father. In the TV show, he allows himself to fall for opera singer Siena Rosso only to have his heart stomped on. In both cases, Anthony vows to find a wife who fits a list of sensible requirements, including being someone he will in no way be able to fall in love with. No feelings allowed!! It’s why Anthony begins to court Miss Edwina, whom he views as his social equal, and why Kate takes such umbrage with him coming for her sister’s chances at finding love. If only she knew this slutty boy just misses his dad and has so much inner turmoil to work out!
Every social circle needs a Lady Danbury. She’s terrifying but in a way that makes you want to be her when you grow up. She’s a dowager who has been around for longer than anyone and she knows what’s up; she says what she wants, when she wants, and her opinions are usually correct. She works a cane like no other. She was friendly with Simon Basset’s late mother, and this relationship is expanded in the TV series as she becomes a guardian-type figure in his youth and helps guide him to a happy marriage in season one. In season two, her role is wisely upgraded from the books and she becomes the Sharmas’ sponsor for the social season. Her closeness with Queen Charlotte also comes into play, as it is both a blessing and a curse. If the sport of high society is husband-hunting, Lady D is the MVP.
Penelope Featherington a.k.a Lady Whistledown
Oh, that’s right, buddy — it was revealed at the end of season one (and in book four, Romancing Mr. Bridgerton) that everyone’s favorite wallflower Penelope Featherington is the ton’s most famous and ruthless gossip writer, Lady Whistledown. In her real life, Penelope is overlooked or made fun of by almost everyone, including her mother and terrible sisters; is friend-zoned by the object of her affection, Colin Bridgerton; and is forced to wear the most unflattering dresses into, like, her twenties. She has two respites: her friendship with Eloise Bridgerton and her alter ego. Lady Whistledown is anything but a bystander — the people of the ton can’t inhale her scandal sheet fast enough — including, in the TV series, the Queen. In the novels, Whistledown’s identity is revealed to everyone all at once and she has some major explaining to do. In the TV series, only the audience is aware of her identity as we enter season two, but it stands to reason that if the show decided to make that reveal well ahead of the novels, they’ll be doing something else with that information moving forward. Especially since Queen Charlotte has made Lady Whistledown Public Enemy Number One.
God bless Eloise Bridgerton! She has exactly no time for the whole of society bearing down on her, telling her the only future available as a woman is to get married. She wants more from life — that’s why she’s happy with spinsterhood, and throughout the novels goes about turning down six different marriage proposals. She’s smart and biting and extremely observant — a detective-in-training, you might call her. When we meet her in 1813, she’s on the cusp of making her debut in society and is 100 percent dreading it. Eloise doesn’t want to play games — at least, not this one — and she’s happy to fight off her fate as long as possible. In the TV series, she’s wholly preoccupied with figuring out who Lady Whistledown really is, not realizing it’s her dearest friend Penelope. This obsession is sure to take her to some interesting places in season two.
Violet Bridgerton, the Dowager Viscountess
The Dowager Viscountess is mother to the uncomfortably large Bridgerton brood, and as with any mother of any amount of children in Regency England, Violet is preoccupied with getting them all married off and out of her hair — er, making sure they’re happy. Unlike other “marriage-minded mamas” in the novels, Violet wants her kids to make love matches. She wants this so much she’s even down with one of her kids possibly marrying a servant, which is unheard of. I mean, they’d have to go live in the country and be shunned forever, but she wouldn’t be doing the shunning, you know? She’s a real proponent of following one’s joy as long as joy means marriage, because let’s not get too carried away. In the books, but especially in the TV series, she is still very much in both love and mourning for her dear Edmund. No one had a love like Violet and Edmund!
She doesn’t figure into the novels, but she was the actual wife of King George III during this time in history. In the series, Queen Charlotte looms large over the activities of the ton. She is not only the season’s tastemaker, selecting the Diamond of the Season (in season one, it was Daphne), but she’s also become obsessed with unmasking Lady Whistledown. She also has a sort-of friendship with Lady Danbury (does a Queen really have any friends?), a tragic love story with the King who has dementia, and holy hell can she work some fabulous wigs.
Just don’t call him No. 2, okay? He’s a human being, with feelings and thoughts and, most surprising, some real artistic skills. The second Bridgerton child, Benedict harbors a secret talent for sketching and painting. Major future spoiler here, but eventually Benedict is so good that he gets a painting into the National Gallery, and we’re all here for that kind of career success. Less successfully, Benedict tries to cover up his feelings of uselessness within his family. With his older brother the heir and viscount, Benedict doesn’t really know his place. He does, however, know he feels a bit stifled by the rules of the society he lives in. He is an artist, after all. In the novels, Benedict keeps his dreams to himself until they’re revealed in his novel, the third in the series, An Offer From A Gentleman. In the TV show, his family is already well aware of his skills and, eventually, are pretty supportive. Even Anthony seems onboard with Benedict dabbling in the bohemian lifestyle, which includes three-ways at wild art parties and a casual dalliance with Genevieve Delacroix, the ton’s modiste. Okay, I don’t think Anthony knows about the three-way, but he’d probably still be cool with it, knowing that capital-R Rake.
Colin’s the funny, charming Bridgerton, but he’d like to be thought of as more than just a good time. Like Benedict, Colin feels a bit lost being a man with no title (don’t worry, we don’t feel bad for these rich boys). As the third Bridgerton, he sees Anthony as the head of the family, watches as Benedict finds fulfillment in his art, and stands by as people make happy marriage matches all around him. In the novels, he’s so adamantly against being forced into a marriage that he spends his time traveling abroad. This fills part of his void, but he’s looking for more. In season one of the show, Colin falls for Featherington cousin Marina Thompson, but discovers he’s part of a scheme to get her married before people realize she’s pregnant. He, uh, does not take the heartbreak well, and this is what sends him off on his travels. Maybe this dude needs to OPEN HIS FREAKING EYES to someone very close to him who adores him and might be perfect for him even if she doesn’t wear the most flattering dresses. Ugh, men are the worst in every era, aren’t they? In the books, it takes Colin, like, eight years to see Penelope as more than just a friend, so we’ll see what the show does with that.
The Duchess of Hastings, or: Daphne Bridgerton Bassett
You may know Daphne, Bridgerton Sibling Number 4, as the Diamond of the Season, the picture-perfect Regency Girl who had a lot of things to learn both about the pleasures of sex and the science of it (in that order!). Season one of Bridgerton closely followed the first novel in Quinn’s series, The Duke and I, which was all about Daphne searching for a husband. She strikes a deal with the ton’s resident Sad Boy with Daddy Issues, Simon Bassett, to pretend they’re courting — to help her seem desirable and him to keep the mothers with eligible daughters at bay — and they end up falling for one another. Since season two will mirror the second novel, The Viscount Who Loved Me, and focus on Anthony’s love story, Daphne and Simon figure much less into the plot. In the novel, they show up for family events, including a riveting match of pall-mall. In the show, only Daphne will be on hand to offer some wisdom to her brother about surviving the social season. Regardless, they seem very happy together, off making alphabetically-named babies, so that’s nice! Happy endings forever!!
Madame Delacroix, a character invented just for the TV series, is the most in-demand modiste in London. Because almost every high-society woman passes through her doors in need of a dress, she always knows what’s going on in the ton. In season one, she starts hooking up with Benedict Bridgerton, but it’s nothing serious at the moment. We’ll see who else she forms a surprising bond with in season two.
Francesca and Gregory and Hyacinth Bridgerton
Sorry not sorry, but we have a lot of Bridgertons to keep track of, and since the three youngest of the brood are just kids when we begin, they’ll remain on the fringes of the story for now. But please know these kids do grow up and get their own novels about their pursuits of romance.
Lady Portia Featherington
In the novels, Lady Featherington is the widowed mother of four daughters, and like most mamas in high-society London, just wants them to marry a good match. Of course, for Lady Featherington, “good” really only means “rich.” She’s, well, let’s call it “unkind” to daughter Penelope, dotes on her two older daughters Philipa and Prudence even though they are dumb and awful (in Romancing Mr. Bridgerton, one character notes that spending time with the Featherington sisters would “make a grown man wish himself aboard a ship to Australia”), and she’s known for being one of the most gossipy women in town. You don’t want Lady Featherington to find you in a compromising situation, that’s for sure. The TV series nixes Lady Featherington’s youngest daughter Felicity and made her put up with a truly terrible husband with a gambling problem who ends up dead by the end of season one. That leaves Lady Featherington to await the heir of their estate, hope Philipa’s betrothal still goes through, and find enough money so the family doesn’t get kicked out of the ton in season two.
This! Woman! Cressida is the mean girl of the ton. She’ll cut anyone who stands in her way of getting a good husband. I don’t mean physically cut, because I don’t think high-society women were allowed to hold knives in the Regency era unless they were buttering a crumpet (I base this on zero research but know I have read and watched Pride and Prejudice an alarming number of times), but rather, I mean cutting down someone verbally, which is to say she spends her time tormenting people we like (Daphne, Penelope, et al.). Honestly, how dare she?
Marina Thompson Crane and Sir Phillip Crane
Marina is perhaps one of the biggest character deviations from book to screen. She doesn’t show up until Eloise’s book, To Sir Phillip, With Love, the fifth in the series. She’s a distant Bridgerton cousin who suffers from depression and is married to her dead fiancé’s brother for eight years before attempting suicide and dying from complications soon after. (This all takes place at the start of that novel, so it isn’t a huge spoiler.) In the TV series, she’s a Featherington cousin who comes to live with the family at the start of season one, and although she immediately wins over many suitors, she harbors a deep love for a soldier named George Crane and arrives pregnant with his babies, much to the devastation of Lady Featherington. Through some help from Daphne, Marina learns that George died in the war but wanted to be with her. Enter Sir Phillip, George’s brother, who arrives in London and says he’d like to marry her and raise her kids. Marina isn’t thrilled, but she doesn’t have other options. Sir Phillip is a nice man in both the show and the books, albeit a raging plant nerd, and you can probably guess by the fact that his name is in Eloise’s book’s title that he has a much larger role to play in the Bridgerton novels. In the show? Time — or Lady Whistledown — will tell.