Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story
I hate to report that my girl Charlotte is absolutely not having a banging honeymoon, in any sense of the word. She has been abandoned by her husband and is surrounded by staff who won’t speak to her. Her life is an endless loop of dressing for meals and eating alone. She collapses on her bed, then screams. The next day, midway through another elaborate, lonely meal, Charlotte takes a stand: “Ready the carriage. We are going to see my husband.” Brimsley does so, and I do a single and no doubt extremely scientific Google to learn that Kew is seven miles from Buckingham House, which translates to about an hour-long carriage ride. The more you know!
Charlotte forbids anyone to follow her, so Reynolds, the king’s man, invites Brimsley to his quarters to “warm up on a cool night.” (Wink-wink.) The two immediately start ripping their clothes off while bragging about whose boss is better and whose fault it is that this honeymoon is going so poorly. I mean, big respect to Reynolds for his loyalty to the king, but it is absolutely George’s fault, come on now. Brimsley seems to agree with me, but mostly Brimsley seems to be really enjoying his work as the premier short top in the region.
George is infuriatingly casual about Charlotte bursting into the observatory. She is perplexed to find that instead of whoring or doing … anything, really, George is simply vibing and looking at the stars. Honestly, it is a master class in avoidance, and I have to tip my cap to Corey Mylchreest for his ability to walk such a fine line between ignoring his new wife and being clearly smitten with her. For her part, Charlotte refuses to accept his evasive nonanswers: “I am seven and ten years old, and suddenly I am queen … I do not know a single soul here except for you. I’m completely alone. And you prefer the sky to me.” The look on George’s face makes it clear that he does not feel that way, but as usual, when she presses him too hard, he orders her away. Rude on multiple fronts: Give your staff some time to bone, please!
Nevertheless, the gays persist, and thanks to their secret morning meetups, George finds it within himself to send Charlotte a gesture of affection: a puppy. She hates it, and she hates it even more when it stares at her balefully while she eats dinner, sitting in front of the seat George would occupy were he there. It’s another insult, another taunting bit of company that isn’t quite company, and it inspires Charlotte to try out some of her new power, demanding that she meet her ladies-in-waiting. Brimsley, ever the courtier, delicately suggests she kick it with one single girl, as she is supposed to be boning around the clock. Perhaps Lady Danbury? Brimsley inclines his head approvingly — he knows Lady Danbury is a down-ass bitch.
Charlotte blathers on about how wonderful her honeymoon has been while Lady Danbury just barely conceals her “be so fucking for real right now” face. Then she delicately asks if she can speak freely. The queen has the room cleared, and wow does Lady Danbury go off! “First, you are a terrible liar. Do not try that in front of society,” she says. She tells her queen that her own wedding night was awful, and that is what people expect of a wedding night. As Charlotte rants about how annoying George has been, a lightbulb goes off in Lady Danbury’s eyes: “You did … consummate the marriage, did you not?” Charlotte is like, “Um … yes! Absolutely! Now just remind me … what is consummating?” Lady Danbury takes a deep breath and calls for paper and charcoal.
As Charlotte studies Lady Danbury’s drawings (I would kill to speak to whoever was lucky enough to draw them), she seems to be considering defeat. Maybe she can just go home and they can call all this off. Lady Danbury bravely manages to keep herself from throttling her queen and explains that this whole deal is resting on her shoulders. If she leaves, the Great Experiment has failed and she will go back to being Mrs. Danbury, having to endure her husband’s libido and, worse, the threat of his giant babies. I can’t quite tell if Charlotte’s obliviousness regarding the Great Experiment is due to her youth, being in an unfamiliar country, or simply not caring. Regardless, I can’t help but notice that Lady Danbury, a dark-skinned woman, is the one who must explain the possible repercussions of the experiment’s failure to her paper-bag-adjacent queen.
At the palace, Princess Augusta has been trying with very little success to find out if her son and his wife have consummated their marriage. The second she learns Lady Danbury has gone to see Charlotte, she summons her. Lord Danbury is baffled — what the hell do they want with his wife, a woman?? She consoles his ego with bright reassurances, the slight exasperation in her eyes making it clear she is very used to doing this. Princess Augusta wants details, and she doesn’t care about the damn dog or any musical compositions. She calls Lady Danbury both “girl” and “Agatha” in quick succession, demanding that she stop being “purposefully obstructive.”
“Lady Danbury. That is my title, your Highness,” she says. Augusta’s eyebrows go sky high at the reminder as Lady Danbury muses that it would be such a shame if their new queen discovered just how shiny and new her title was. With a thin smile on her lips, the dowager princess kicks out the lords and staff who are lingering about. She needs a trusted ear in Buckingham House, you see, and now the games begin in earnest. Lady Danbury points out that titles traditionally come with land and income, and Princess Augusta basically rolls her eyes. Money? How tired, how gauche. But Lady Danbury’s father-in-law is a king in Sierra Leone, and they have more money than most of the ton, as it were. What Lady Danbury needs is for these titles to actually mean something. Her husband is routinely denied entrance to gentlemen’s clubs and to the hunt, and this “Great Experiment” has to be more than just a title. “That … is grasping,” Augusta says sternly. “You should be grateful.” After all, she has given them titles, and they got to go to one (1) wedding. What more could they want?
The speed at which Lady Danbury proves she knows exactly what is going on and how much trouble this as-of-yet unconsummated marriage could cause the palace and the House of Lords takes Princess Augusta aback. “You need to know what is going on at Buckingham House; we need to be equal members of the ton,” Lady Danbury says, smiling. “We can be grateful to one another.” Game recognizes game, baby!
At the very house in question, Charlotte is marching to yet another meal in yet another dramatic outfit, but she pulls up short when she notices George casually sitting at the other end of the table. He is taken aback when Charlotte storms off, and he asks for the chance to show her where his mind has been. In the observatory, of course! They indulge in some stargazing, taking in Venus (the planet of love, do you get it?) while George confesses that looking at the universe keeps him humble. He is too used to this world in which everything revolves around him, and it has made him selfish. He apologizes for ruining her wedding night, and a visibly surprised Charlotte wrestles with her feelings. She doesn’t forgive him, not yet, but the utterly besotted look on George’s face as he tells her that “yet is hope” clearly softens her. It softens her so much that she agrees to his offer of a proper wedding night. But when Charlotte asks if this means he’s coming home to Buckingham House, he hesitates for a long moment before agreeing. All is clearly not well in the state of Denmark.
But things are well in the state of the bedroom! [Crowd boos.] Charlotte nervously prattles about the amount of buttons on her dressing gown, and George’s serious, slightly hushed response — “I’m very good with buttons” — is somehow very hot. It’s a classic Bridgerton sex scene, lit by softly glowing firelight, surrounded by sumptuous linens, and just explicit enough to allow one to judge King George’s stroke game, which is why you’re all here, I imagine? It looks pretty decent, though I must confess straight sex judgments are not exactly my forte. I await your comments!
Charlotte is relieved that they skipped the part where she had to get her head slammed into a wall repeatedly (methinks Lady Danbury gave her some personal details), and she wakes with the contented grin of the well fucked. This sex smugness lasts for oh, maybe half an hour until she is walking to breakfast with her dog–slash–deformed bunny in her arms. She overhears George talking to his mother, who can no longer rely on palace spies for the details she needs. “You told me to charm her. I have done so,” he says. “You told me I could not let her know me because I must protect the secrets of the Crown. I have not.”
Tears fill Charlotte’s eyes as she tells Brimsley she will be having breakfast alone. Again. George collapses into a chair after his mother leaves, and Reynolds reacts with concern but, crucially, not surprise. He offers to send for the doctor and reassures his king that Charlotte will never know about it. Troubling!
Elsewhere in the episode’s “present” timeline, we see that Queen Charlotte still puzzles out her problems with Lady Danbury. Theirs is a friendship I have always loved, and having seen their backstory makes me love it even more. Dowager Viscountess Bridgerton has been invited to tea as well, owing to the fact that she has eight children and two of them have been wed within two years. DVB (I’m not typing that title again, be serious) smiles and flutters about the joys of love. Alas, love is not the problem here. The queen’s children are in love but with “commoners, Catholics, actresses, and women who are already married.” In fact, her boys have sired over 50 illegitimate children. To which I must ask, Is it really that hard to stumble into a woman who is appropriately titled and not Catholic? Frazzled by this scandalous admission, DVB tries to throw the ball to Lady Danbury — she too has many children, and they are all married and happy.
“My four children,” Lady Danbury says, putting quite a fine point on the number, “have done me the honor of moving many continents away.” The queen watches her friends debate whether marriage is a prison (Lady Danbury) or a place of love and tradition (DVB), as in a tennis match. She listens rather attentively, that is until one of DVB’s analogies goes too far: “Your flower metaphors make me nauseated with their sweetness, but I applaud your point.” The queen will simply select her boys’ brides and that shall be that. Best of luck, boys!
Sorrows, Sorrows. Prayers
• I simply must take a moment to reflect on the majesty of the giant heart-shaped wig atop Charlotte’s head during the scene with Lady Danbury and DVB. I cannot fathom how on earth a person could move while wearing such a thing, but I suppose there’s a reason this is a seated scene.
• It also feels important to note that Lady Danbury has a gorgeous gray streak on one side of her head, and by “important,” I mean “extremely hot to me, a homosexual.”
• That shot of present-day Queen Charlotte still eating alone all these years later is quite affecting, and it makes me think the story they are telling is less about romance and more of a meditation on loneliness. How fun!
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