Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story Recap: Your Palace Walls Are Too High

Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story

Even Days
Season 1 Episode 3
Editor’s Rating 4 stars

Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story

Even Days
Season 1 Episode 3
Editor’s Rating 4 stars
Photo: Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2023/LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX

Welcome to Coronation Day, where the palace is bustling, and the homosexuals are arguing! Brimsley is on a mission to find George, but alas, the king is MIA. And Reynolds is hanging “below stairs” simply because the scenery is fresh and new. No other reason, nothing weird at all. I mean, it’s not like King George is hiding down here being seen in secret by a shady doctor. (That is exactly what Brimsley learns.) We also meet young Violet Ledger, eventually Violet Bridgerton. She is quirky and chatty and filled with questions. You can draw a straight line from her youthful self to the woman who believes so passionately in love that we’ve met in Bridgerton seasons one and two. Also important: Her mother is a racist and her father dotes on her.

Lady Danbury is doing her duty — reporting the royal tea to the Dowager Princess. The coronation has only drawn Charlotte and George closer, you see, and we see their crowns blessed and the members of the church chanting “God Save the King” and “God Save the Queen” like spooky robots out of a Doctor Who episode. The king and queen smile and wave, looking like a young couple in love for all the world to see. That is until they return to Buckingham House, and Charlotte asks Brimsley to clear the halls through clenched teeth. Upon entering, their crowns are removed and they stride away from each other without even a second glance.

On a walk with Lady Danbury, Charlotte complains that George is a “lying liar who lies,” still smarting from the conversation she overheard in the last episode. She knows her only job is to get pregnant and confides in her friend that she is doing her duty, even if she hates it. Lady Danbury knows something about hating sex, but as we flash back and forth between their conversation and what Charlotte and George are actually getting into, it becomes quite clear that one thing they are any good at is fucking. They snap at each other as they walk to her rooms, but the second the door closes, they fall on top of one another, desperately ripping dresses and shirts without a care in the world. We see them at dinner: Charlotte demands George stop breathing so loud; he wants her to stop talking … or to put that mouth to better use. Plates are smashed, and staff are ushered out of the dining room with a quickness. Outside the door, Reynolds asks Brimsley if he might allow him to cool down, and they share a secret smile as their bosses loudly fuck and break every dish within a four-foot radius. Then, while the king is bathing, Charlotte throws the door open, announces that it is an even day, and climbs onto his lap. This man puts his hand around her neck! Call me toxic or whatever, but this is hot!

Less hot to Charlotte is the discovery that her new husband doesn’t socialize. At all. She is welcome to find some charities to support or attend the opera with her ladies-in-waiting, but George will not. As Charlotte ponders the cause of this self-imposed social ban, Brimsley sticks his tiny foot directly in his mouth, wondering if it has something to do with the suspicious doctor he clocked on Coronation Day. Reynolds is pissed at Brimsley for being such a leaky faucet, and George is not thrilled when Charlotte brings it up. He mutters some such about the king needing a checkup before the coronation, but Charlotte is no fool. After all, the only thing that matters right now is if her womb is a hospitable place for a royal heir. Why wouldn’t the doctors be interested in her health? Check and mate, my good king!

Princess Augusta lets it slip that there is a lot of pressure on this royal baby during her racial-tension-and-tea chat with Lady Danbury. Because Lady Danbury is both brilliant and beautiful, she sniffs out that the pressure is coming from Lord Bute and the House of Lords. Princess Augusta tries to retain her smug veneer, then folds immediately. A baby will seal the success of the Great Experiment, you see. Lady Danbury sees an opening and gets right to it. Perhaps she should host the first ball of the season? No? In that case, she supposes there is no reason for these delightful little tête-à-têtes to continue. Princess Augusta mutters that she will take up with Lord Bute, defeated but not. I love these little hints from Michelle Fairley’s performance — the slightly raised brows, the thin, almost approving smile — that the Dowager Princess enjoys having someone worth her time to spar with.

After another round of deeply unsatisfying sex, sponsored by dissociation and correspondence planning, Lord Danbury sighs that the ball will never happen. He seems more gloomy than usual about their place in society and softens something in his wife. “They dangle joy in front of me and never let me grasp it,” he sighs, and Lady Danbury firmly says he is just as good as they are. It’s a rare display of tenderness for this couple, and it inspires Lady Danbury to simply buy the flowers (send the invites) herself! Of course, this is much more easily said than done. As Queen Charlotte’s ladies-in-waiting pretend to enjoy a performance by a young Mozart (Billy Zane dot Picasso dot Titanic dot GIF), Lady Ledger informs Lady Danbury that they were all flattered to get invitations, but all of them will be washing their hair that day — what a shame!

After getting iced out by the ladies-in-waiting, and Lord Bute forcing the Dowager Princess to cancel the ball, Lady Danbury pulls out the big guns and goes to the queen. Or tries to, because while attempting to explain how important this is, Charlotte is staring out the window, marveling at the fact that her husband is gardening. With his own hands! Lady Danbury listens for a bit, making affirmative listening sounds and rolling her eyes until she can’t take it anymore and levels with her. Charlotte is the queen, and though this ball seems silly, it has bigger implications for all the newly titled people of color in society. “You are not some simpering girl … Why do you not understand that you hold our fates in your hands?” Okay, speak on it!

That night, Charlotte looks at herself in the mirror, pressing a hand to her stomach in the universal gesture of “woman on TV who is pregnant.” But she doesn’t have time to linger there, as it is an even day, so Charlotte marches to the king’s quarters for their mutually agreed-upon sex. (Sidebar: She keeps not putting her hair in some kind of wrap up, even just out of her face, for sex times, and while it’s not like, illegal, I can only imagine how often it is getting caught on things! God, that would drive me nuts, and I have like 45 percent less hair than she does.) Charlotte circles back to the farming thing, and she seems to understand that the garden is the one place where George feels free to be just … George. (I can’t imagine the men he works with ever forget, but this show is not about them, now is it!) “You can be a person with me,” she tells him, and they agree to drop the even-and-odd days. Also? She needs him to go to a ball.

Lady Danbury’s ball looks gorgeous, much like she does. Seriously, she is one of the most beautiful people I have ever seen, and I will just have to repeat that now and then! Lord Danbury is convinced no one will come, but what is that? The doors are thrown open and in walk Lord and Lady Ledger! They have left Violet at home, and Lord Ledger admits they got the king’s note. No one in their right mind would miss an event the king was attending. “I like you. Let us be friends,” he says with something approaching a wink. Well, isn’t this an interesting little twist? Ring the chemistry bell!

The party is in full, albeit segregated, swing when Charlotte and George arrive. They take to the dance floor, and as the musicians strike up the Georgian classic “If I Ain’t Got You,” Lord Ledger excuses himself from his absolute beast of a wife and asks Lord Danbury if he might have a dance with Lady Danbury. Yes, that’s the chemistry bell again! This bit of lordly allyship encourages the rest of the partygoers to desegregate, and Princess Augusta remarks, with a hint of wonder in her voice, that she has never seen her son so happy.

Alas, the good fortune cannot last. For Lord Danbury, tragedy strikes while he is quite literally inside his wife. I suppose if you are going to just up and die, one might as well go out with a bang. [Booing intensifies] Lady Danbury takes a moment to giggle about her newfound freedom with Coral before playing the part of a good wife in mourning. Sorry to be rooting for her to go to pound town with her future friend’s dad, but I am only human!

At Buckingham House, Charlotte wakes in the middle of the night to find George scribbling on a wall and muttering to himself. He tears through the halls to the garden, where he takes his clothes off and yells up at Venus. As Charlotte watches, the final piece of her mysterious husband slots into place. She grabs his robe from Reynolds and throws it over the king’s shoulders, telling him that she is Venus and she is going back inside. “Venus is indoors?” he asks, voice full of wonder. “Venus is indoors,” she says softly, leading him back inside. “Venus is with you.”

The present-day timeline is also heating up, though in a different direction than I expected. Queen Charlotte’s children and her efforts to get them married is still providing comedic relief (“Yes, I know, you are old. Your wombs are likely dry and useless.”), but it is a moment featuring a rare bit of truth-telling from Brimsley that I keep thinking about. The queen asks him why her daughters never married, and after some hemming and hawing, he tells her that it is because she is “still his queen. Forever frozen. Forever waiting. Your daughters could not leave you here, trapped in time.” It is just as brutal as it sounds, and Golda Rosheuvel does some magnificent trembling-hand-and-tears work as she orders him to stand away from her and stop talking.

Sorrows, Sorrows. Prayers. 

• Lady Danbury and Dowager Viscountess Bridgerton are also indulging in a rare bit of truth-telling themselves. In the present timeline, they run into each other at church, where DVB is lighting a candle for her beloved husband on his birthday and rambling about the hats she used to make him. Lady Danbury tells her that while she may not like today, Violet is most fortunate. This is understandably upsetting for her friend to hear, and Lady Danbury is forced to drag Violet over for tea to explain herself. Lady Danbury never loved her husband, certainly not the way Violet did, and she has spent the years since his passing using his money to fund causes she knows he would hate. “Your heart is full. Mine starves.” Adjoa Andoh and Ruth Gemmell are wonderful together here, and yeah, I would read the “two widows who find comfort in each other” fanfic, okay? I admit it!

• Queen Charlotte did, in fact, introduce the custom of displaying Christmas trees to Britain!

• “Look at me — I am absolutely gorgeous. Style yourselves! A man might wander onto the grounds, a lost hunter or something.”

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