Is ‘Bridgerton’ historically accurate?

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Bridgerton is one of Netflix’s most beloved shows, captivating audiences with its romantic tales and lavish portrayal of the early 19th century. The series primarily follows the Bridgerton family as they navigate love and the complexities of their social class during the Regency era. With its elegant costumes and timeless love stories, it’s no wonder Bridgerton has garnered widespread attention. However, it’s crucial to note that the show’s historical accuracy is quite loose.

Even the prequel series, Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story, which focuses on the real monarchs Queen Charlotte (portrayed by Golda Rosheuvel and India Amarteifio) and King George (played by James Fleet and Corey Mylchreest), does not aim for precise historical accuracy. The franchise adopts an alternative approach to the era, imagining a more inclusive upper class. Despite incorporating some purely fictional characters and events, the series does include elements rooted in historical fact.

Bridgerton is based on the novels by Julia Quinn, adding another layer of separation from historical accuracy. Quinn’s series, like many Regency-era romance stories, was inspired by Georgette Heyer’s depiction of the Regency era, which itself was not entirely accurate. Given this distance from historical truth, it’s not surprising that Bridgerton features several fictionalized aspects. Nonetheless, while Bridgerton doesn’t claim to be a documentary, historians recognize that it includes some factual truths amidst its fictional narrative.

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Bridgerton
Credits – Koimoi

Does ‘Bridgerton’ claim any accuracy?

Bridgerton has always embraced its fictional roots, evident in several aspects of the series. For one, most characters are original creations by author Julia Quinn, with only the royal family drawn from history, and even they are intentionally altered. While some characters are loosely inspired by historical figures, the majority lack historical connections, which is typical for such shows. However, it’s important to note that historical characters are exceptions rather than the norm in Bridgerton.

The general premise of Bridgerton itself is rife with inaccuracies. The series features a racially diverse aristocracy, premised on the idea of a Black Queen Charlotte influencing a more inclusive upper class through her marriage to King George. Historically, this never happened, especially considering the series is set shortly after Britain outlawed the slave trade and before it ended in British colonies. This narrative choice, however, allows for diverse casting. Another glaring inaccuracy is the soundtrack, which uses orchestral versions of contemporary hits instead of period-appropriate music. While this modern musical choice doesn’t affect the storyline, it highlights Bridgerton’s creative liberties in favor of a unique viewing experience.

Despite these liberties, some elements of Bridgerton remain true to the era, particularly the costumes. According to Dr. Lizzie Rogers, the empire-waisted gowns and square necklines are historically accurate, as were the fuller skirts favored by Queen Charlotte, reflecting her preference for traditional fashions. Although the show’s fabrics and designs are more elaborate, the silhouettes remain true to the period. This blend of historical accuracy and visual splendor provides audiences with stunning yet believable costumes.

However, Bridgerton does make one notable change in fashion by omitting hairpieces. While the hairstyles are otherwise accurate, women of the era almost always wore bonnets. Yet, the series uses hairstyles to indicate age and social status, such as the evolving styles of Eloise (Claudia Jessie) from Season 1 to Seasons 2 and 3. In a society focused on appearances, fashion plays a crucial role, and the show’s designers have largely adhered to historical authenticity while creating beautiful visuals.

The visual realism extends to the sets as well. The homes of the central families are adorned with art and ornate furniture, accurately depicting the opulence of upper-class households at the time. Dr. Rogers notes that showcasing wealth and social standing through home decor was vital. The use of pastels, particularly the Bridgerton blues, also reflects the period’s popular color palette. These details contribute to a consistent and immersive world that enhances the series’ believability.

One accurate depiction in Bridgerton is the social season’s events, particularly the coming-out balls. This tradition, central to the series, dates back to the Tudor period but was formalized by Queen Charlotte in 1780. Young ladies were presented at court by family members who had previously been presented, marking their introduction to society. This ceremony is pivotal in Bridgerton, as Queen Charlotte evaluates the debutantes and selects the season’s diamond. Its historical accuracy grounds the series, providing a basis for its social narrative.

However, the show’s portrayal of an anonymous scandal sheet, written by Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan) as Lady Whistledown, is exaggerated. While gossip was indeed prevalent, historical gossip columnists were more discreet to avoid libel laws, unlike Whistledown’s bold approach. This frankness enhances the drama but deviates from historical practices. “If you saw [gossip] in a real column … it would be done in a way that people would know who was talked about, but they wouldn’t directly say it, because it got them around libel laws,” Rogers explains. This significant change adds intrigue but maintains the essence of historical gossip.

Bridgerton Season 3’s first four episodes are now streaming on Netflix, with Part 2 set to premiere on June 13.