There’s a new Bridgerton spinoff coming and it’s a prequel and origin story – or ‘oriquel’, if you will. It’s the story of Queen Charlotte’s younger years, it’s written and produced by Shondaland big cheese and Bridgerton creator, Shonda Rhimes, and has just gone into production.
Queen Charlotte – or Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, to give her full name – is played by Golda Rosheuvel in Bridgerton. The actress will reprise the role as the older Charlotte in Netflix’s so-far untitled spinoff, but Charlotte’s origins as a young monarch-in-the-making will be charted by 21-year-old India Amarteifio (Sex Education)
‘Betrothed to the mysterious King of England against her will, Charlotte arrives in London only to realise she was not exactly what the royals were expecting,’ runs the limited series’s official synopsis. ‘As she learns to navigate the palace, the ‘ton and her unpredictable husband, she grows into one of Europe’s most unforgettable monarchs.’
That mysterious king is the future George III, played in his young, pre-The Madness of King George form by Corey Mylchreest. But as you may have gathered, Queen Charlotte was emphatically not a woman to be defined by the men in her life – she had her own thing going on, and it was fascinating. Here’s five things about her that will have us glued to the series when it lands in Netflix.
1. She was (probably) Britain’s first Black royal
Bridgerton’s colour-blind casting depicts a gloriously diverse picture of 18th century English royalty and society. While the reality was predominantly Caucasian, there’s a school of thought that suggests Charlotte had African ancestry. She was German by birth, but diaspora historian Mario De Valdes y Cocom has linked her to a 15th-century Portuguese noblewoman with North African roots. He also cites portraits of her from the time that accentuate her ‘African features’. The question remains fiercely debated, though, with other historians refuting the claims.
2. She had a very short engagement
There’s whirlwind romances, and then there’s Charlotte’s marriage to George which took place six hours after she met him. She was a 17-year-old newly arrived in London after a stormy sea voyage from Germany; he was 22 and looked dashing in blue silk pantaloons. The tragic final days of their relationship are covered in The Madness of King George, where Helen Mirren played Charlotte and Nigel Hawthorne was the George. Before that, though, the couple had a happy and devoted marriage, and had 15 children together.
3. She got into Mozart early
As befits a precocious genius, Mozart’s first European tour came as an eight-year-old. This being 1764, he was summoned to the royal court for a private gig that took in the latest bangers from Handle and JS Bach – and paired him up for an aria with Queen Charlotte in which he accompanied her as she sang. A year later, Mozart composed six sonatas that were dedicated to Charlotte. She rewarded him with the very pre-Spotify sum of 50 guineas for his troubles.
4. She had a major snuff habit
Charlotte didn’t acquire the nickname ‘Snuffy Charlotte’ for nothing. Her dedication to inhaling ground tobacco saw her acquire nearly 100 snuff boxes by the time of her death, and she had a particular fondness for a blend called Violet Strasbourg (ingredients: bitter almonds, ambergris and attarju), also beloved of George Washington’s wife, Martha.
5. She was a big dog person
Corgis weren’t always the royal pooch. In the days long before quarantine, Charlotte arrived in England with her two beloved Pomeranians – Phoebe and Mercury – in tow. As Bridgerton depicts, her love of Poms didn’t wane: she’d give the dogs to members of the royal family, bred them, and even passed her dedication to the breed down to her granddaughter, Queen Victoria, another Pomeranian devotee.