The saucy high-society shenanigans of Bridgerton have taken the internet by storm since Netflix unleashed it on unsuspecting viewers on Christmas Day. The gorgeous Regency-set period drama is a fluffy, filthy, and fun exploration of the 1813 London time period and the love lives of those taking part in the notorious social season and so-called marriage market. While the show is never posed as a real representation of the period there are some parts of the series that are actually surprisingly accurate.
Most of that can be attributed to two women: Julia Quinn — who wrote the books the show is adapted from — researched the Regency era while she was authoring the sprawling series. Then there's the Historical Consultant, Hannah Greig (The Great), who the creative team behind Bridgerton enlisted to help them create their unique yet historically considerate vision for the bygone era. So from real life royalty to the intricacies of Regency lingerie, here are seven parts of Regency London that Bridgerton got right.
Queen Charlotte Was a Real Person
While the inclusive casting of Bridgerton might seem to be one of the more obvious things that the showrunners changed, Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) is based on a real life monarch who has long been thought to be Black. Like her husband King George III (who also features in the series and just like the show did suffer from deteriorating mental health in his older years), she was German. But historian Mario de Valdes y Cocom has suggested she's "directly descended from Margarita de Castro y Sousa, a Black branch of the Portuguese Royal House."
Showrunner Chris Van Dusen even told Collider that the question around Queen Charlotte's race inspired the more inclusive "colour conscious" casting of the series. "It's something that really resonated with me, because it made me wonder what could that have really looked like. And what would have happened? What could she have done? Could the Queen have elevated other people of colour in society and granted them titles and lands and dukedoms?"
There are a few other things about the real life Charlotte that Bridgerton drew from too. The Queen was an eager and powerful participant in the London social scene. Her marriage to King George was defined by love and passion until his illness drove them apart. And another interesting tidbit that the series chose to touch on was the Queen's addiction to tobacco snuff.
19th Century Gossip Was Powerful Currency
Lady Whistledown (voiced by Julie Andrews) might seem like a cheeky period Gossip Girl riff, but in reality scandal sheets actually have a long and lurid history.
For example, in 1780 there was a Whistledown-esque publication with the snappy title of Characters of the Present Most Celebrated Courtesans Exposed, With a Variety of Secret Anecdotes Never Before Published. Other titles included The History of Betty Bolaine, the Canterbury Miser, which exposed the lives of specific women for the enjoyment of working class readers. But the upper echelons — like the Bridgerton family — would have been more interested in papers like Town and Country where "the yearslong affair between the married Mrs. L-fle and the dashing Lord H-n was chronicled in minute detail." So, yes, London in the 1700s and 1800s really did have their very own versions of People and Us.
Great Gowns, Beautiful Gowns
Let's be real. One of the greatest joys of period dramas are the costumes and in that area Bridgerton doesn't disappoint. The corseted waists and wildly structured bosoms aren't just aesthetically pleasing, though. They're also historically accurate. In Refinery29's interview with Bridgerton costume designer Ellen Mirojnick, she described how the show's extreme pushup look was entirely purposeful and historically accurate. "Their bosoms were to appear as though they were blossoming. It's almost like the blossoms of your cheeks — rouged and desirable,” she says of the early 1800s. "The dresses are adorned so that women look beautiful [and catch the eye of a potential husband], but the focus is always on the bosom."
In a show of dedication to historical accuracy, Mirojnick even created crotchless bloomers for the ladies of the Ton to wear under their dresses, despite the fact they were never seen on screen.
Rules For A Woman's Reputation
There are plenty of examples of archaic society rules in Bridgerton, but perhaps none so ridiculous as this. In Regency era England, a woman's reputation could be utterly destroyed simply by being seen alone with a man she didn't know.
Though in the series Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor) and Simon (Rege Jean Page) get caught making out — which leads to their forced betrothal — even walking alone in a public place without a chaperone would see women become used goods in the eyes of London society at the time. There were apparently two exceptions to this rule: if a woman was simply on a walk around her local area, she may be excused, though that action would still spark the rumour mill. Or, if she were on her way to church, she could be excused because of course godly women were good women.
Daphne's Lack of Sexual Education
Much of Bridgerton's conflict — and controversy — revolves around the fact that Daphne doesn't know anything about sex and the Duke doesn't want to have children. Together, this is a potent mix that leads to plenty of drama. But is it realistic that Daphne wouldn't have even known what sex was? Well, yes. While their lives were dedicated to finding a husband and having children, young women in high society were often left in the dark about the realities of what marital life entailed lest they be thought to be of loose morals, historian Amanda Vickery explained to the LA Times. "Doubtless her mother would have tutored her on the importance of submitting to her husband and producing an heir and a spare. But she would still be expected to be an innocent virgin on her wedding night. Any knowledge she might have had would be carefully concealed."
The Real Art Of The Swoon
While the third episode of Bridgerton, "The Art of the Swoon," is more focused on Daphne's burgeoning sexuality than actual swooning, we do get an example of the real life fainting trend when Cressida Cowper (Jessica Madsen) swoons in front of the German Prince in order for him to catch her. How ladylike! While Cressida might have been little more than a reason for Daphne to end up with the Duke, in real life, swooning has long been a real phenomenon dating back to Victorian times.
The swoon — which, in case you missed it, means the act of dramatically fainting — has at times been thought to be nothing more than a strange fad, but in recent years scientists have connected it to the restrictive corseting that women used to wear, lack of food, or even arsenic poisoning. Historically, though, swooning has a long history dating back to biblical art.
In the real Regency-era London, women who fainted would often be woken with smelling salts and taken to a "fainting couch," special treatment that could potentially inspire other women to swoon. It also helped that in society it was beneficial to women to appear weak and helpless, which made swooning a perfect physical representation of just that.
The 19th Century Marriage Market
Bridgerton takes place during an interesting moment in history, especially for young women and matchmaking. The social season and marriage market were real; women were presented to the Queen and judged. They really did debut at balls in order to find suitable husbands. And potential matches would call on women at your home — while they were chaperoned, of course — and bring gifts in order to induce a courtship.
But something that Bridgerton touches on is that, during the early 1800s, things began to change. The idea of being married for love rather than to change one's circumstances was becoming more popular. It's a thread that's reflected in Daphne's wish to find a love match, even as she is taking part in societal traditions like debutante balls, promenading (a.k.a. walking in public to showcase a match and be seen by high society), and being courted by men she doesn't know.
There's a lot that this show gets spot on — it just happens in between all the bodice ripping sex scenes set to dreamy Taylor Swift covers.