Inside Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story - Julia Quinn

Inside Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story

  • In January 2022 Shonda Rhimes called me with the news that Netflix had greenlit a Bridgerton prequel series about Queen Charlotte. A couple of months later, at the Bridgerton Season 2 premiere (literally backstage at the red carpet!) I suggested to Shonda that I write a novel based on the show. It turns out she had been thinking the same thing, and that was the beginning of Queen Charlotte, the novel.

  • The collaboration process was one of taking turns. Shonda wrote six scripts and then gave them to me to craft into a novel. I did a bit of research on how to adapt scripts into a novel, and found absolutely nothing. It turns out there haven’t been too many novelizations of television shows or movies–at least not the way Shonda and I envisioned it. We wanted Queen Charlotte, the novel, to read like a fully-formed novel, like something that could stand on its own even if you didn’t watch the show. I realized that I was going to have to figure out the process on my own. I remember turning to my husband and saying, “Well, people might say I did it badly, but no one can say I did it wrong.” In the end, I had to break down the architecture of a screenplay and then rebuild it as a novel. I honestly don’t know how else to describe it. It was a fascinating process, and one I enjoyed immensely.
  • The biggest change between the show and the book was the elimination of the later storyline, with the characters we know and love from Netflix’s Bridgerton. I simply didn’t see how jumping back and forth —which works so well in a television format— was going to work for a novel, especially since I wanted the book to have as much of a romance novel feel as I could. It was never going to be a true romance novel; the ending is far too bittersweet to be a classic HEA. But I wanted Charlotte and George’s courtship to read like a romance novel. I wanted readers to have all the same heady feelings we get when we watch a couple fall in love. This would be difficult to achieve, however, if we kept moving back into the later timeline, when George is so diminished.

  • I’ve never been a visual writer, and thus I don’t usually have a clear (or even a fuzzy) picture of my character’s faces when I write my novels. While writing Queen Charlotte, however, I visited the set, met the actors, and then later watched early cuts of the show. It was an entirely new experience for me to be able to see (and hear!) the characters so clearly as I was writing the novel. I loved being able to incorporate bits and pieces of the actors’ performances. For example, Corey Mylchreest bites his lip when he (George) is amused. So when Charlotte is realizing the depth of her affections for George she thinks: “She looked up at him, at his beloved face, those dark brows, and the full lower lip he liked to bite when he was amused.”
    Freddie Dennis as Reynolds in Queen Charlotte. Photo: Netflix

    I had a similar experience after meeting Freddie Dennis, who plays Reynolds. From the scripts, I knew that Reynolds was tall, handsome and self-composed, but I had not realized how regal Freddie played him. Reynolds may be a servant, but he has an almost aristocratic demeanor, and this became a big part of his characterization in the novel.

Click on the image to see JQ’s Today Show segment, including a peek at the reversible book cover for Queen Charlotte!
  • Shonda and I (and our publisher) know that some readers don’t like tie-in covers featuring actors, so the original idea was to release the Queen Charlotte hardback edition with two different covers — one with India Amarteifio and Corey Mylchreest as Charlotte and George, and another that looked more like a “regular” book. But when HC’s marketing director suggested that we go with a reversible cover, we knew we had our answer — everybody would get BOTH covers. I think it turned out amazing, don’t you?
    Find out more about the reversible cover→

*please note: the trade paperback edition comes with tie-in cover only.

Portrait of Queen Charlotte by Allan Ramsay, 1761. Public Domain
  • The real Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz did not speak a word of English when she arrived in London. She and George were able to communicate using a combination of German and French. (I tend to think it was mostly German; although George was the first British monarch from the house of Hanover to speak English as his mother tongue, his parents’ first language was German, and he was undoubtedly fluent.) The Netflix show does not delve into Charlotte’s language barrier, and in truth, the novel doesn’t, either, but I thought it would be fun to at least acknowledge Charlotte’s mother tongue, especially since I adore long German words. So Charlotte frequently expresses frustration that she can’t simply mash up words and make new ones, as it seems the Germans often do. In one of my favorite moments, George reminds her that she is Queen and can do whatever she wishes.
  • King George was indeed an avid scholar of science, and many of his scientific instruments can be seen at The Science Museum in London. I visited the museum in July 2022 to see them for myself and highly recommend a visit if you’re in the UK.The Transit of Venusis a very real astronomical phenomenon. It occurs when the planet Venus travels directly between the sun and the Earth and can be seen from Earth as a small black dot traveling across the sun. Transits of Venus occur in a “pair of pairs” pattern, occurring approximately every 243 years. First two transits take place in December, eight years apart. Then, after 121.5 years, we get two June transits, again 8 years apart. After 105.5 years, the pattern repeats. Thus the most recent transits have occurred: December 8, 1874, December 6, 1882, June 8, 2004, June 5-6, 2012. Then next two transits will be: December 10-11, 2117, December 8, 2125. George was indeed fortunate to be alive for two transits!
Images of the 2012 transit of Venus, as taken from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. On the left: False-color ultraviolet
  • We don’t know —and likely will never know— the cause of George’s mental illness. It may have been a psychiatric disease, or it could have been a brain tumor that affected his faculties. It has also been suggested that he suffered from porphyria, which is a liver disorder that can present with psychiatric symptoms. Indeed, the 1994 film The Madness of King George, presents porphyria as the cause of George’s dementia.The historical record suggests that he did not start showing signs of decline until his late 40s or early 50s; it’s unlikely that he would have had an episode such as the one depicted in Queen Charlotte so early in his marriage. We have very much taken poetic license with this. What is real, though, is the King and Queen’s true love and devotion to one another. This is well-documented and is considered one of the greatest love stories of the British Royal Family.

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