The same extravagant costumes, scandalous Regency gossip, and steamy romance recently returned to our living rooms for season two of Netflix’s hit period drama Bridgerton. Like last season, the latest installment of the show is full of historical Easter eggs that detail the realities of 19th-century life in England’s high society.
While many Bridgerton characters are solely fictional, Queen Charlotte (played by Golda Rosheuvel) is one of the few true-to-life characters featured this season. As one of the most commanding presences on the show, Bridgerton‘s rendition of Queen Charlotte is surprisingly accurate.
The Real Queen Charlotte
Born on May 19, 1744, Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz was the daughter of Duke Charles Louis Frederick of Mecklenburg, Prince of Mirow, and his wife Princess Elisabeth.
In 1761, the 17-year-old Princess Charlotte married King George III and became Queen of Great Britain and Ireland, even though the German princess spoke no English when she arrived in Britain. Throughout her life, Queen Charlotte would celebrate her German heritage by supporting German musicians and artists, and even introducing the Christmas Tree to England in 1800.
Like many marriages at this time, George and Charlotte’s partnership was purely strategic. As a princess from a small German family with little inheritance or political affiliation, King George III saw Charlotte as a suitable consort. After they were married, 22-year-old King George III supposedly told his new wife “not to meddle” in British politics – which she gladly agreed to.
With little political work to do, Queen Charlotte was free to participate in high society, pursue her love of botany, and design new homes and gardens around Buckingham Palace. The Queen’s love of nature is featured in one of the stranger scenes from Season Two of Bridgerton: her collection of zebras!
“The Queen’s Ass”
In the episode “Off to The Races,” Queen Charlotte introduces Lady Danbury and sisters Kate and Edwina Sharma to her “striped horses from Africa” while visiting the palace. The Queen jokingly says that after having 15 children, she “can’t think what to name” all the zebras.
In reality, only one of Queen Charlotte’s zebras would make history – and its name says it all.
In 1762, Queen Charlotte was gifted a female zebra which was brought from South Africa by Sir Thomas Adams. She was placed in the Queen’s royal menagerie which was home to a growing collection of exotic animals. But none of these rare animals was as loved by the public as the black and white striped “Queen’s ass.”
One onlooker later wrote that the “Queen’s she-ass was pestered with visits, and had all her hours employed from morning to night in satisfying the curiosity of the public.” Supposedly, citizens loved to use nicknames as an innuendo referring to the queen herself rather than her pet zebra.
Featuring the zebras in Bridgerton, this season highlights the over-the-top tastes of Queen Charlotte, who is represented fairly accurately in the show. Notably, Bridgerton writers paid tribute to an ongoing theory about the racial identity of the Queen.
Bridgerton‘s Queen Charlotte
Some researchers believe Queen Charlotte was descended from a branch of the Portuguese royal family that came from a 13th-century ruler and his lover who some historians think was a Moor. Bridgerton’s approach to representing multiple racial identities, including Queen Charlotte’s, reimagines the Regency period in a more inclusive, modern way.
More from us: 7 Major Historical Mistakes ‘The Crown’ Made
The smash-hit show was recently renewed by Netflix for a third and fourth season, and we can’t wait to find even more historical hints to unravel!