What year is ‘Bridgerton’ set in?
Netflix’s Bridgerton has cultivated a large fan base far beyond that of the usual period-piece viewership. The show’s success — which was Netflix’s biggest show to date before Squid Game — comes in large part to its executive producer, Shonda Rhimes, who has been known to turn anything she touches to gold (e.g. Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder). But that wasn’t the only aspect of the Regency-period romance that ensnared viewers.
When the show’s first season aired in 2020, the viewing public was vocal about noticing one major distinction from period pieces normally found on television. The main characters were, in large part, not predominately white. The show is still a period piece, of course, so that begs the question — what year is Bridgerton set in?
Bridgerton is set in the Regency era of 1813
The show follows the lives of the well-to-do Bridgerton siblings, all eight of which are named alphabetically — Anthony, Benedict, Colin, Daphne, Eloise, Francesca, Gregory, and Hyacinth — in their search for love and honor.
Regé-Jean Page, who played the drooled-over Duke of Hastings in the first season (and unfortunately isn’t returning for the second season), said in an interview with The Guardian, “You realise that these characters are dealing with very 21st-century problems in the show; people have always had the same desires and needs, no matter whether it’s 200 years ago or now.”
Period piece, but make it Shondaland
This universality Page speaks of also includes Shonda Rhimes’s decision to color blind cast, something she’s famously done in her previous shows, dating all the way back to Grey’s Anatomy when she cast an Asian woman as the lead (Sandra Oh as Cristina Yang) and several other people of color as well.
But color blind casting is not what Page would call it, and Rhimes herself has not spoken out about the universality of her casting in Bridgerton. Still, it’s a noticeable difference from what we’ve come to see in history books and in past shows. In the same interview with The Guardian, Page says “This show is a glamorous, ambitious Cinderella fantasy of love and romance — I don’t know why you wouldn’t invite everyone to come and play in it, especially since we’re serving a global audience on Netflix.”
And invite everyone they did. While Bridgerton takes a lot of creative license on the past, one character, in particular, was borrowed from real life — Queen Charolette. In the show, the queen is played by the well-respected theatre actress (Golda Rosheuvel, pictured below), and history buffs were keen to pick up on that particular decision, as the real-life monarch was believed to have Black ancestry herself and very well could have been the very first Black British monarch.
Despite the queen not being originally written into the books, the character has become so beloved that she, along with Lady Danbury and Violet Bridgerton, will be getting a spin-off show of their own, according to The Hollywood Reporter. It’s another opportunity for television to open the door for a new kind of period piece, one in which the white gaze isn’t necessarily the predominant one, which is especially uncommon for a show that takes place in the early 1800s.
As Page said in his interview with The Guardian, “It takes so little imagination to include people, as opposed to how much thought and effort it takes to keep people out of these stories.” Shonda Rhimes and showrunner Chris Van Dusen had no intention of keeping people out of this 1813 period drama.
Season two of Bridgerton is currently available to stream on Netflix.