Deepa Pawar, in her brilliant essay for the BehanBox that narrates Dalit women’s lived experiences in intercaste romantic relationships, makes an observation: Love is a radically political tool of rebellion. Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story, released in May 2023, establishes the same narrative. Packaged as the love story of a younger Queen Charlotte and King George III, the show which continues to garner rave reviews, was so much more than just that. It shows the act of loving as a deeply political act, powerful enough to change the winds as we know.
To quote Pawar is relevant here in how she rightfully observes Dr BR Ambedkar’s solution to dismantling the caste system was intercaste marriage unions. We see in the show that Queen Charlotte and King George’s wedding is a result of a similar ‘Great Experiment’, as their marriage is repeatedly referred to as. Bridgerton season one’s hurried proclamation of how racism ended when King George fell in love with Queen Charlotte (a person of colour) wasn’t received well by many and rightfully so. But in Queen Charlotte, Shonda Rhimes lingers on the issues of racism a lot more to create meaningful narratives around it.
It shows the act of loving as a deeply political act, powerful enough to change the winds as we know.
But that is not the only portrayal of love as a political rebellion that the show talks about. What pop culture easily keeps aside to painfully describe, such as same-sex love or the elderly exploring companionship or sexual intimacy, the show approaches with a certain light-heartedness and candour.
When Brimsley and Reynolds, the royal secretaries, dance together, our heart fills with joy just as much when we see the Queen and the King dance with each other. The scenes that show Queen Charlotte being an core support system for King George as he battled bipolar disorder (which remained undiagnosed back then) really emphasise on the radical nature of the Queen’s love for the King and her full acceptance of his mental health conditions.
Love is a radically political tool of rebellion. – Deepa Pawar
A younger Lady Agatha Danbury, who had never known love in intimacy, is seen reclaiming her sexual agency as a widow. This, again, makes for an important commentary–a younger Lady Danbury, if anything, was joyful to know that her husband had passed on, because that meant she did not have to perform the duty of sex as his wife. So she goes on to explore intimacy filled with passion and not something that includes her head violently hitting the headboard of the bed. Also important to add here is the emphasis the show lays on Agatha’s lived experiences as a Black woman and resultant dual forms of oppression she faces.
Meanwhile, an older Lady Danbury is seen reassuring Violet Bridgerton that ‘her garden beginning to bloom’ is nothing for her to be ashamed of. Closer home, we saw the movie Badhai Ho (2018) approaching the topic of elderly people being sexually active but by using the instrument of pregnancy to legitimize it. Here, Lady Bridgerton just wants to be touched and nothing more and the show attempts to normalize this very aspect.
…the emphasis the show lays on Agatha’s lived experiences as a Black woman and resultant dual forms of oppression she faces.
bell hooks had once said that “The practice of love is the most powerful antidote to the politics of domination.” The narrative threads in Queen Charlotte are tied together by the political potential of the characters’ personal assertions of love and intimacy. Love makes difficult battles slightly less difficult to waddle through and that’s a reassuring takeaway from the show.