Dearest gentle readers, the novelization of «Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story» has finally arrived! The book adaptation of the Netflix miniseries, penned by Julia Quinn and Shonda Rhimes, gives readers a different perspective on the early days of Queen Charlotte, King George, Lady Agatha Danbury, and others around them. If you’re curious to find out what, exactly, goes on in this new book, we’ve got all the spoilers you need right here!
The Arrival of the Queen
The story starts off with a brief prologue in the present «Bridgerton» timeline, with the news that Princess Charlotte, the granddaughter of King George III and Queen Charlotte, has died in childbirth. Lady Whistledown informs us that this is not just a familial tragedy, but a royal crisis. The princess was the only legitimate heir to come from George and Charlotte’s 13 children, many of whom are still unmarried. Now, the Queen will have to matchmake for her own children, or risk the end of her family’s reign.
We then flashback 56 years earlier, to when young Charlotte, a German princess, is being escorted to England by her brother, Adolphus. She’s deeply unenthused about being married off to the young British king, George, who she has never met and can’t seem to learn anything about. Her arrival causes shockwaves among the royal household, including Princess Augusta, George’s mother, because no one realized that she was Black. To save face, Augusta comes up with a solution: inviting well-to-do families of color to the royal wedding and bestowing them with noble titles. This integration of the ton is dubbed the «Great Experiment» and is publicly said to be deliberate, not a last-minute deal.
The early chapters also introduce us to the three other characters whose perspectives dominate the novel. George, the king, has no issue with his bride-to-be’s skin color, but he is terrified of getting married due to his mental illness, which causes a whole array of symptoms that frighten him and everyone else. We also meet Brimsley, a newly-promoted servant who is assigned to the new Queen’s service, and Agatha Danbury, one of the newly-elevated Black ladies, who is married to a much older, terrible man.
Charlotte panics and decides to try to flee her own wedding. When she goes to the garden to try to climb over a wall, George finds her there, where she asks for his help before he reveals who he is. They wind up having a very sweet meet-cute, and despite their mutual misgivings, they go through with the marriage. Their hopeful beginning is cut short, however, when George brings Charlotte to a new palace and explains they will live apart.
A Complicated Marriage
Charlotte finds herself totally isolated and adrift in the early days of her marriage, and the king and queen’s servants, Reynolds and Brimsley, have to lie to Princess Augusta about how «well» the honeymoon is going. Meanwhile, George asks his doctor, Monro, about other treatment options. Monro has some ideas about how to cure him, and despite how brutal the methods are, George is willing to try anything to be cured. When Charlotte confides in Agatha, she’s shocked and horrified to learn that the marriage hasn’t even been consummated — it puts all of them, including Agatha’s family and peers, at risk of being sent right back where they came from. Agatha also finds herself in a push-and-pull with Princess Augusta, who wants information on the goings-on in the royal marriage.
George tries to make overtures towards Charlotte, even moving back into Buckingham House with her, and they finally consummate their marriage. The next morning, however, Charlotte overhears George fighting with his mother. She believes him to only be interested in her for duty’s sake, and she hears him allude to hiding things from her. They make an agreement in hopes of having an heir as quickly as possible, leading to a string of passionate but angry encounters. Through it all, Brimsley comes to suspect that Reynolds is hiding things from him, and their own growing feelings for each other have to be continually placed second to their duties to their King and Queen.
As Charlotte slowly begins to understand that she must do more, she tries to reach out to George, and they reach a temporary and tentative peace. They also attend the first ball of the season, held by the Danburys, as a show of support, and they lead the way to integrate the «new» and «old» families on the dance floor. Agatha’s triumph is muted by her husband’s insistence on «celebrating» afterwards, but when he collapses and dies, she admits to her maid that she’s free now. Meanwhile, George and Charlotte’s happiness is short-lived. Charlotte, along with Reynolds and Brimsley, finds George out in the gardens, having one of his episodes, and she finally begins to learn the truth of his condition.
Ladies Take the Lead
As the first widow among the new members of the ton, Agatha is pressured to find out what will become of her family’s title and fortune. She learns that the question of the title is unsettled, and that her husband spent beyond his means to live up to his new title, so she attempts to get Princess Augusta to acknowledge her son as the new Lord Danbury. Meanwhile, Charlotte — now pregnant — is fed up with being lied to and isolated, so she writes to her brother in hopes of fleeing England. When he fails to help her, she instead runs to Lady Danbury’s house, with only Brimsley knowing her whereabouts.
Agatha admits that she has not been a good friend to Charlotte, and Charlotte confides in Agatha about what’s been happening in her own marriage. Ultimately, she agrees to go back to the palace when Brimsley and Adolphus come for her. Instead of returning to isolation, though, she shows up at Kew, the King’s palace, and forces her way to see George. Upon discovering the horrible state he’s been put in to «cure» him, she brings him home instead. Although he tries to say that he should stay away for her good, she insists that their love can conquer anything. For a time, it seems like George is doing better, and Charlotte gives birth to a healthy son, with Agatha and George at her side. Adolphus plans on returning to Germany, but he asks Agatha to come back with him and marry him.
To quiet rumors about his health, George plans to give a speech to Parliament, but he collapses in the carriage on the way there. Charlotte again promises to help him, and she suggests hosting a ball so that Parliament can come to them, instead. When Agatha refuses to answer Augusta’s questions — then bursts into tears over the stress of it all — Augusta shows her some respect and offers a little advice. Ultimately, Agatha turns down Adolphus’s proposal and decides to stay in England, single, and find out who she is without anyone else’s shadow. The royal ball goes well, with Charlotte supporting George and earning Augusta’s respect in the process. The royal couple spot Reynolds and Brimsley dancing in private, and Charlotte tells George she is pregnant again.
In the epilogue, Charlotte again travels from Buckingham House to Kew. She finds George and manages to bring him back to himself by calling him by name and getting underneath the bed. When he joins her, she tells him the news: their son and daughter-in-law are expecting a child, and their line will continue. They share a sweet moment together, thinking back on how their story first began.