The author behind the books that inspired Netflix's upcoming drama Bridgerton is defending the network's decision to cast Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz as Black.
In a new interview with The Times, American author Julia Quinn voiced her support for Netflix and their "color-conscious" casting of King George III's wife, as "many historians" believe she was a person of African descent.
"Many historians believe she had some African background. It's a highly debated point and we can't DNA test her so I don't think there'll ever be a definitive answer," Quinn said.
She then added that Netflix "very deliberately" cast Golda Rosheuvel as Queen Charlotte, as well as several other Black actors in the show.
"It was very much a conscious choice, not a blind choice," Quinn said.
Queen Charlotte was married to King George III and was queen for nearly 60 years until she died in 1818 at the age of 74. She’s the grandmother of Queen Victoria, the great-great-great-great-grandmother of the current Queen Elizabeth and the namesake for the American city of Charlotte, North Carolina. She also shares the name of Prince William and Kate Middleton's daughter, Princess Charlotte, 5.
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Though she was born in Germany, the daughter of a Duke, Queen Charlotte was directly descended from Margarita de Castro y Sousa, which was the Black branch of the Portuguese Royal House. As Quinn mentioned, Charlotte’s racial background hasn't been entirely confirmed, but many art historians who studied portraits of the royal more closely have found that some show her depicted with traditional African features.
According to these art historians, one painter, in particular, Sir Allan Ramsay, painted several portraits of Charlotte in this way. This was a surprising discovery as in this era artists were typically encouraged to downplay features deemed "undesirable"— which, during that time’s largely prejudiced society, often included those that were considered more traditionally African, according to The Guardian.
But Ramsay was known to be staunchly against slavery and painted several portraits of Charlotte that didn’t hide her features. He was also married to the niece of Lord Mansfield, a judge who ruled in the first case that eventually led to the end of slavery in the British Empire.
Charlotte's racial background wasn’t known to the public when she served as queen. It was only discovered many years after her death.
Last month, Netflix released its first look at the upcoming period drama, giving a glimpse at what promises to be a scandalous telling of romance and rumor among the competitive world of Regency London high society.
Directed by Shonda Rhimes, Netflix says that "Bridgerton follows Daphne Bridgerton (Dynevor, 25), the eldest daughter of the powerful Bridgerton family as she makes her debut onto Regency London's competitive marriage market. Hoping to follow in her parents' footsteps and find a match sparked by true love, Daphne's prospects initially seem to be unrivaled."
"But as her older brother begins to rule out her potential suitors, the high society scandal sheet written by the mysterious Lady Whistledown casts aspersions on Daphne," the description continues. "Enter the highly desirable and rebellious Duke of Hastings (Page), committed bachelor and the catch of the season for the debutantes' mamas. Despite proclaiming that they want nothing the other has to offer, their attraction is undeniable and sparks fly as they find themselves engaged in an increasing battle of wits while navigating society's expectations for their future."
Bridgerton premieres Dec. 25 globally on Netflix.
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