The second season of the hit Netflix show, Bridgerton, is back. With its complicated love stories, family drama and tons of Regency-era gossip (thanks to our favourite, Lady Whistledown) it’s the perfect alternate reality to dive into. This is especially true for avid fans of period pieces. However, some viewers may be unaware that Shonda Rhimes TV creation is based on the original Bridgerton book series by Julia Quinn. While the TV adaptation stays true to the essentials of the books, here are some notable differences between the Bridgerton books and the show:
The racial identities of some major characters
The Bridgerton books accurately mirror the white-dominated reality of the historical period. Specifically the lack of racial diversity in the British Regency era. However, Netflix’s TV adaptation of the series features several characters of colour. This includes high-status, upper-class societal positions – a key difference from the prejudice that existed back then.
Season One’s protagonist Simon Bassett, the Duke of Hastings is portrayed by actor Regé-Jean Page. He was a firm favourite of Bridgerton’s audience (arguably for his striking looks). However, he is a prime example of this difference. The emphasis on his ‘icy blue eyes’ in the books implies that the original character was white. Page himself told Entertainment Weekly that “with colour-conscious casting, I get to exist as a Black person in the world.” He spoke about simply being able to focus on Black joy and relationships, due to these casting choices.
Likewise, Lady Danbury (Adjoa Andoh), the Duke’s mentor also shows an alternative casting choice to the books.
The decisions made by the production team suggest an intention to ensure a ‘colour-blind’ society within Bridgerton. However, series creator Chris Van Dusen has said to TheWrap that this should not mean that race and colour were never considered. In fact, the show has received praise and admiration from many viewers who are happy to see some rare South-Asian representation in Season Two. Of course, we’re talking about newly characters, sisters Kate (Simone Ashley) and Edwina Sharma (Charithra Chandran).
Viewers of the show will also be familiar with Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuval), wife of King George III. She was historically real but an addition to the books, made by the screenwriters. Her inclusion is said to be inspired by speculation about the real Queen Charlotte’s racial identity. There is evidence to suggest that with some African ancestry. In fact, she may have been Britain’s first mixed-race monarch. As a result, there may actually be an element of historical accuracy in the character’s portrayal by Rosheuval, a Guyanese-British actress.
A few newly-added characters
As well as the beloved Queen Charlotte, the Bridgerton TV series sees the creation of several new characters with their own plotlines. However, they did not exist in the Bridgerton books.
One is the recurring character of modiste Madame Genevieve Delacroix (Kathryn Drysdale), the ton’s resident dressmaker. In fact, becomes entangled in the scandalous Lady Whistledown drama in Season Two.
Similarly, Simon’s boxer friend, Will Mondrich, (Martins Imhangbe), who we meet again in Season Two, was not originally written in the books by Julia Quinn. We’re grateful he was, though. Otherwise, we’d have never been able to enjoy those scenes of angry, shirtless Simon boxing his troubles away.
Daphne’s debut into high society
At the beginning of Season One, we meet the main character Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor.) She is the eldest daughter of the Bridgerton family, and is introduced to the social scene of London for the first time. We then watch as she is soon named the diamond of the season by Queen Charlotte. Truly the talk of the town!
This differs from the Bridgerton books as well, since the first novel, The Duke and I (2000.) This shows Daphne instead entering her second season, having been unable to secure a match previously. Sorry, Daphne…
An adaptation of certain couples
Director Shonda Rhimes strays from the original Bridgerton books by making amendments to some of the couples and related storylines that author Julia Quinn wrote about.
Particularly, the novels do not show the relationship between Lord and Lady Featherington in the same way that the show does. Rather, Quinn introduces Lady Featherington as a widow from the start.
In fact, actor Ben Miller, however, portrays Lord Featherington in the show. He features on-screen several times during Season One before ultimately dying in the season finale. This strategically leaves the audience with important questions for the next season – i.e. who will inherit the Featherington estate?
Many viewers of Season Two found themselves rooting for the budding romantic relationship between Eloise Bridgerton (Claudia Jessie) and the working class printer’s assistant Theo Sharpe (Calam Lynch). However, according to the novels, Eloise is actually meant to find love with Philip Crane after the death of his wife, Marina – who, by the way, is never related to the Featheringtons in the books.
That questionable bedroom scene
Following the release of its first season in 2020, the Bridgerton show faced some criticism and controversy surrounding a particular scene in Episode Six: ‘Swish’. Daphne, after learning the truth about how children are conceived, realises that her husband Simon has been deliberately preventing pregnancy. This leads her to very controversially force him not to withdraw the next time they have sex.
The plotline in the book is different, yet much more disturbing. Instead, it involves a huge fight between the couple. This leads to Simon threatening his wife with sexual assault when she vows to abstain from sleeping with him again. He reminds her that he ‘owns her’ and later on, when he is drunk and half-asleep, is when she takes advantage of him in that way.
The exposing of Lady Whistledown (don’t worry, no spoilers here)
We won’t reveal the true identity of the infamous Lady Whistledown here, so don’t stop reading.
Netflix viewers find out in the Season One finale who the anonymous gossip writer actually is, allowing us to follow closely along as she continues to cause chaos in the next season.
Yet although the real Lady Whistledown is the same as in the books, an important difference is that in the novels, she isn’t unmasked until the fourth book, Romancing Mr Bridgerton (2002). Readers of Quinn’s masterpiece, unfortunately, have to wait much longer to finally find the answer to their biggest question about the series.
So, now you know the key differences between the Bridgerton books and the TV series. That must mean it’s time to curl up on the sofa with a copy of The Duke and I. Plus, if you’re after a little bit more Bridgerton-related content, take a look at our rundown of the degrees that we think the Bridgerton characters would take IRL.