I watched several episodes of “Bridgerton” last week and with all the bruhaha about the British Royal family, the timing couldn’t have been better. For those who may not be familiar, “Bridgerton” is an opulent romance series released by Netflix on Christmas 2020 and set in Regency era Britain. The plotline, as with all romances, is all about arranged marriages and finding true love. But unlike the original Bridgerton novel series, this world of kings and queens, dukes and duchesses dressed in resplendent finery is interracial. The handsome young men and women who attend the various grand balls, all in pursuit of the perfect match to enhance their standing in society, have skin tones that range from dark brown to pale beige. And it is a beautiful sight to behold on the screen, as the string orchestra begins to play and the various characters dance a cotillion, their eyes longingly fixed on one another, until it’s time for a partner change.
The alternate realty of a multi-racial world of upper class Brits in 1813 is inspiring. I’d love it if they’d thought to also include Eastern Asians, Native Americans, as well as Ashkenazi and Sephardic peoples, but perhaps I am stretching too far. The inspiration for the interracial casting was Queen Charlotte of Meklenburg- Strelitz, wife of King George III, mother of fifteen children including George IV, who became Regent in 1811 due to his father’s mental illness ( thus the term Regency era). Queen Charlotte, who hailed from a small north German Duchy, is thought by some historians to be bi-racial based on a genealogical connection to Margarita de Castro y Sousa black member of the Portuguese royal family. Whether this is true or false, it provides a launching point for the alternate reality of the Netflix Bridgerton and an interracial society propelled by love. As Lady Danbury explains to Simon, Duke of Hastings, “ Look at our queen. Look at our king. Look at their marriage. Look at everything it is doing for us, allowing us to become…We were two separate societies, divided by color, until a king fell in love with one of us. Love, your Grace… conquers all.”
George’s love for Charlotte in the created Netflix Bridgerton has broken color boundaries. The result in this alternate universe is that people of black ancestry have become accepted into the ranks of the nobility. It’s a beautiful world. Pure escapism, complete with grand country houses and castles. This is, however, an imperfect world with petty jealousy, selfishness, greed, slums and workhouses. Regardless of the interracial nobility, it is still a traditional class society. Perhaps if they come back for a second season they can take on social inequity, but in Season I the focus is on appearance.
Meanwhile in a Twenty-first century world wracked by a pandemic, the grandson of the British Monarch Queen Elizabeth II, former Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle were interviewed by Oprah Winfrey on March 7, 2021. The program, filmed in Southern California where the couple and their young son are living, had a record 17 million viewers. Meghan Markle is bi-racial. At the time of their marriage in 2018, the entire globe was hailing the union as a symbolic sign of the ultimate crumbling of race barriers. The former British empire is composed of many black and brown citizens. Colonialist practices thrived on the concept of White Caucasian superiority. Many pundits saw the marriage as an opportunity for the British Royal family to redefine their image in a meaningful way by more closely resembling the population of the Commonwealth.
One topic of discussion explored in the interview was how Meghan and Harry felt about the British Royal family’s attitude towards race. And how they felt, in brief, based on what they heard and observed, were that some members of the British Royal family are racists.
Immediately the British Family got defensive. They didn’t feel this was true. The official response included the sentences: “The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning. While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately.”
The official response also includes the sentence, “Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved family members.” Much loved. That takes me back to the Bridgerton quote “Love Your Grace conquers all.” If only whoever made the callous remark about what color they might expect baby Archie’s skin to be could have watched, “Bridgerton.” But Archie was born in May 2019 before the series was released. Well another baby is on the way. Another opportunity to make amends? Only time will tell.
As it is, Harry and Meghan have purchased a house in the USA and will be creatively working on developing feature films, programming and documentaries for none other than Netflix. A fairytale ending? Maybe. The formal Royal titles and duties may have been dropped and re-assigned, but in many people’s eyes they are still Prince and Princess.