Follow in the Royal Footsteps of the real life Queen Charlotte
Netflix’s Queen Charlotte is the backstory of the wife of King George III as we’ve come to know her on Bridgerton, beginning when the young princess arrived in Britain to marry the monarch. Showrunner Shonda Rhimes says the prequel to Bridgerton came about as both she and Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos’ mother-in-law are “obsessed” with the Queen Charlotte character. If your interest in the real life 18th century queen consort has been similarly sparked, here’s how you can follow in her footsteps.
Buckingham Palace, London
Style & Society:Dressing The Georgians. Royal Collection Trust / © His Majesty King Charles III 2023
A good place to start is the newly opened Style & Society: Dressing the Georgians at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace (on until October 8th, not Tuesdays or Wednesdays). Queen Charlotte features prominently in this fascinating exhibition showing Georgian fashion primarily through portraiture from The Royal Collection. There are many paintings of the queen including a life size portrait in her coronation robe (above) by the king’s principal painter, Allan Ramsay; several depicting Charlotte with her family by one of her favourite artists, Johan Zoffany, and – star of the exhibition – a rarely displayed full length portrait (below) by Thomas Gainsborough.
Some of Charlotte’s jewellery and personal artefacts are also on display. Most interestingly the queen’s psalm book wrapped with elaborate fabric from one of her dresses, a needlework bag which she embroidered herself and a ring bearing a miniature of her husband given to her on her wedding day.
George III bought Buckingham House (now Buckingham Palace) for Queen Charlotte in 1761 as a private residence away from the nearby official royal residence St James’s. Charlotte liked it so much and spent so much time there it was renamed The Queen’s House.
The main body of Buckingham House remains where the State Rooms of Buckingham Palace are today. After George and Charlotte’s day the house was remodelled and extended, mainly under the reigns of their son, George IV, and then Queen Victoria (their grand-daughter) into the palace it is now. Full length portraits of Charlotte hang above the Grand Staircase, Green Drawing Room and East Gallery in the State Rooms.
The Queen’s Gallery has a separate entrance and no access to Buckingham Palace itself but you can gain entrance to the State Rooms during the ten week Summer Opening which in 2023 runs from 14th July to 24th September.
Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, Richmond
As a keen amateur botanist Queen Charlotte was big supporter of Kew Gardens which was founded by her mother in law, Princess Augusta. The queen enjoyed cataloguing and drawing the exotic flowers and plants at Kew. Today the botanical gardens on the outskirts of south west London is a wonderfully bucolic attraction with plant filled borders, dells, woodlands and temperate houses to explore.
George III bought what’s now called Kew Palace in the grounds as a summer retreat for the royal family. The diminutive (for a palace) building was built in the Dutch style of architecture originally as a house for a wealthy Flemish merchant. Its red brick and gables make for an eye catching sight. Charlotte actually died in the house and her bedroom has been conserved as it was in her lifetime. A Netflix spokesperson says although they weren’t able to film there Queen Charlottelocations manager, Tony Hood, and his team visited Kew Palace for inspiration.
Situated about as far away as you can get from the Palace in the south west of Kew Gardens , Queen Charlotte’s Cottage, was built not as a residence but as place for refreshments when the Queen went for walks in the extensive gardens. The rustic cottage is set in a bluebell wood and the adjoining paddock is where animals, including at one time kangaroos, were kept by the royals.
Both the Palace and the Cottage are open to the public from April until September 24th, the Cottage at weekends and bank holidays only.
Frogmore House, Windsor
Not to be confused with Frogmore Cottage, also on the Windsor Estate, which the Duke and Duchess of Sussex briefly lived in and have recently been asked to vacate (although they were allowed to hold their wedding evening reception at the grander Frogmore House). Queen Charlotte bought the house in the 1790s as a retreat from Windsor Castle and the increasing illness of her husband.
The queen and her daughters painted and studied botany there and Charlotte’s love of botany influenced the décor of what is now called the Mary Moser Room. Moser, a celebrated 18th century flower painter, was commissioned by the queen to decorate the walls and ceilings and her design can still be seen today.
Charlotte also commissioned the creation of Frogmore’s picturesque gardens (where Harry and Meghan had their engagement photos taken) adding paths, glades, mounts, lakes and bridges as well as the planting of over 4,000 trees and shrubs.
Frogmore House is usually open to the public on certain days in August, this year’s dates are TBC.