*The beginning section of part two of this episode, the story of Sarah Forbes Bonetta, has the strongest Little Ears warning we’ve ever had. Adults, please preview this before kids (or really, anyone who is sensitive to violent content) listen. You can pick her story back up at the 48:00 minute mark.*
After our discussion about the heritage of Queen Charlotte, we decided to divide and conquer with two mini-episodes on aristocratic women of color in the Georgian and Victorian eras.
We left Charlotte in a very sweet place: her family was growing, she was able to indulge her love of botany and other sciences through her many homes, her husband, King George III, was on a high note on the favorable scale…life was pleasant and lacked (much) drama.
But all that is going to change. She does keep having children in this final episode of our series, 13 of them reach adulthood. Okay, so her boys–especially the heir, the Prince of Wales- were growing into rogues but in an almost cute way and when things went sideways they went sideways hard.
In this episode, we tracked the mental illness of King George III (which didn’t really strike until he was in his 50s) and the impact it had on Charlotte, the family and the country. Charlotte goes from a sweet shepherdess of a mother who has her stuff together to a frazzled, confused, suspicious, and ever-stressed-out queen.
Within the two episodes, we cover her entire life and try to make it easy for you to separate the fact from the fiction on Netflix’s limited series, Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story.
Time Travel With The History Chicks
Was Queen Charlotte black? How far back in her family tree did this ancestor live and what is the story behind why people think so? This Smithsonian article will give you a place to start you tumble down a rabbit hole. SMITHSONIAN
For the whole heartbreaking story of Princess Charlotte of Wales, the heir that never was, we covered her back when we were newbie podcasters, in 2011! Episode 13.
Historic Royal Palaces has a treasure trove of information on all things British Royal, here’s Kew Palace (well, the rebuilt one) you can see why it was a favorite of the family (and why we need to go there when we visit London this fall!)
Ways that the zebra became shorthand for greed and stupidity through political cartoons: PRINCETON
There are many Horrible Histories (no Drunk History though) on Charlotte’s era that we’ll just put this one episode here as a lovely example.
Break song: Handel’s End Song: Lost by Mary Ellen Lynch
Come with us to visit the world of Queen Charlotte (and centuries of others) this September as we take a Field Trip to London! Almost full! If you would like to sign up or learn more, visit our friends at Like Minds Travel!
Season Three of Netflix’s Bridgerton series, Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story begins:
Dearest Gentle Reader, This is the story of Queen Charlotte from Bridgerton. It is not a history lesson, it is fiction inspired by fact. All liberties taken by the authors are quite intentional.
Cool, cool…but what is the true story of this very real figure in history? How much truth did Julia Quinn and Shonda Rhimes let into the series, what is entirely fiction…and what is open for debate? While we’re no Lady Whistledowns, we can confirm those truths, and reveal the fictions for what they are.
This isn’t a media recap, having seen the series or not really doesn’t matter, although we do reference the show a few times, it’s basically our usual Not A History Lesson chat about this oft-misunderstood 18th Century queen.
Time Travel With The History Chicks
All media sources and recommendations will be on the shownotes for Part Two
First off, please know that this episode contains a very loud LITTLE EARS warning, so we do ask that adults preview it to decide if it’s appropriate for the kids in their life. Nell was a woman who grew up in poverty, learned how to charm people from a very young age, and found success in the culture in which she lived as an actress and a mistress to King Charles II of England. (There is a lot of sex and quotes have words in them that we don’t ordinarily use but it’s impossible to tell her story without these elements.)
Nell’s early history is a little fuzzy, she was most likely born on February 2, 1650, in Oxford, England. She was named Eleanor after her mother, but everyone called her “Nell.” She was definitely the second daughter of Eleanor Gwynn, and her father was Thomas Gwynn, perhaps a military man who fought for the King on the losing side of a war that ended with that king’s head…off, and his son and heir, Charles, on the run and in exile. There are a couple of theories as to who, exactly, this Thomas was but what really matters is that he was out of the picture, imprisoned, and dead when Nell was a tiny child.
Nell grew up in London, England, during a time of Puritanical rule but her community in the aptly named, Coal Yard Alley, was a seedy part of town where people didn’t care much for the “NO” laws. Nell’s school wasn’t academic- it was survival; it was street smarts and reading people. She was very good at her lessons.
King Charles II by John Michael Wright circa 1663
When she was 10, King Charles II came back into power, Hello, Restoration Era! She worked her way from selling oysters to selling oranges at the newly opened theaters, and after women were allowed on stage (thanks, King Charles!) she stepped into the life of an actress…a very popular actress. Very.
King Charles II, like everyone who saw her, was drawn to and mesmerized by Nell. Yes, he was married and very devoted to his wife, and yes he had many other mistresses in his lifetime. Nell possessed qualities that the other women in Charles’ life didn’t, as a diarist of the time (Samuel Pepys) described her she was, “pretty and witty.” She gave birth to two of Charles’ sons and, most importantly, was loyal to him and unapologetically herself, for the rest of her life.
Showing a little nipple was a visual indication that the woman was the mistress of a powerful man.
Don’t get us wrong, she was human and made some really poor Mean Girl decisions along the way. She had tragedy and loss and life setbacks. For the most part, though, she was happy and made others happy, too, with a big, good-natured, and playful personality.
Nell only outlived Charles by only two years and was survived by only one of her sons. She died on November 14, 1687, at the age of 37.
We took a tour via Google and lo! The modern-day location of the tavern/bawdy house where Nell’s Mom worked (and they lived..maybe, like we said, details are a bit fuzzy.) Sugar Sin, indeed.
Time Travel With The History Chicks
The big’un by Charles Beauclerk
by Bryan Beven
(The one that Beckett’s husband had given her for Christmas) by Eleanor Herman
by HRH Princess Michael of Kent
by Bee Wilson
by Ian Mortimer (this whole series is excellent)
To read the…colorful diary of Samuel Pepys (as well as other things related to the man) online: Diary of Samuel Pepys
When Queen Elizabeth II passed away on September 8, 2022, her reign was in its 71st year. That alone makes her a woman we would love to cover! Alas, we don’t spotlight subjects who are still with us, and, even then, we like to give them a respectful mourning period after they pass away. This allows time for her legacy to become established–that’s when we like to dive into her life. (more…)