Bridgerton : The Truth About Queen Charlotte’s Husband, 'Mad' King George III

Erin Hill
·3 min read

LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX Golda Rosheuvel as Queen Charlotte in Bridgerton

Netflix's latest hit series Bridgerton — a period drama that follows British high society's romantic pursuits through the lens of a gossip column in Regency-era England — may be fictional, but some of its characters and plot lines are rooted in history.

In real life, Queen Charlotte, played by Golda Rosheuvel and thought by many historians to be the first biracial royal, was very involved in the social scene at the time. In fact, the first debutante ball was founded in 1780 by King George III in honor of his wife Charlotte's birthday. The royal couple was also thought to be deeply in love. Their relationship is touched upon briefly in season one. The King's mysterious illness is referenced in a few scenes where he is shown having aggressive outbursts. He also reacts with confusion when Charlotte tells him that she and his subjects "miss" him.

The monarch, who has been coined as the "Mad King Who Lost America" (thanks in part to the success of Broadway's Hamilton), likely battled bipolar disorder. In 2017, newly released documents shed light on the infamous King and his condition.

Here are four facts about the 18th-century monarch and his beloved wife, Queen Charlotte.

James Fleet as King George III in Bridgerton

1. King George III and Queen Charlotte had 15 children.

"He was a dedicated monogamous family man," says Karin Wulf, director of the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture and a history professor at the College of William & Mary. "His family was everything to him. He spends so much time thinking of his children. He is so much more conscientious than people give him credit for. He is a thoughtful, considerate, moderate guy."

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Discovered among the papers was a poignant letter sent by Queen Charlotte to her children's nanny at the death of one of her younger sons, Alfred, at age two in 1782. Intricately tied up in a tiny folded piece of paper within the missive was a lock of golden curls.

King George III, Queen Charlotte and their children

2. He likely battled bipolar disorder.

His infamous "madness," believed today to be bipolar disorder, was first detected post-revolution — and hinted at in the Hamilton line, "If you leave I'll go mad!" Says Wulf: "That's clever, as he doesn't really show any signs of madness until after the revolution."

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Evidence for his mental illness can be found in the papers: "There are papers in his own handwriting, where you can see him disintegrating into the disease, as well as information from his doctors and his attendants describing what's happening to him and the impact on his family."

Royal Collection Trust King George III

3. Queen Charlotte hoped bathing would help cure his mental illness.

The Queen hoped that regular bathing in the sea in Weymouth, on England's south coast, would be "medicinal treatment." Charlotte recorded every time her husband bathed. "She will say, 'He has gone for his 14th bath since we arrived,' " notes Wulf. "She was very meticulous."

Queen Charlotte

4. He wrestled with the role of the monarchy.

"America is lost!" the King opines in one of the letters. He also wrote a short essay on the effects of the American revolution. "Most Americans think of him as a tyrant or a flake but he is neither of those things," says Wulf. "George III is a deeply enlightened figure interested in science, and Queen Charlotte is deeply intellectual. He is wrestling with the same constitutional issues that American politicians are wrestling with – what is the right form of government?"