Bridgerton’s Queen Charlotte Is Venus And We Can’t Stop Thinking About It
This article originally appeared on Yoga Journal
Dearest Gentle Reader: The following article divulges moments and scenes from Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story. Consider yourself forewarned.
The long-awaited Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story, which was released last Thursday, commences with a caveat. The introductory remarks, narrated by Lady Whistledown, explain that the portrayal of the early days of Queen Charlotte is "not a history lesson. It is fiction inspired by fact. All liberties taken by the author are quite intentional."
It's obvious that the prequel intends to challenge, in laudable Bridgerton fashion, the societal norms in 18th-century London, including racial discrimination, shunned queer romance, and the absurd notion of femininity equating to frailty.
What isn't apparent is whether the writers intended to introduce readers to the nuances of an ancient cultural feminine archetype associated with our closest planet. Regardless, in showing us the royal romance of Queen Charlotte and King George III, it does exactly that.
How Queen Charlotte Exemplifies Venus
The Phoenicians knew her as Astrate. The Egyptians referred to her as Isis and Aset. Hindu astrology knew her as Sukra. Greek mythology deemed her Aphrodite. And in Roman times, she was known as Venus.
Ancient cultures the world over assigned goddesses to the planet known as Venus. Although their titles and attributes vary, the goddesses were similarly revered for strength, intelligence, grace, passion, creativity, sexuality, art, healing, magic, and, at times, tempestuousness. More than anything, each culture’s goddess was regarded as "the summit of beauty and love.” A cultural icon, albeit a slightly misunderstood one. And Venus is her name.
Or is it Charlotte? The mention of Venus isn't introduced until later, yet her queenly attributes are evident from the outset of the first episode.
Shortly after the British royalty buy Charlotte as a bride from her brother, he attempts to calm her fury by comparing her to art. Draped in stylish lyonnaise silk, 200-year lace, and sapphires, Charlotte remains motionless as she launches into a scathing rebuttal to his pandering comment. When he once again tries to pacify her, she retorts, with dignity, that she is not simply emotional but rather she cannot breathe due to her crushing whalebone corset that is demanded by the situation he has created for her. This is goddess behavior.
Charlotte then attempts to elude the arranged marriage by climbing a wall in wedding finery. She reconsiders and acquiesces to the wedding only when afforded insight into the person she is to wed. Then she casts aside the boring, girlish gown insisted on by the king's mother for a luxe design she commissioned from a modiste in Paris. Goddess. Goddess. Goddess.
Yet the truly queenly attributes of Venus are not those that relate to how Charlotte carries herself outwardly, but with what she concerns herself inwardly. She is enamored by theater, reading, art, music, and fashion. She is empathetic toward the poor and orphaned. She is considerate. She is compassionate. She is true to herself yet retains a regard for others.
As she interrogates her ladies in waiting, we witness a 17-year-old's rather understandable fear that her intended, whom she has yet to meet, might be "deformed” or “ugly.” She catches herself and then rephrases her questions, asking instead whether he is funny or kind or cruel.
Curiously, these traits are also attributed to Taurus, the astrological sign ruled by the planet Venus. As it happens, Queen Charlotte, who was born on May 19, 1744, was a Taurus. It is perhaps not coincidence that the series focusing on the queen’s past was released during Taurus season amid Mercury retrograde.
How Venus Plays Out in Charlotte's Love Story
Those obsessed with Bridgerton are no strangers to showrunner Shonda Rhimes' preference for complicated love stories. The romance is challenged not only by an arranged marriage and cross-cultural differences but a devious mother-in-law, the weightiness of royalty, the impetuousness of youth, and, perhaps most sadly, the king's mercurial temperament which, according to historical accounts, was likely attributed to mental health challenges not fully understood at the time.
It is beneath the weight of these impediments that the comparison of Charlotte to Venus becomes exquisitely apparent. Venus teaches us that love is intense, compassionate, and unyielding. Love is not being silently tolerant. Nor is it ascribing to the feminine stereotype of submissiveness and subservience. It can require fierce strength at times and a receptive, though not passive, approach other times. It is, at its essence, awareness.
When the king remains distant from Charlotte following their wedding, Charlotte chooses to confront him rather than remain in self-pity. She is only somewhat mollified to learn he has been hiding in his observatory staring at Venus and charting its trajectory and not, as she had feared, retreating to a brothel. "You prefer stars to my company," she asserts.
He may have. The actual King George III was fixated on the transit of Venus in 1796, a rare crossing of the planet across the surface of the Sun. As he encourages her to look at the planet through the telescope so she can share his view, she murmurs, "It is beautiful."
"It is," replies George, staring at her.
In the space between science and mystery, hard facts and human feelings are simply two different souls struggling to meet one another. They attempt to do so with empathy, understanding, and compassion--despite being furious, insecure, and vulnerable with the other and themselves. That is love.
Love is not perfect. But it is patient and it is kind. That is the fullest expression of the goddess Venus. The significance of Charlotte’s queenly embodiment of Venus is demonstrated again and again as the king's mental health sways. It is seen in her ability to take in the fact that he is most himself when he is engaging with the things he most loves. It is found in her continually caring not for his sanity but for his happiness and for his soul. And it is her lovingly reminding him when he is lost between the heavens and the earth that he is "just George" and that she is Venus.
“You love and you love hard, because if you do not, you are lost,” says the queen in her later years. That is the message of Venus. It’s unknown whether that subtext was intended to depict her majesty as the astrological archetype and goddess. Although this reader can't help but think that it was, indeed, meant to be.
About Our Contributor
Renee Marie Schettler is a senior editor at Yoga Journal and has been a staff writer and editor at The Washington Post, Real Simple, and various online media platforms. She started practicing yoga nearly 20 years ago and has been teaching yoga since 2017. Most nights you can find her slipping outside to look at the moon. Follow her at @reneemarieschettler.
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