Hello I’m your host Janelle and today I’m talking about the sumptuous interiors and art we saw in Bridgerton Season 1 in preparation for Season 2 coming out on March 25, 2022.
To be perfectly frank with you all, I have many thoughts and feelings about Bridgerton, and I’m going to do my best to reign it in, but even me reigning it in results in a two part episode. If you all would like to hear more of my ramblings please Tweet me or DM me on Instagram, and I might put together an IG Live series as Season 2 is released where you all can ask me questions and listen to my mad ramblings about the show. Also, please stop listening now if you want to avoid any Season 1 spoilers, I mean it’s been a year since the release so well done you if you’ve made it this far without any spoilers.
Now just to touch on the web page associated with this episode, I want to make sure you all know that you can view all of the images and resources I discuss in this episode on my website, www.boozyarthistorian.com On my website you will find all kinds of goodies, specifically web pages dedicated to each podcast episode I produce. Just click on the link to the episode you want to view on the website’s homepage and you’ll find the episode’s audio, a transcript of the audio, and accompanying resources and images. Right, now that I’ve done all of the housekeeping, let’s get into the good stuff!
In Part One I’m going to set the stage if you will, and discuss terms we hear in the show, characters in the show that I think are of historical importance, and of course the sumptuous scenery we see in Season 1. In Part Two I’ll be discussing additional film locations and artworks that I wasn’t able to get to in this episode, such as the Bridgerton and Featherington residences and as well as other gorgeous filming locations
With all of that being said, I think understanding what is happening historically during this time period really gives the show an extra layer of engagement, and I hope you all find it as interesting as I do. Two terms I think worth noting are the “ton” and “diamond of the first water”. The term “ton” refers to London society during the Georgian Era, specifically the elite society of London. The term ton comes from the French term “le bon ton” which translates roughly to good manners/etiquette. So one would assume to have good manners or etiquette one would have had training for it, which was something the elite members of London society would have had access to. Now, the “diamond of the first water” is actually a technical term used by jewelers. The brilliance of a diamond is referred to as the water, and the first water means the diamond is of exceptional brilliance. So for Daphne Bridgerton to be called “a diamond of the first water” means she is beyond exemplary.
Something that I don’t consider to be a term but something worth explaining in the terms portion is titles. We all know Daphne Bridgerton’s brother is referred to throughout the show as Viscount Bridgerton. But what does that title mean exactly? What are the titles, or peerages, we see in the show’s ton? To be perfectly honest, I’m obviously American so to try and wrap my head around the complicated world of titles was difficult, so I’ve done the best I can to give you a quick summation of them. There are absolutely exceptions to the guide I’m about to give you, but for the most part it’s a pretty safe breakdown. You can see an image I’ve put together in Image 1 of the rankings of peerages.
First we have at the very top of the social food chain, the King and Queen. These are the monarchs of the country. Below the monarchs we have the Prince and Princess, these are the heirs to the throne. Below them, we have Duke & Duchess, which is Simon and Daphne. Dukes and Duchesses tend to be of royal descent but not in direct line to inherit the crown. Below the Duke & Duchess we have the Marquess and Marchioness. I’m not entirely sure what they’re relationship is to the King and Queen, but they are one step above Earl and Countess. Which is a title sometime given to the Duke’s children. For example, Simon was an Earl until his father passed away and he inherited the title Duke of Hastings. Below the Earl and Countess we have the Viscount and Viscountess. Which is what Anthony Bridgerton is, and we see at Daphne’s debutante event Violet Bridgerton is referred to as the dowager Viscountess. A dowager is basically a widow with a title derived from her late husband. So because Anthony’s father was Viscount Bridgerton, when he passed Violet became Dowager Viscountess and Anthony inherited his father’s Viscount title. Again, these titles are complicated. Now below Viscount and Viscountess we have Baron and Baroness, who we see referred to sometimes as Lord and Lady.
Now all of the peerages I’ve referred to thus far have been titles where one inherits them, and they do not disappear unless there is no heir to the title to. When we come across the next types of titles, those are specifically given to a person and the title does not get inherited by their children. Such as Sir and Dame. These titles are knighthoods given to men and women (respectively) specifically by the Crown . Obviously last but not least is the title Mr., Mrs., and Ms. These people hold no formal title and are average people much like myself.
Right, now you are properly prepared for when we meet Season 2’s cast of Bridgerton, and you will quickly be able to tell the pecking order of everyone. Always have to have that extra level of drama in the show.
Taking a step back from our cast and their ranks within the ton let’s talk about the historical context of the show, which takes place in 1813, also known as the Regency Era. Now we are just at the end of Napoleon’s first reign as Emperor of France which takes place from 1804 to 1814, we’re also at the end of the Peninsula War. Which is where Miss Marina Thompson’s beau was fighting during Season 1. For those of you who are interested the Peninsula War took place from 1807 to 1814.
Across the pond in America James Madison is in his second term as President of the United States, and the War of 1812 has just started a year before and will end in 1815. Fun fact: during the War of 1812, the White House is burnt down in 1814. Back in the U.K. Jane Austen has just published Pride and Prejudice, and most of Europe suffers from the “year without a summer” in 1816. For those of you who are unaware of what the “year without a summer” is I HIGHLY recommend having a look at the link I’ve provided in the Resources section, to quickly sum up it was an event in 1815 where Mount Tambora, a volcano, erupted and produced so much ash that it created a volcanic winter for most of Europe and disrupted agricultural growth throughout the world.
Now, going back to the Regency Era. The Regency Era is a part of the Georgian Era which is called such due to the numerous King Georges ruling the country. Starting with specifically King George I and ending with the death of King George IV, roughly speaking this is from 1714 to 1837. The reason the Regency Era is a part of the Georgian Era, is due to King George III being too unwell to rule and his son, George IV, acted as regent until his father’s death. Hence the title Regency Era. Now many of you may be wondering if this is the same George III who was involved in the American Revolution, and the answer is yes. You can see a portrait of King George III and his family in Image 2. His wife, who is by far my favorite character in the show, Queen Charlotte is a fascinating woman.
Queen Charlotte who was known before her marriage as Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz was from the Duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, which corresponds with the present day northern part of Germany. But because she was from this region, she was considered a “country girl” or a “hick” by England’s court when she first arrived in London. That being said she was chosen to marry George III since they believed she wouldn’t meddle in the future king’s affairs, for this explicit reason of her being a country girl and not clever enough to meddle, silly them. Charlotte was all of 17 years old when she married George III and actually didn’t speak a ton of English. Luckily for her George III spoke quite a bit of German so they could converse in German. Fun fact: Queen Charlotte was an amateur botanist and helped expand Kew Gardens into what we know it as today!
The show also mention one of her other greatest achievements in the show, which is that she sponsored Mozart, along with Bach. But more importantly to me and us, she also sponsored Johan Zoffany who was a painter who painted Image 3, Tribuna of the Uffizi on the episode’s webpage. Which is one of my favorite pieces of art ever, along with the family portrait in Image 2. Queen Charlotte also spent quite a bit of time creating hospitals and orphanages in London. One of which you can still visit to this day, The Queen Charlotte and Chelsea hospital which is located near the East Acton Tube station!
I also love that the show did get her and the King’s relationship right. They deeply loved each other and King George III never took on a mistress. When King George III started to lose his mental stability, she became incredibly depressed. Fun fact: there are some historians who do believe that Queen Charlotte was a woman of color. There isn’t any direct evidence of it, but some historians believe that her family originated from African royalty. But, I digress. Going back to art history.
What is important to this particular time period in art history is we see the rise of Romanticism. Romanticism is basically an artistic and intellectual movement that emphasizes the beauty of nature and medievalism. Simply put, medievalism is the revival of knightly or princely behavior. So these sorts of ideas of courtly love and chivalry. Artists who fall under this category are Caspar David Friedrich, J.M.W, Turner, John Constable, William Blake, Eugène Delacroix, along with many others. I would also be remiss to not mention that during Bridgerton Season 1 figures such as Lord Byron, John Keats, Jane Austen, and Mary Shelley were actively writing.
The next facet of art history within Bridgerton I want to discuss is architecture. Throughout the entire show we are presented with these beautiful princely estates in which our characters live their lives. Many of the houses fall into two architectural styles, the Tudor style or Palladianism. Tudor is quite obviously named after the Tudor monarchs, mainly King Henry VIII.
Palladianism originated with Andrea Palladio who was an Italian architect, who lived in the Venetian Republic during the 16th century. His style was heavily influenced by Greek and Roman classical architecture. What is particularly interesting about Palladianism is there are a large varieties of sub styles. Basically every region of Europe and America had their own take on Palladianism, and across a variety of decades/centuries. It was particularly en vogue in England during the 18th century, and we see Thomas Jefferson utilize Palladianism in his creation of Monticello.
One of my personal favorite, English examples of Palladianism is Stourhead. Which is an estate built by Henry Hoare, and houses his incredible art collection and gardens. Some of you may recognize the estate based on it’s famous folly Temple of Apollo, where Mr. Darcy proposes to Elizabeth, for the first time, in the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice. You can see an etching of the building’s façade in Image 4.
Quick note: during the time around Bridgerton, we see a rise in gardens and how they are managed. Many times owners of large estates would add little bits of architecture out in the gardens to entertain their guests who strolled along. They were just for decoration and even though they looked like houses or real buildings they weren’t. Usually they looked like Roman ruins, medieval villages, or hermit-like residences and they were referred to as follies. If you are particularly interested in the horticulture of the Georgian or Recency Era, I would highly recommend checking out the Georgian Group, they’re a group of academics that specialize in this time period and they’re wonderful. You can find a link to their website in the resources section.
For those of you viewing the webpage associated with this episode you’ll see I’ve created a map with some major filming locations marked on it in Image 5. As you can see we rarely actually have any of the locations based in London, mostly because the parts of London that would have looked like London during the Georgian Era, no longer exist. Instead one must pop over to Bath for that. Now for those of you who don’t know Bath, it’s a city outside of London, it takes approximately 2 hours by car or train to get there from London city center. Bath is now popular for its lovely shops and pubs, and spas today and historically as well.
Bath was incredibly fashionable during the Georgian Era, and it was frequented by London’s ton. Bath has an ancient history that goes back all the way to the Roman invasion of England. The Romans who resided in Bath built beautiful spas around the natural hot springs found in the region. In the Georgian Era there was a huge revival of spa culture and one would have been very fashionable to go and “take the waters” at Bath. The town was frequented by Jane Austen and they even have a museum in which you can go visit today. You can also still visit the Roman baths to this day. Fun fact: it’s believed the mineral water at the baths is quite good for you and helps keep you healthy, and you can even try the water for yourself when you visit. That being said when I did it, the water was very mineraly and not quite so pleasant taste wise, but it was definitely safe and something fun to do.
I also recommend listening to the audio tour of the Roman baths since it is written and voiced by none other than my favorite historian Bill Bryson. If none of you have ever heard of or read any of Bill Bryson’s works I highly recommend starting with At Home: A Short History of Private Life, which is an incredible resource for various bits of historical trivia written in a delightful way, and one of my top 5 favorite books (no this is not sponsored by Bill Bryson’s publicist I promise you that).
Now, since Bath has managed to create a sort of time capsule of Georgian architecture, we see some of our favorite locations being filmed here. For example, the Featherington’s house facade, and Lady Danbury’s home. But, the show is meant to be based in the elite part of London, Grosvenor Square. To be perfectly honest, the show absolutely gets this right. Grosvenor Square was a real place in London and was where the creme de la creme lived during the Regency Era. It wasn’t until World War II that we see aristocratic families leaving the area to take refuge in their country estates. When these families left embassies took over the real estate and still reside there to this day. You can visit Grosvenor Square, it’s just off of Hyde Park and near Buckingham Palace. You can see a map of the area in Image 6.
With that being said, another thing that the show got correct, was the fact that Buckingham Palace wasn’t the main royal residence during the Regency Era, and was still being prepared for royal family members to live there. Buckingham Palace was purchased by King George III in 1761 for Queen Charlotte, to act as her private residence away from the main court and government life. John Nash, was one of the main architects, and his other most notable work is the Royal Pavillion in Brighton, which was commissioned her son King George IV. It’s hard to say when Buckingham Palace was truly completed since every royal who has lived in the estate has made some kind of renovation to the building. Fun fact: during World War II the palace was bombed 9 times, one bomb left so much damage on the palace that supposedly you could see straight through to the other side of the palace.
So many of you may be wondering, since Buckingham Palace wasn’t the main royal residence, what was? That would be St. James’s Palace. Which we actually kind of see when Daphne goes to be presented at court in the first episode. Unfortunately, the facade of St. James’ no longer looks like that so obviously what we see in Bridgerton is CGI, and then the interior courtyard is actual Hampton Court Palace, which I’ll get to in just a moment. St. James’s Palace was originally built by King Henry VIII, and has been the birthplace for multiple princes and princesses. It was Queen Elizabeth I’s favorite residence, which is quite a statement considering she had over 40 royal residences at her disposal. At one point the palace was turned into barracks by Oliver Cromwell, and even had a disastrous fire in 1809 that made part of the building unstable and unsuitable for living in.
Basically King George III found the palace to be ill suited for his family and purchased Buckingham House (now known as Buckingham Palace) to act as a family retreat. Fun fact: St. James’s Palace still acts as a major royal residence, it’s where Princesses Anne and Beatrice lived for many years, along with other current royal family members. And this is where Princes William and Harry grew up! The residence also acts as a functioning office for the monarchy. With that being said before St. James’s Palace was the main royal residence, the monarchy used Hampton Court Palace as their seat of power.
Hampton Court Palace is, in my opinion, one of the better-known palaces thanks to shows like The Tudors! Hampton Court Palace was built by Cardinal Wolsey for King Henry VIII and was Henry’s favorite residence. It was originally built with the intention of acting as the British version of the Palace of Versailles, and has distinct Tudor architecture. When King George I came into power he moved the main royal residence to St. James’s Palace and then used Hampton Court for his mistress, and his son King George II followed suit. Of course it’s rather a touching note that King George III never took a mistress, because of how deeply he loved Queen Charlotte. Most notably, in my very biased opinion, Hampton Court Palace is important today not only for its incredible architecture, and wonderful Tudor reenactments, but also for the fact that it houses quite a bit of the Royal art collection. If you’re interested in more Tudor history I absolutely recommend checking out the Resources section of this webpage since I’ve put in some links that you all might find interesting.
Now when I talk about the main royal residence, this means that courtiers and other government officials (which was usually one and the same throughout English history) lived on site. There’s a fascinating book called Behind the Throne which I recommend if you’re interested in the history of how royal households were run, and I’ve put the information for it in the Resources section. To this day we still see families and individuals who are allowed by the Crown to reside in Hampton Court Palace. These apartments, are known as “grace and favor” apartments, are fascinating and you can read more about them in the link I’ve provided in the Resources section.
Some of you who are sharp eyed would have recognized the interiors we see used for the royal residences in Bridgerton. Which were filmed at the incredible Wilton House, which is located South of Bath and North of Southampton. The estate is absolutely breathtaking and I recommend visiting it if you can. I’m not sure if that’s possible, with the changing pandemic guidelines so I would recommend checking out their website (which you can find in the Resources section) before going to visit. The Wilton House has been the seat of the Earl of Pembrokes for over 400 years! King Henry VIII gave the land and the first tile of Earl of Pembroke in 1544. Unfortunately, the original structure burned down in 1647 but has been rebuilt during the 19th and 20th centuries. It’s actually a great example of Palladian architecture, and part of it was built by Inigo Jones, who is the same architect who built Banqueting House in London.
Wilton House was commonly used for royal visits and had a variety of state rooms built for these high ranking guests. The Double Cube Room is commonly used in period pieces and you can see a photograph of it in Image 7. For example, we see this room being used as a filming location for the 2005 Pride & Prejudice (the version with Kiera Knightly), along with Season 1 and 4 of the Crown. For Bridgerton it is used as the room where Daphne and the other girls are presented to Queen Charlotte as debutantes. But what I want to point out is the massive portrait we see behind Queen Charlotte in that famous “diamond of the first water” scene. Which is the famous Van Dyck portrait of the Philip Herbert, 4th Earl of Pembroke and his family. You can see this work in Image 8.
The 4th Earl of Pembroke, Phillip Herbert, lived from 1584 to 1650 and was a nobleman, courtier, and politician. He was also a favorite of King James I and King Charles I. For art historians we know him as patron to Van Dyck, and the arts in general. This painting is classic Van Dyck, with the wonderful details in the clothing that make you want to reach out and touch the woman in front’s grey dress. I myself am a huge fan of the little cherubs which fly above the family on these little storm clouds.
For those of you who are not familiar with Van Dyck He was a Flemish Baroque artist who was the son of a wealthy Antwerp silk merchant. He also worked in Peter Paul Rubens studio for a while. In 1632 Van Dyck was invited to the English court by King Charles I of England. Van Dyck was THE court painter in England during his time there. He painted all the who’s who of English court and his style influenced English portrait painting for over 150 years! You can visit his grave at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. A great way to recognize his work is by the tell-tale “Van Dyck beard” which is what we see the Earl sporting in this particular painting. I personally recognize his works based on the fabrics, they tend to be stunning blues and oranges and wonderfully silky looking. Again, the fabrics are so sumptuous I usually find myself desperately trying to not touch the artwork.
Another painting I want to mention is the Diego Velazquez painting we see behind Queen Charlotte when she’s reading Lady Whistledown’s latest publishing. Some of you may recognize the name Diego Velazquez from the famous painting Las Meninas, which you can see in Image 9. Those of you who have listened to my second podcast episode will recognize this work from when I discussed it then. For those of you who are not familiar with Velazquez, he lived from 1599-1660, and was the Spanish court painter for King Philip IV. Velazquez is easily recognizable from his tenebrist style, which Joseph Wright of Derby implements in his works as well.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, tenebrism comes from the Italian word tenebroso which in English means dark, gloomy, or mysterious. In art this means the artwork is usually done in a way that the painting utilizes a very dramatic contrast between darkness and light. It’s basically a more dramatic version of the chiaroscuro style we see in Caravaggio’s works. This particular portrait we see behind Queen Charlotte is of Juan de Pareja who was a fascinating man. You can see the work in Image 10. To give you a quick summary, Juan de Pareja was a Spanish painter who was born into slavery in Antequera, Spain. He worked in Diego Velázquez’s studio, and Velázquez was the one who freed him in 1605. I mean the fact that de Pareja was a slave to begin with is an issue, but that’s me getting off topic.
As an art historian what I find particularly interesting is the Bridgerton’s Set Decorator and Production Designer utilize another image from The Metropolitan Museum of Art based in New York. Of course in my opinion I like it quite a lot since I feel this particular piece is well suited for where they’ve placed it. Considering the thought that Queen Charlotte may have been a woman of color, and we see how color is addressed by Lady Danbury and the Duke of Hastings in the scene where The Duke says a love match isn’t enough of a reason to marry Daphne.
But I digress, let’s get back on track and discuss the last film location that I would like to discuss in this episode, which is Somerset House. Many of you may remember this as the gallery where Benedict Bridgerton has a horrible foot in mouth moment where he makes fun of a painting, accidentally, in front of the artist who painted it. Now in Image 11 you will see that Bridgerton did a wonderful job of recreating what Somerset House would have looked like during the Regency Era. Originally Somerset House had been built as a Tudor Palace, belonging to the Duke of Somerset, hence how we get the name. It originally been purchased as a residence for Queen Charlotte and the princes and princesses when King George III passed and his son officially took over St. James’s Palace, but Somerset House was made into a lesser residence once Buckingham House was purchased.
Somerset House was renovated by Queen Charlotte in the Palladian style and turned the North Wing into a space for the Royal Academy to reside. The Royal Academy officially opened as a public art gallery in 1779, and many of London’s population flocked to see the art. Now two things that specifically pertain to the show. One, when Benedict Bridgerton refers to the painting as being skied, he’s actually using a real term. What skied means is basically when a painting is not very good or in poor taste an institution would put it at the very tipy top of the display wall so people couldn’t see it as well. You can see this happening actually in Image 11 where there are some paintings all the way up near the ceiling windows.
Now the other thing I wanted to discuss is how irked I was by the painting that Daphne and Simon stand in front of in Somerset House. It’s the painting that Simon’s mother, the Duchess of Hastings, had purchased. Now, I could not find this painting anywhere, so if anyone knows what it is please reach out to me to let me know who painted it! Until then, my best educated guess is that the work is meant to be done in the style of Claude Lorrain. You can see an example of his work in Image 12. As you can see the styles are very similar with the gorgeous trees and sunlight. Claude Lorrain was a French painter and etcher who worked in the Baroque style. Interestingly in reference to the show, Lorrain was incredibly sought after by English collectors after his death. So it seems a rather fitting painting that the former Duchess of Hastings to have owned.
Currently, Somerset House holds The Courtauld Institute of Art and The Courtauld Gallery, which for those of you who love Impressionist paintings, I highly recommend checking out their collection. Now, it is important to note the differences between the Royal Academy and the Courtauld Institute of Art. The Royal Academy which originally resided in Somerset House was founded in 1768 by Sir William Chambers and others. And the group were able to use Chambers’ influence on King George III to gain funds to start the academy. Fun fact: the first president of the academy was Sir Joshua Reynolds, who I will be talking about in the next episode!
The Courtauld Institute of Art is a part of the University of London, and is a college that specializes in the study of the history of art and conservation. It was originally founded in the 1770s and was resided in Home House. It was moved into the large part of Somerset House later on, and the Royal Academy actually moved further down in 1868 to the Burlington House, which is a brisk 10 minute walk down the street from Somerset House. I do seriously recommend visiting both locations should you find yourself in London in the future.
Now I realize I’ve covered quite a bit, and should leave it here before I go off on a thousand other tangents. Like I mentioned earlier I was not able to get this all into one episode so stay tuned for my next episode which is Part Two. Where I’ll be discussing additional film locations such as the Bridgerton and Featherington residences. With that being said I hope you all found this episode incredibly helpful in getting a better idea of how intricate and fascinating the show is beyond the script and eye candy. Not that I’m complaining about either, but my bias for art history is rather obvious.
As always should you have any questions, comments, or thoughts you are welcome to DM me on Instagram @boozyarthistorian. You’ll also find fun drink recipes on my TikTok account under the same title @boozyarthistorian, and you can find fun art history facts on my more “sober” account, @thecuriousarthistorian. If you liked this episode or any of my work, please consider donating so I can keep all of my episodes ad free! You can find me on Buy Me a Coffee under Boozy Art Historian. You can also keep up to date on all of my upcoming episodes and other news by subscribing to my monthly newsletter. No spam, just one email at the beginning of each month highlighting upcoming episodes and news. You can subscribe through the link in my Instagram profile or through my website www.boozyarthistorian.com. Thanks for listening in and see you next time on The Boozy Art Historian!