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What is The Great Experiment in Queen Charlotte A Bridgerton Story?

The Great Experiment in Queen Charlotte A Bridgerton story has left viewers questioning if this was an actual historical event, but the answer is more complex.

what is the great experiment in queen charlotte a bridgerton story: golda rosheuvel as queen charlotte

What is The Great Experiment in Queen Charlotte A Bridgerton Story? At the beginning of the series, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz arrives from Germany to wed the soon-to-be-coronated King George III. After meeting the Dowager Princess Augusta (George’s mother) and the House of Lords, the concept of The Great Experiment begins to be discussed and remains a running theme for the rest of the season.

It’s worth noting that The Great Experiment in Queen Charlotte A Bridgerton Story shares its name with a book by political scientist Yascha Mounk. The book, which former US President Barack Obama endorses, sets out a vision of how to successfully unify a multi-ethnic society and turn it into a thriving, diverse democracy. And broadly, this is what we see play out in the spin-off Netflix series. But what is The Great Experiment in Queen Charlotte A Bridgerton Story? Allow us to break it down for you in full.

What is The Great Experiment?

The Great Experiment in Queen Charlotte A Bridgerton Story is the trial racial desegregation of the Ton.

In the TV series, The Great Experiment is triggered by the arrival of Charlotte from Germany, who has been betrothed to marry future monarch George III.

The House of Lords and George’s mother, Dowager Princess Augusta, concoct The Great Experiment after discovering Charlotte’s ethnicity. It’s done reluctantly in order to save face and to avoid the wider public realising that they were unaware of Charlotte’s ethnicity prior to her arrival.

So, they begin the process of desegregating the Ton, inviting Black aristocrats to the Royal Wedding and giving them land and titles.

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Is The Great Experiment based on a true story?

The Great Experiment is not an event that actually happened, but it’s based on historical evidence that the real Queen Charlotte was Black.

As explained in our Queen Charlotte true story feature, there’s a lot of strong evidence from the Regency era which suggests that Queen Charlotte, the real-life wife of George III, was mixed-race. However, this evidence also suggests that her ethnicity was concealed and ignored, with official portraits painting her as having lighter skin and more Caucasian features.

In a Q&A with Netflix, Tom Verica, who directed the Bridgerton spin-off, explained, “Many historians believe that Queen Charlotte was of mixed cultural heritage and we wanted to take that in a different direction than what the history books have said happened — which was basically to bury that and not deal with it.”

“The Great Experiment allows us to reimagine what that world could have looked like if that part of Charlotte’s identity had been embraced,” he added.  So, while The Great Experiment isn’t necessarily based on history, it serves the purpose of showing viewers what history could have looked like if the real-life Queen Charlotte’s racial heritage was approached differently.

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How does The Great Experiment tie into Bridgerton?

The Great Experiment in Queen Charlotte A Bridgerton Story also helps to explain why racial diversity is embraced in Bridgerton.

As Bridgerton showrunner Shonda Rhimes explains, the origins of the show’s society, as it is, are never explained in the main show. “In Bridgerton times we’re always talking about how Queen Charlotte and King George made this new England possible, where we’re seeing a completely integrated society, and everybody’s got titles, and so I wanted to show how that came to be.” she said in a Q&A with Netflix.

“I wanted to show this idea that the society that we know so well in Bridgerton was, at one point, an experiment.”

Check out our Queen Charlotte A Bridgerton Story review for more thoughts on the show, or learn more about the Bridgerton cast or Bridgerton season 3 release date.