The Netflix series is spectacular, but how does it differ from the story in the books?
Back on Christmas day in 2020, one of Netflix's most popular series ever created emerged for our viewing: Bridgerton. When it was first released, no one knew the power this series would hold. One month after Season 1's release, Netflix released their numbers, and in four weeks time, the series became the streamer's fifth-largest launch ever, racking up a record-breaking watch of 82 million households, or 41% of Netflix's total subscriber base at its peak (via Deadline). Bridgerton pushed The Witcher, at 76 million households in 28 days, into the number two spot and overtook the number one spot as Netflix's biggest series ever. The series became so popular in itself, that Netflix announced in May 2021 they would be creating a Bridgerton spin-off series centered around Queen Charlotte.
And it's not hard to see why Bridgerton was such a hit. The series, based on Julia Quinn's best-selling novels, was unlike anything we'd ever seen across almost any streaming platform. Which begs the question: why are Regency-era shows so popular? It's pretty simple, actually. What other genre provides you with as much class, scandal, family connection, beautiful scenery, heartwarming love, stealthy plotting, and astounding music and outfit choices like Bridgerton? Although the show was so loved, it's hard for those of us who have read the books to not spot the total differences between the books and the series itself. Yes, changes are always made in book to screen adaptations, but what major, plot-changing differences are held between the books and Bridgerton?
Queen Charlotte is well-loved in the Bridgerton series, but her character was created specifically for the show, as she doesn't exist in any of Quinn's books. In the book setting, no specific King or Queen is ever noted to readers. Oh, and Daphne's sweet suitor Prince Frederich? He's non-existent in the books as well.
In the Netflix series, Simon spends years of his childhood overcoming his stutter that made his father so disappointed in him as a future Duke. In the books, however, Simon does overcome his stutter and becomes better with speech, but it never completely disappears. Often times, when he gets flustered or angry, his stutter will return, which is why he would often stay quiet, especially around those he didn't trust. This tendency to stay quiet due to his uncertainty with himself often led others to believe he was colder than his character really is. In the books, this led Simon to a very lonely life (indeed, his friends Will and Alice also only appear in the series).
Capitalizing on Simon's newly invented social life in the Bridgerton series, Netflix decided to add the boxing as one of Simon's pastimes. Theoretically, this made sense in from a historical perspective, as boxing was considered a gentlemanly sport for the time period, but it doesn't actually happen in the books. Yes, you swooning viewers, they added the shirtless scenes for your pleasure only.
In the Netflix series, there are a few major errors with Marina as a character. To begin with, in the series, Marina is a Featherington cousin, but in the books themselves, Marina is a distant Bridgerton cousin. They most likely made this change to either try to set her up with Colin Bridgerton or to cast her into an already problematic family, such as the Featheringtons. Secondly, in the books, we never officially meet Marina because she is actually dead once they do finally mention her. In the fifth book, which focuses on Eloise's love story with Sir Phillip, we are only made aware of who she is when Sir Phillip discusses his deceased wife, Marina. Lastly, as we can figure, Marina is never set up with Colin Bridgeron.
The Featheringtons, in the Netflix series, are a family of five. We have adored Penelope, her twin sisters Prudence and Phillippa, and Lord and Lady Featherington. The only issue is: the math isn't adding up, and neither are the characters. In the books, Lord Featherington is actually dead, and they have an additional sister who is not included in the screen adaptation, named Felicity. Felicity is actually best friends with Hyacinth Bridgerton, similarly to Eloise and Penelope's friendship. Nicola Coughlan (Penelope) mentioned Felicity Featherington to the crew one day during a costume fitting and no one knew who she was talking about.
When the first sensational season of Bridgerton was coming to a close, Netflix dropped a bomb on us: Penelope Featherington is Lady Whistledown. Except, in the novel series, we don't learn this information until the fourth book, Romancing Mister Bridgerton. Furthermore, there is never any investigations into Lady Whistledown, as the Queen doesn't exist and Eloise herself is suspected of being the famed ghostwriter.
Although Netflix produced this adorable meet-cute, they grabbed it from thin air, as this is not how Anthony and Kate's first meeting takes place in the books. As we know, in Bridgerton, Anthony is practically almost run over by Kate while she is out riding her horse. In the books, however, they meet at a ball, where Colin introduces them. Kate already knows of Anthony's reputation, but Anthony has no idea who Kate is. Regardless of how they met, they end up as an adorable couple, but we would've liked the library scene to be a little longer. Come on: there was prime chemistry going on there, and for once, no fighting or defiance.
Anthony never intended on marrying for love, but as to why is dependent upon whether you've watched the series or read the books. Watching Bridgerton, you are told he doesn't want to open up to anyone. Reading the books, however, you are given a deeper answer. Anthony never wanted to marry for love because he never wanted to hurt or feel the hurt his mother did when his father passed away. He told himself he was cursed, and would never be able to live past when his father passed away, which was sadly only 38 years old. Because of that reason, he never wanted to marry someone he loved and have such a short time together, or, vice versa, have his wife hurt the way his mother did from losing Edmund.
Yes, the scandalous love triangle between Edwina, Kate, and Anthony was curated for Bridgerton's season 2 only. It is true that, in the books, Anthony and Edwina did court for a short period of time, but their courtship was superficial and quickly ended once they realized they weren't well-matched and, due to their age difference, couldn't find much to talk about. When Edwina found out about Kate and Anthony's engagement after being compromised, she isn't bothered by it and actually finds her perfect match at the end of the book. On the flip side, in the Netflix series, it is made into an absolute meltdown, with Kate and Edwina falling out over Anthony, dragging their mother along with them.
This saddening scene is also highly altered. While reading the books, we discover that Anthony returns from a ride to Daphne sobbing on the floor, announcing their father had died suddenly from a bee sting. Watching Bridgerton, it unfolds differently: Anthony returns with his father and watches him die from the bee sting. The plot is changed to make his death more painful for Anthony, but it was already so tough for him in the books.
Although it's only one small scene, it was a truly hilarious one for the Duke of Hastings to miss out on. As we know, Rege-Jean Page didn't return as the Duke of Hastings for Bridgerton Season 2, even though, according to the books, he makes one appearance during the family Pall Mall game. The Pall Mall game is an intense, competitive display of dirty Bridgerton tricks and we're here for it.
In Bridgerton Season 2, Eloise became more of a focal point than she was previously, with the show targeting her relationship with Theo and her debut into society as a woman ready for the marriage mart. But, according to the second book in Quinn's series, which this season was based on, she isn't officially out until the next year. Her mother was simply allowing her to attend functions that were ongoing in the Bridgerton household. In the series, however, they make a big deal about it, dedicating a decent amount of screen time to getting her dressed and ready to be presented to the Queen.