The first fornication we see in Queen Charlotte does not inspire confidence for the spin-off of a program that has become widely associated with passionate sex. As her husband bears down on her, a young Lady Danbury (Arsema Thomas, who has perfected the subtle facial expressions of Bridgerton staple Adjoa Andoh) rests on a squeaky bed, her countenance betraying the weariness of someone who has heard the same story six times before.
Lord Danbury (Cyril Nri) grins and says, “That was a good ride.” He then rolls off of her to take out his artificial teeth and falls asleep. Although it lacks sex and is more uncomfortable, these unsettling sequences take on importance as they expose the sexuality of the Ton’s ladies over 50 as Queen Charlotte starts to flash ahead to the present-day Bridgerton ensemble that we recognize.
Lady Violet Bridgerton (Ruth Gemmell) and Lady Agatha Danbury (Adjoa Andoh) had spent the first two seasons of Bridgerton entwined with the younger ladies’ lingering glances and troubled love relationships. Their roles as mothers to their own families—Lady Danbury to Duke Simon and Lady Bridgerton to her own brood of Bridgertons—and their conspiracies to matchmake are typical of the unjust treatment of older women on television.
So far, Bridgerton has made it seem that Violet and Agatha aren’t interested in having sexual relations and would rather spend their time needleworking, chatting, or tending to their gardens. That is, until Queen Charlotte brought these people to life by using gardening as a sexual innuendo shopping list.
After years of abstinence after her husband’s death, Violet faces her reawakened sexual yearning in the present-day chronology of the new six-part spin-off. In the meanwhile, Agatha’s passionate romance with Lord Ledger, Violet’s father, unfolds in the flashback timeline, as Violet’s longing prompts her to reflect on a prior love.
In the fifth episode of Queen Charlotte, Agatha and Violet go to an art gallery that has a lot of “provocative” artwork. This artwork basically depicts nude people relaxing on beds, which is considered sexual in the Regency period, yet it makes Agatha laugh. The spot where Violet says her “garden is in bloom” is exact.
The woman tells Agatha, who is at first confused, that she and her husband had a garden. A verdant garden filled with a multitude of flower kinds. The garden withered away around him. All of a sudden, the garden has started blooming.
As if summoned from some dark underworld, Violet forewarns that her garden “wants things” immediately. “I almost asked a footman to lie on top of me today.” Violet follows up her many metaphors involving green fingers with the now-iconic phrase. Violet, I applaud you! Later on, however, she attempts to explain away her “outburst” by pleading with Agatha to put the incident out of her mind.
When shown on television, women over the age of 50 are often portrayed as sexless grandmas. When their sexuality is brought up, characters like Violet frequently do it awkwardly, which likely reflects the real-life idea that older women should be embarrassed of their desire.
Queen Charlotte prevents the plot from being just humorous by letting the characters develop when they meet up with Agatha and Violet after hours at the exhibition (the gardening analogies will never cease now).
In an emotional speech, Agatha reassures Violet by admitting that they have been used as puppets for “social chatter and marital schemes” in the Bridgerton world up to this point. She casually mentions to Violet that women are often the subjects of discussion, but that they are full of stories and gossip. Lady Whistledown will never put our feelings into words. Untold tales are who we are.
Whether it’s Happy Valley or The White Lotus, older women are delivering powerful performances on television, breaking out from the traditional roles of the controlling mother or obstinate battleaxe. In response, Queen Charlotte compassionately lets its elder ladies explore their characters’ sexuality, adding a third dimension to two captivating but often secondary Bridgerton figures.
It is hardly surprising that the elder ladies of the Ton have been slow to explore their sexuality, given that Agatha claims they spend their time “endlessly matchmaking” the whippersnappers in their midst. The one thing that I didn’t like about Queen Charlotte was that even though we learn about Agatha and Violet’s desire, none of the older, present-day characters displayed it.
Mature nude scenes are still quite rare in popular culture because many dislike the idea of, much less see, adults with wrinkles engaging in sexual activity. Stretch marks and wrinkles have been concealed behind corsets in the airbrushed world of Bridgerton up to this point.
According to Torbjorn Bildtgard, a professor of sociology at Stockholm University, there is a subtle but significant “unwritten rule” that “sexuality should be hinted at but not shown outright” when it comes to the sexuality of older couples in media.
It would be a natural progression from Agatha and Violet’s touching sexual candor to learn more about the appearance of elder bodies. It is disappointing that Queen Charlotte did not participate, but the program has hinted that Lady Bridgerton and Lady Danbury may have an affair on Bridgerton proper in the next third season.