Bridgerton, like The Queen's Gambit, is the adaptation of a fictional period piece novel. But unlike the other hit Netflix series, Bridgerton is not based on one book, but rather a series with nine titles, all told. Although Season 1 of the Netflix show is technically based on the first book in author Julia Quinn's series The Duke & I, it is also an ensemble piece, pulling threads from several of the novels to round out the rest of the characters. That means there are quite a few differences between Bridgerton the show and the Bridgerton books.
Warning: Spoilers for Bridgerton Season 1 follow. Some of the changes in Bridgerton from page to screen are updates so the 20-year-old novels are more with the modern times. The original Quinn books, for example, are "default white," which means readers generally assume all the characters are white (to the point of never even mentioning their race). That makes creating a show with a far more inclusive and diverse cast very easy; it also allows the series to be far more modern than most Regency Era-set romances.
That also goes for adding in LGBTQ+ characters. Like most mainstream romances written around the early aughts, the Quinn books are default heterosexual monogamy. The series adds an entire bohemian art scene to upper-class society (which is historically accurate, but not in the books) to remind viewers that LGBTQ+ people have always existed in society and found ways to express themselves.
Here are 10 of the biggest differences between the books and the show:
1. Queen Charlotte And King George
Two notable additions to the Bridgerton cast that do not appear in the books are King George III and his wife, Queen Charlotte. But they are somewhat historically accurate additions.
Most fans of period pieces are used to a world where everyone cast is white, but for Queen Charlotte, that would have likely been inaccurate. Historians agree Charlotte was of African descent, from Margarita de Castro y Sousa, a Black branch of the Portuguese Royal House. She married George in 1761, not long after he became king. She was from a tiny German duchy, so Prince Friedrich as her nephew is also historically correct.
By the time the show takes place, in 1813, George was dealing with mental illness. Bridgerton suggests it was dementia, but historians believe it was more likely to have been bipolar disorder.
2. Simon's Stutter
In the show, Simon is presented as no longer having the speech impediment he had as a child. In the books, not so much.
In the books, most of Simons's early miscommunications with Daphne after they are married come from him storming out of the room, lest he stutter in front of her. (It's also part of why he doesn't want kids, because he's worried they will be like him.) Part of their happy ending comes from him finally trusting her enough to let her see all the sides of him and her letting him know she loves and respects him for who he is.
3. The Boxing Subplot With Will Mondrich
In the books, Simon doesn't talk around people because of his impediment. It works to his benefit in society, because everyone thinks he's just mysterious and haughty. But it's also why he doesn't get close to people. Anthony likes him because, after living with eight siblings, it's great to have a friend who doesn't interrupt.
By leaving out Simon's impediment as an adult, the show has no explanation for him not having any friends. So, it adds an entire boxing subplot and his pal Will Mondrich to make him seem less like a loner. (Also, it gives everyone a reason to take off their shirts.)
4. Anthony's Relationship With Siena
Speaking of Anthony, his whole relationship with Siena is not a significant plot point in the books; it is a full-on expansion of an otherwise very slender mentioned-in-passing affair.
He does have a relationship with an Italian opera singer when he first meets his match in the second Bridgerton novel. But it's not serious, and she's named Maria Rosso, not Siena.
5. Benedict's Fling With Orgies And The Arts
If Anthony's story with Siena expands from a few lines in the second Bridgerton book to a whole subplot, Benedict's is really a stretch. In Benedict's story (Quinn's third Bridgerton book), readers learn Benedict likes to draw and is quietly talented.
But, as mentioned above, there's no bohemian artist collective in the books, so there are no orgies, and Benedict doesn't unwittingly sleep with someone's wife.
6. Mme. Delacroix Doesn't Exist
If Benedict doesn't go to the orgy in the books, how does he meet and date Genevieve Delacroix? He doesn't... because she doesn't exist.
There is a dressmaker in the Quinn Regency Franchise Universe, but she's not in the Bridgerton books much. She appears in another series, in which she's an older woman named Madame Lambert.
7. Penelope's Crush On Colin
Penelope does have a crush on Colin in the books, but it doesn't come out until later. All the stuff when he dances with her in Season 1 of the show? None of that happens on the page in the books; it's pulled from backstory from Colin's plot in Book 4. Instead, the man who rescues and dances with poor Penelope after the other girls bully her is Simon. (Daphne has a lot of feelings about it. She likes Penelope; she knows Simon's being a good person by dancing with her. But also, she's jealous.)
8. Marina Thompson's Story
If Penelope isn't crushing on Colin on in the books, then how does the Marina Thompson affair go down?
It doesn't. None of that happens in the books. Colin doesn't leave, either; instead, he's just come back from overseas and is settling back in London.
Like Pen's relationship with Colin, all of the Marina drama is backstory from later books. In this case, it's pulled from Book 5 of the Bridgerton series. That all this plays out on-screen shows just how far out Bridgerton is laying the groundwork, setting up third, fourth, and perhaps even fifth seasons.
9. Eloise Chasing Down Lady Whistledown
As for Pen and Eloise's hunt for Lady Whistledown, that's made up. She's 16; she's still in the schoolroom! She certainly isn't being assigned by the queen to find out who Lady Whistledown is.
Although they are friends in the books, the show does a lot of fudging with Eloise and Penelope's friendship to give Eloise more to do. In the early novels, Eloise, like Francesca, is mostly absent, other than in her letters, in which her decidedly feminist bent is on full display.
10. The Focus On Lady Whistledown
And then there's Whistledown herself.
The series making Whistledown a significant focus is the biggest change of all. That's not to say Whistledown didn't become a mystery for fans to puzzle over as the Bridgerton books went along, or that they didn't freak out when her identity was revealed in Book 4. But in the early stories, she not a mystery everyone was trying to solve. She's simply a plot device designed to push the romances along with her gossip sheet.
But no one puts Julie Andrews (who voices Whistledown in the series) in the plot device corner. And revealing that it's Penelope this early on only makes for a bigger reveal when everyone else puts it together down the line.
Bridgerton Season 1 is on Netflix now.