When it comes to period pieces, it's not always easy to tell exactly when things are happening. Shows like Stranger Things occur in the 1980s, but the '80s are also recent enough the clothing is instantly recognizable. A series like The Queen's Gambit, set only a few decades earlier, is not as easy to distinguish; is it the 1950s or the early '60s? And once a show gets out of the 1900s, the period costumes can become a blur, like in Netflix's newest series, Bridgerton. So, when does Bridgerton take place?
Warning: Light spoilers for Bridgerton Season 1 follow. The Bridgerton series is set in what is known as the "Regency Period." The period began in 1811, when George III became unable to rule, and his son, the Prince of Wales, became Prince Regent. It lasted until 1820, when the king died, and his son took over as George IV. The term "regency" has come to define the entire era from the mid-1790s to the ascension of Queen Victoria in 1838. This four-decade span is now known as the "Regency Era."
Bridgerton begins smack in the middle of the Regency Period that gives the era its name, in 1813. George is no longer calling the shots on the show, but no son rules in his stead. Rather, Queen Charlotte oversees a society that was moving in new directions of refinement and sophistication, with strict rules of etiquette.
That said, Bridgerton is not based on anything real from the era. Other than George and Charlotte, none of these characters existed in real life. Moreover, unlike Jane Austen, who wrote about this era from lived experience, Bridgerton is a wholly modern American production. Both Quinn and showrunner Chris Van Dusen are from New England; producer Shonda Rhimes is from Chicago.
That means the show brings an Americanized fantasy of European history, not unlike what George R.R. Martin did with Westeros in Game of Thrones. It also means the show freely separates from the past whenever it feels like it. The brightly colored costumes, for example, are historically inaccurate. (Pale pastels were all the rage.) And of course, several of the songs that play during the ball scenes are also not from the era. (Taylor Swift sounds excellent on a pianoforte, but no one waltzed to her bops during this time.)
The wedding scene is a particular standout in historical inaccuracy, as it includes a white gown and a large tiered cake. Both of those were invented by Queen Victoria for her nuptials in 1840. Before that, brides wore blue, and the feast that followed featured savory "bride's pie." But modern audiences expect a wedding to feature white gowns and cakes, so the show obliges.
However, the silhouettes and the cultural scene fit the regency period, as do the social mores. As for the scandals and gossip, they're timeless.
Bridgerton Season 1 is on Netflix now.