Queen Charlotte: A history lesson for those who hate history

The numerous sex scenes serve as the sugar that can make the history lesson go down

6 episodes

Queen Charlotte offers a no holds-barred look into the marriage of King George III and Charlotte of the German duchy Mecklenbegr-Strelitz. George III (played by Corey Mylchreest) was King of Great Britain and Ireland from 1760 until his demise in 1820. He is remembered in infamy for having lost his empire’s colony in North America.

He was also bipolar, and his illness was documented in the acclaimed 1994 movie The Madness of King George. It starred Nigel Hawthorne and Helen Mirren as the royal couple.

The young king married Charlotte (India Amarteifio) in 1761. In Queen Charlotte, the first two episodes focus on the time they were newlyweds. There is no honeymoon, as the king isn’t happy with the arranged marriage.

Charlotte is also miserable. Only 17, she knew nothing about the birds and the bees. Just before the wedding, she attempts to escape by climbing over the palace walls.  A young man, who could pass for a young version of Christopher Lee, sees her and convinces her to stay. He turns out to be her king, whom she hadn’t met up to that point (I half expected George to start singing the title song from Camelot). Yet he never did find her attractive, and he would meet with her only to fulfill his royal duty, which is to produce an heir. They were dutiful when it came to that department: The couple had 15 children.

As written by Shonda Rhimes, Queen Charlotte is told in non-linear form. It shifts back and forth to the early years of their rocky marriage, and during their elderly years which was an even more tumultuous period for them.

The older Queen Charlotte is played by Golda Rosheuvel (the producers surely had a knack for casting actors with hard-to-spell names). This portion is much more entertaining. The writing is wittier because the royal family crisis is outrageously funny. None of Charlotte’s 12 surviving offspring have produced a proper heir to the throne. As Charlotte laments, her daughters have become “spinsters with dry wombs,” while her sons have nothing to show for but illegitimate children.

As with most historical dramas being made today, the creators of Queen Charlotte espoused representation of various races and sexual orientation. The queen is played by black actors, though this casting decision isn’t about advocating diversity. It was said that the real Charlotte did have brown skin, and her ancestry might have been African.

The numerous sex scenes serve as the sugar that can make the history lesson go down for viewers who aren’t interested in history. At times, the show plays like a soft-core film version of a D.H. Lawrence novella. Incidentally, Queen Charlotte is narrated by none other than Mary Poppins herself, Dame Julie Andrews.

As the older Charlotte, Golda Rosheuvel steals the thunder from her co-stars. She’s given such deliciously scathing lines, and she spews them with relish. Her Charlotte, as written and portrayed, is an indomitable queen who could have ruled the entire empire with ease.  She can be imperious like Elizabeth I, but she also has the comic timing and deadpan delivery of Bea Arthur.

The show’s tone, however, wavers. It careens from bedroom farce to screwball comedy and historical drama. Because of the many liberties taken by the filmmakers, it never feels authentic. Most of the cast just seem to be posturing in their resplendent period costumes. Nevertheless, opulent historical epics like Queen Charlotte are always a welcome relief, especially in this day and age of the Marvel universe.

About author


He is a freelance writer of lifestyle and entertainment, after having worked in Philippine broadsheets and magazines.

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