Bridgerton explained: The reality of being queer in the Regency era | Television & Radio | Showbiz and television
Express.co.uk spoke exclusively to Charles Upchurch, Associate Professor of British History at Florida State University, to find out more. Bridgerton’s first season featured a same-sex relationship between entertainer Sir Henry Granville (played by Julian Ovenden) and Lord Wetherby (Ned Porteous). Granville opened up about her secret union with Lord Wetherby after Benedict Bridgerton (Luke Thompson) stumbled upon the couple in the throes of passion. The artist told Benedict about his wife’s acceptance of his relationship, but also his agony in keeping his love a secret. Benedict appeared surprised by the admission and yet accepted the arrangement, leading fans to question the Bridgerton brother’s own desires.
The Thompson actor also reflected on Benedict’s sexuality in a recent interview, saying the good-natured aristocrat has a “nice openness and fluidity.”
Thompson said: “People are very excited and they want everything to be explored in the first few seasons and in all corners of sexuality, gender.
“Obviously there’s a long way to go, so we’ll see what happens with Benedict, but we’re only into season two, so there’s plenty of room for him to explore all of them. kinds of things,” he added to Entertainment Weekly.
Bridgerton is adapted from American author Julia Quinn’s Regency romance novels, which focus exclusively on heterosexual relationships.
READ MORE: Bridgerton season 3: Who marries Benedict Bridgerton?
Speaking about the portrayal of same-sex relationships in Bridgerton, Professor Upchurch said: “Benedict first encounters same-sex passion in a private space, invited by a man who is reluctant to do so. It is a space defined by a range of unconventional relationships. tastes practiced by men and women.”
However, he said the “forms and possibilities” of sex-sex unions would be “very different” outside of the upper-class world in which the drama series exists.
Professor Upchurch, who is the author of Beyond the Law: The Politics of Ending the Death Penalty for Sodomy in Britain, went on to say that he was queer at the time: “There was no unified experience , but a key concept for the upper classes. men in relation to same-sex desire in this period is ‘taste’.
“A man may have a taste for certain acts which are not socially acceptable and which can degrade his character if left unchecked. If he were very careful, he could act on these desires discreetly, in a way that keep from being undone by his passions.”
Rather than explicitly refer to those relationships, Prof Upchurch said scandal sheets like Whistledown and newspapers at present would make accusations public in a “veiled way”.
He cites an article in the Morning Chronicle of 1822 reporting “that there are no less than six English nobles and dignitaries of the established Church, now residing in Paris, who have left this country for ever, because the climate does not does not suit them”. tastes“.
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Those who were discovered were often ostracized by society if they remained in Britain while others fled to Paris or Italy.
Buggery was punishable by death at that time, but due to the low chance of arrest, it was a case of self-policing due to the severity of the penalty if discovered.
Professor Upchurch said: “Criminal charges of attempted buggery or indecent assault generally only affected upper-class men when they ventured outside upper-class spaces or bonded with men of lower rank.”
Interestingly, the Bridgerton era from 1813 to 1827 intersects with the life of the “first modern lesbian” Anne Lister, whose decoded diaries became the basis of the BBC and HBO drama Gentleman Jack, and who was married to Ann Walker with the two women living together.
They weren’t the only ones to do so either, Irishwomen Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby fled their home country in 1780 to live together in Wales and became known as the ‘Ladies of Llangollen’.
Historians have been unable to confirm the nature of the relationship between the “Ladies of Llangollen”, but the pair lived as partners with Queen Charlotte and King George III providing them with a pension. Lister even documents in her journals that she goes to meet the “Ladies of Llangollen”.
Professor Upchurch said of those relationships: “They seem more ‘open’ to us now than they would have then. Lister was extremely careful to only reveal his true feelings to a few privileged people she could trust.
“Lister used cultural tropes borrowed from Byron and Rousseau to explain his public gender nonconformity in a way that didn’t necessarily read as tied to sexual tastes.”
On the question of whether an aristocrat like Benedict could be gay or bisexual at this time, Professor Upchurch said: “It depends on his prudence and his luck.
“William Beckford, Richard Heber, Henry Gray Bennett, Percy Jocelyn (the Bishop of Clogher), William Bankes and Charles Baring Wall were all upper class members of parliament, and all in the newspapers at various times during this period due to accusations about their sexual tastes. Wall was re-elected; Jocelyn disappeared into exile.
Beyond the law: The politics of ending the death penalty for sodomy in Britain by Professor Charles Upchurch is now available
Bridgerton seasons 1 and 2 are now streaming on Netflix