Bridgerton vs The Duke and I
Everyone's crazy for Bridgerton - this is how the original novel compares to its Netflix adaptation.
Watch one of the most romantic (and steamy!) scenes from Bridgerton here.
Bridgerton, the romantic yet surprisingly raunchy series set in Regency era London, has become the most watched Netflix show with 82 million households viewing it since its release on Christmas Day. I watched, or rather binged watched, the series in only a day and a half and then, when I realised I’d missed important details after seeing endless posts about the show on Instagram and TikTok, watched it again. I enjoyed it even more the second time, and will admit I became somewhat obsessed with the show, and so bought the book the series was adapted from, The Duke and I. I was surprised by the changes made for the Netflix series, pulled one way by the more straightforward story told in Julia Quinn’s The Duke and I, and pulled the other by the more complex, glamorous story in Chris Van Dusen’s adaptation, Bridgerton. Here are just a few of the differences between The Duke and I and the Netflix adaption Bridgerton.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
Daphne Bridgerton, ‘Diamond of the First Water’
One of the most surprising aspects of The Duke and I was that Daphne, both debutante and "diamond of the season" in the Netflix show, is struggling to find a husband in The Duke and I from the get go. Daphne is certainly attractive to the Duke Simon Basset - the first sight of her "sucked the breath from his body". However, she is viewed as “positively normal” by the men of the London society who Daphne herself thought would make good husbands. In other words, she’s not wife material. Daphne is in fact in her third courting season in The Duke and I, and still seeking a love match after turning down four proposals. This gives a slightly more desperate and less glamorous edge to the first chapter, unlike in the show, when the easy acceptance of the queen and adoration which follows from society does not bring the question of being desperate to find a match until later on in episode one, when her brother Anthony has scared off what seemed to be endless potential suitors. The choice to open episode one with what appears will be an easy first season for Daphne, before it becoming clear that with Anthony’s meddling it may be harder than originally thought, makes the show far more dramatic than the book. What at first appeared to be a lighthearted show about the life of a woman who has it easy based on her appearance, turns into a more fast paced and gripping story when it seems Daphne may have not choice but to marry the rather awkward Nigel Berbrooke.
Anthony and Siena's affair
The subplot of the relationship between Anthony and his lover Sienna hugely shaped my opinion of him in the show. This differed greatly in The Duke and I, where there is no mention of Siena at all, and Anthony is primarily involved in the courtship of Simon and Daphne - which he actually agrees to in the novel. Anthony’s careless treatment of Siena in the show, and how this contrasts with his boorish overprotectiveness of Daphne and strained relationship with his mother makes him far less likeable and even hypocritical compared to his character in The Duke and I. In the book, although he is still protective of his sister, this is only really in regard to his discovery of Simon and Daphne’s ruse, which he objects to at first but, after calling them both "idiots", and some convincing from Simon and Daphne, agrees to the plan based on relatively reasonable conditions. The more likeable Anthony in the books is however, in my opinion, less interesting than the compromised and conflicted Anthony in the show. Given the recent reveal that Bridgerton has been renewed for a second season, and that the primary plot will be focused on Anthony, fitting with the second book in the series The Viscount Who Loved Me, the more gritty portrayal of Anthony in show may have been to draw in audiences to achieve an equally successful second season.
Will Mondrich and Simon's passion for boxing
The addition of Will Mondrich, his wife Alice and their children, all of whom are not present in the novel, makes Simon much easier to understand and I would argue far more likeable, or at least more of a ‘real’ person in the show. Not only are these characters not present in the novel at all, the entire boxing subplot is not present either. However, this subplot is a relatively important part of the show for the audience to understand why Simon is the way he is. With this subplot missing from the books, Simon comes across as far more lonely or even dangerous, with almost no mention of him having any friends besides Anthony, and no boxing hobby, Simon is more mysterious yet less romantic, as the reader doesn’t see him take out his emotion towards Daphne through boxing or through his friend Will Mondrich.
King George III and Queen Charlotte
Neither King George III or Queen Charlotte are present in The Duke and I, unlike in the series, when the Queen’s influence is vital to Daphne's position from the very beginning of the courting season, particularly her relationship with Prince Friedrich (who is also not in the novel) and for the subplot in which she employs Eloise Bridgerton to reveal the true identity of Lady Whistledown. While the Queen seems to be such an important character in Van Dusen’s show, the more linear plot in The Duke and I meant her presence was not really necessary. The addition of Queen Charlotte provides the audience with a more in-depth development of certain characters in the show. The writers and producers of Bridgerton successfully took advantage of the history of Regency era England when including King George III and Queen Charlotte in the show. It is true that King George III was deemed unfit to rule based on mental instability, and debutante women would present themselves before Queen Charlotte at the start of the London Season.
The Duke and I, which was originally published twenty one years ago, is assumed to be “default white”, very different to the diverse cast of Bridgerton. Furthermore, the process of this diversification in the context of the story is actually built into the plot when it is explained that if King George III hadn’t fallen in love with Charlotte their society would be very different.
The presentation of gender
The overbearing nature of Anthony in the series in comparison to the more amicable Anthony in the book allows for the development of not only Daphne and Siena, but also for his mother Violet Bridgerton. Although Anthony is still technically head of the Bridgerton family in the book, his relationship with his mother and his fulfilment of this role are by no means as strained as in the series, where Anthony and his mother clash, allowing Violet to seem more powerful when she asks him “are you merely an older brother, or are you the man of this house?”
Lady Whistledown (or Penelope Featherington) is significantly less present in The Duke and I than in the Netflix show. In the book, she is used to push the plot forward, rather than being a vital part of an elaborate subplot as she is in the show, in which Eloise tries to sniff out the true identity of Lady Whistledown. The revealing of Whistledown at the very end of the series makes the friendship between Penelope and Eloise, which is much more subtle in The Duke and I, much more gripping and gives a great 'Aha!' moment to close season one, unlike in the book, when the reader is more focused on the love story between Simon and Daphne instead of the identity of Lady Whistledown.
I will admit I was somewhat underwhelmed when reading The Duke and I. I often found myself holding my breath for the subplots which are only present in the show. Although I preferred the more complex and glamorous narratives in the Netflix adaptation of The Duke and I compared to the original novel itself, it has not stopped me from pre ordering the next book, The Viscount Who Loved Me, which has become so popular that Amazon can’t even give an estimate of when it will be dispatched. Given this clear spike in the purchasing of the Bridgerton series, irregardless of my taste, or any other reader or viewer's preference for either the books or TV shows, it is clear that Chris Van Dusen’s adaptation has not only been successful in its own right, but has also contributed to an even greater level of the success for Julia Quinn's book series.