The Real History Behind Bridgerton Explained

Thanks to the popular Netflix period drama series, we’ve once again returned to the opulent world of the Ton. Like most, you have probably already binge-watched all the episodes. Here are a few inside historical tidbits about Bridgerton, given by historian Dr. Hannah Greig, the historical adviser to the show. Read it before your next rewatch!

The Term ‘Ton’

‘Ton’ is a very frequently used term in Bridgerton. According to Greig, it originates from the French phrase ‘le bon ton’ which loosely translates as “good taste” or “good manners.” During the Regency period, this was the name given to the elite society. In the early 19th century, high manners and values were expected to be practiced and observed by the members of the fashionable society, which was referred to as ‘beau monde’ or “beautiful world.” So, you can easily understand that all those rigorously observed etiquettes shown in Bridgerton, from the secret language of the fans to graceful dance moves, are actually true to history.

The Period

Bridgerton is set in a pleasantly stylized version of Regency Era London. Several fictional country estates across England are also mentioned in the series and the source novels. The Regency Era is historically a subsection of the Georgian Era in Great Britain. It refers to the years from 1811 to 1820 in the history of Great Britain, when King George III of Great Britain and Ireland was incapacitated by illness. His son, also named George, assumed the throne as Prince Regent, and after the demise of George III in 1820, ruled as King George IV. In the meantime, King George III’s wife, Queen Charlotte, managed the realm. She is the prime real historical figure portrayed at the center stage of Bridgerton. George III’s mental illness is also portrayed in the series in a few scenes.

Lady Whistledown’s Society Papers

This particular scandal sheet underpins nearly every action that happens in Bridgerton while having its own story behind it. Though the name is fictional, the social magazines of that time indeed ran exposing stories about the romances, scandals, and adulteries within high society, and they were popular too! But, as Greig explains, the key difference here is that the real society papers of that time didn’t print the full names of the subjects of gossip. To avoid libel charges, the magazines used only surnames, titles, or initials of the person in question, or described them with very loose disguises. Nevertheless, the names were as obvious as daylight to everybody!