Queen Charlotte creator Shonda Rhimes denies Meghan Markle references in script

Shonda Rhimes has responded to questions on whether Queen Charlotte contains parallels to Meghan Markle’s experience in the royal family.

The screenwriter and television mogul is behind the six-episode Bridgerton prequel series that launched on Netflix last week. (You can read The Independent’s four-star review here.)

Set decades before the events of Bridgerton, Queen Charlotte focuses on the monarch’s arrival to the UK as a 17-year-old and how her marriage to King George helped to integrate wider British society.

In this universe, Charlotte is a Black mixed-race woman, played by India Amarteifio, then Golda Rosheuvel in later years.

Several episodes contain references to people expressing concern about Charlotte’s complexion and being struck by her “difference” from other members of the royal family.

In a recent interview with Vulture, Rhimes clarified that while people may see similarities between the Duchess of Sussex and this fictional version of Queen Charlotte, it wasn’t something she considered when writing.

“Meghan Markle did not enter into it,” she noted.

“My brain mostly thinks in terms of American politics, unfortunately, so I was really thinking about what would happen if this girl, Charlotte, came to America and was married off and how that was handled.”

In episode one, King George’s mother, Princess Augusta (Michelle Fairley) expresses her surprise at Charlotte’s skin tone.

“She is very brown... You did not say that she would be that brown,” she says.

India Amarteifio as Young Queen Charlotte (LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX)
India Amarteifio as Young Queen Charlotte (LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX)

Viewers have speculated that this moment was inspired by Harry and Meghan’s 2021 revelation that an unnamed member of the royal family speculated over the colour their first son, Prince Archie, would be while Meghan was pregnant.

“The Meghan Markle / Archie ‘what colour will the baby be,’ reference has me dead,” wrote one amused fan.

Another viewer, who posted screengrabs of the scene in question, also took the moment as a reference to questions about Archie’s skin colour: “Shonda said, ‘The Crown won’t cover it, but I will’.”

Later in the series, Princess Augusta cautiously examines George (Corey Mylchreest) and Charlotte’s first-born child, before declaring him to be perfect.