Shonda Rhimes’ steamy period project “Bridgerton,” based on the book series by Julia Quinn, is back and better than ever on Friday, March 25. But before we enter a completely new season of courtship focused on Anthony Bridgerton (Johnathan Bailey), let’s take a look back at the dramatic precedent their sister Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor) set as the first of the Bridgertons to find her life partner: the Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page). Below we’ve put together a “Bridgerton” Season 1 recap to get you up to speed before Season 2 begins.
The first episode of Season 1 places us in Grosvenor Square, 1813, as the scene is set for high society’s upcoming marriage market season. Anonymous narrator and somewhat classy gossipmonger Lady Whistledown (voiced by Julie Andrews) introduces us to the two main families of season 1: The Bridgertons and the Featheringtons.
Daphne Bridgerton entered the social scene last year, guided by her brother Anthony, the oldest of the Bridgerton children, who serves as head of house after the unfortunate and untimely death of his father. Daphne and Anthony’s mother Violet (Ruth Gemmell) also quietly supports her daughter since her unruly eldest son can be caught sowing his wild oats around town instead of shepherding his sister into a suitable marriage. Younger Bridgerton siblings who share the spotlight include Benedict (Luke Thompson), Eloise (Claudia Jessie) and Colin (Luke Newton).
Across the street from the Bridgertons live the Featheringtons, with mother Portia (Polly Walker) throwing all three of her daughters — Prudence (Bessie Carter), Philippa (Harriet Cains) and Penelope (Nicola Coughlan) — into the marriage market at once. Portia plays a role similar to Violet Bridgerton, while her husband Lord Archibald (Ben Miller) follows Anthony’s suit and doesn’t seem to be of much help.
Daphne Becomes the Diamond
At the presentation of all the debutantes, each girl dons a feathery crown of sorts and, at the announcement of her name, walks down a long aisle to appear before Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel), who looks them over before dismissing them. The three Featherington girls go first but don’t earn any nods or favor from the Queen, and Prudence faints because her corset is too tight. Things go completely opposite for Daphne, who the Queen praises as perfect, giving her approval and raising Daphne’s status in the eyes of potential suitors, with the help of Lady Whistledown, who further deems her “the season’s incomparable.”
Dearest Reader, Meet Lady Whistledown
Lady Whistledown is the official town journalist, in more of a sensational tabloid type of way. Her identity is not initially known to viewers, yet it is one that allows her to scoop all sorts of secrets and little-known information, which she publishes in her “Society Papers.” Whistledown releases these pamphlets on her own schedule to the public, who come to crave them, giving Whistledown unimaginable power. It is Whistledown who will spill the tea and make this engagement season the rollercoaster it ends up being.
Marina Thompson the Underdog
Marina Thompson (Ruby Barker) takes high society by surprise when she comes to stay with the Featheringtons, adding a fourth contestant to their already crowded party. Ms. Thompson is distantly related to the Featheringtons, but she grew up in the countryside on a farm. She is stunning, and surprisingly, when suitors make their way out into the world to court ladies on Calling Day, Ms. Thompson gathers a long line.
Lady Danbury’s Ball
Lady Danbury hosts the first party of the season, and Anthony has to escort Daphne to this ball. Before the ball, he complains to his mistress opera singer Siena about all of his responsibilities. Anthony makes things more complicated for Daphne with his impossibly high standards for her potential husband, doing more harm than good in intimidating most of them and chasing them away from Daphne.
Lord Nigel Berbrooke first approaches Daphne at Lady Danbury’s ball. Berbrooke is not the most attractive of men, but looks don’t deter the arrangement of marriages in “Bridgerton.” Berbrooke physically pursues Daphne, chasing her and causing her to bump into Simon, the Duke of Hastings. More to come about Berbrooke later.
The Diamond and the Duke
Marina is not the only wild card who enters the mix. The Duke of Hastings, Simon Basset, has come to town to support his friend Will in his boxing career, and tie up his recently dead father’s affairs, taking over the estate and the title of Duke. Lady Danbury invites Simon to her ball because they are also related, but he is not marriage-minded at all. Daphne runs into him at the party — and after genuinely not knowing who he is and finding out that he’s old friends with Anthony — Daphne keeps her eye out for other men to dance with.
Later on, when Lady Whistledown highlights both Daphne’s lack of suitors and the Duke’s dislike of the idea of marriage, Lady Danbury and Violet Bridgerton conspire to try and set the Duke up with Daphne after a night out at the opera. Neither Daphne nor the Duke take the bait… at first.
Party #3 and Conflicts of Interest
The third major social event of the season amps up the chatter for several reasons. For one, Marina Thompson can’t make it because she feels ill, and this later turns out to be because she is pregnant. Marina met someone back at home, and they fell in love and hooked up before he left to fight in the army and she left to get presented for marriage. Portia finds out and becomes furious because Marina’s illegitimate child could damage her chances of finding a husband if someone were to find out about it.
Meanwhile, at the actual party, Penelope Featherington gets to dance with Colin Bridgerton, her longtime crush, even after vicious viper Cressida Cowper (Jessica Madsen) spills a drink on Penelope in an attempt to get with Colin.
Then, Anthony confronts Daphne and tells her that he has decided that she will marry Lord Berbrooke. Daphne does not want this, and she leaves to get some air, but Berbrooke follows her into what is known as “The Dark Walk,” rudely declaring that she has no other options for marriage. Simon shows up on the scene ready to defend Daphne when Berbrooke gets too close to her, but she knocks him out with a punch. Daphne is both relieved but also worried that people will talk if anyone says Berbrooke got too close to her, because even hovering closer than normal could indicate a compromise of a lady’s innocence and virtue.
Daphne and Simon cook up the scheme of tricking Lady Whistledown into thinking they are an item, which will save Simon from all the mothers and their eligible daughters while increasing interest in Daphne once other suitors realize the Duke has taken an interest in her.
If you couldn’t tell by now, this classic “enemies to lovers” trope is definitely headed somewhere. The trick works for Daphne when suitors line up outside her door and Berbrooke becomes upset when he heads to the Bridgerton house, thinking he will secure a proposal. The Duke comes to Daphne’s rescue in more ways than one, letting it slip that Berbrooke tried to cozy up to Daphne, bringing Anthony to realize that Berbrooke might be a little shady. But Berbrooke retaliates with a marriage license, as well as blackmailing Daphne and the entire Bridgerton family when he threatens to say that he was alone with Daphne in the garden.
The Queen Plays Her Hand
The Queen hosts Violet for tea and tells her Daphne should marry the Duke because it will solidify the Queen’s instincts that Daphne is a diamond. The Queen’s assistant Brimsley (Hugh Sachs) hints to Violet that she should invite Berbrooke’s mother over to socialize, and Violet does so in order to get the dirt on Berbrooke by letting their maids converse. It comes to light that Berbrooke had an illegitimate child with one of his help and sent both the girl and baby away. Once Lady Whistledown picks up this news, it’s over for Berbrooke in his pursuit of Daphne.
Berbrooke leaves town, Daphne and the Duke dance at another party, and feelings spark.
Marina Gets Back in the Game
Portia wants to get Marina married as fast as possible so that they can forget her whole scandal. Marina tells Penelope that she still exchanges letters with George Crane, her lover and the father of her child, while he is fighting on the front lines. Marina also makes things difficult for Portia when she snubs some men that approach her at yet another party.
Prince Friedrich (Freddie Stroma) of Prussia also makes an appearance at this party, and the Queen introduces Friedrich to Daphne, yet again exerting her influence on the social scene. (The prince is also her nephew).
Daphne doesn’t immediately take a liking to the prince, but he likes that she plays hard to get. When Daphne escapes the prince at an art exhibit, to admire paintings that the Duke donated, she and the Duke feel even more chemistry with one another.
Cressida Cowper really goes hard for the prince, approaching him when he first arrives and then fake fainting near him so that he is forced to catch her. The prince pays no heed to Cressida’s efforts, and he hesitates to court Daphne because she seems very interested in the Duke, but the Queen demands he at least give it a shot.
Meanwhile with Marina
Portia makes Marina realize that George has not sent her a response letter since she wrote to him with the news that she’s pregnant, and Marina starts to worry that he isn’t as loyal to her as she thought. Portia makes matters worse when she and her maid Varley (Lorraine Ashbourne) forge a letter from George to Marina saying he wants nothing to do with their child.
Simon v. Prince Friedrich
The Duke, warned by Lady Danbury to be careful after there is still no sign of a proposal, cuts things off with Daphne since he still has no intention of marrying. Then, Daphne pulls out all the stops for a high society event that night, dazzling in a gorgeous dress as she glides down a staircase. The Duke attends the party and barely watches as Prince Friedrich asks Daphne for her first dance.
The next day, Prince Friedrich gives Daphne a necklace, and eyes and ears (including Lady Whistledown’s) perk up for the sign of a proposal from the prince. Will begs the Duke to stay in town one more day to support him at his boxing match, which is also attended by Daphne and the Prince. Daphne and the Prince bond while talking about how important family is, and she warms up to him.
Later at another ball that Lady Danbury hosts, Daphne needs more fresh air after the Prince makes a move to propose to her. The Duke followed her outside and they slowly start arguing, which leads to passionate kissing between them. Anthony catches the action, scolds the Duke for taking Daphne’s innocence and demands he marry her. The Duke refuses to marry Daphne, which would be the honorable thing to do. Anthony challenges Simon, his close friend, to a duel at dawn — and though illegal, these duels usually end in death on the part of one or both parties.
Leading up to the Duel, Anthony warns his brothers that he will either die or have to leave the country after the duel, meaning Benedict has to take over as head of household. Daphne dreads the duel, begging Anthony not to see it through. Colin thinks neither party will actually shoot each other. Daphne begs Colin to tell her where it is, and Colin tells her. She rides a horse into the middle of the standoff, where she falls off her horse when it gets spooked by Anthony’s gun firing. Anthony points his gun at the Duke but the Duke points his gun at the sky. Daphne informs Simon that Cressida Cowper must have seen them in the garden, and says the only thing they can do is get married. The Duke still says no, and then he says that he can’t give Daphne an heir, which he knows she wants most out of marriage. Daphne doesn’t let that stop her, proclaiming that they will get married.
On the night of their honeymoon, instead of heading back to Hastings, Simon and Daphne spend the night in a hotel, and the Duke books them separate rooms, which infuriates Daphne. They try to isolate in their rooms, but both simultaneously seek each other out to talk. After much back and forth, Simon tells Daphne he is not angry, but sad that she doesn’t “burn for” or feel the same way about him. Daphne confesses she does burn for him, and then they consummate their marriage.
Once they return to Hastings, Daphne and Simon have a lot of sex, but Simon pulls out every time, and Daphne — who is not exactly clear on how babies are made — doesn’t question it until she starts to fill in the blanks after hearing some things. Then, her lady’s maid explains the whole process to her, and Daphne realizes that Simon didn’t exactly tell the truth. One time when they are having sex, Daphne gets on top of the Duke, and he is forced to finish. He is shocked, and she gets upset with him for lying to her. This puts their marriage very much on the rocks.
In the midst of this trouble in paradise, Marina attempts to seduce Colin Bridgerton so that not only will he marry her, but he will think the child is his. She does like Colin enough to go through with this plan, but Colin doesn’t do anything with her. He does propose to her, to the surprise of everyone, including his mother and Anthony. Lady Whistledown somehow gets word of the news that Marina is with child, and reveals it in her pamphlet, snagging Colin in a nasty scandal, which Daphne catches wind of, returning to the Bridgerton house to help. Simon goes with her even though they are probably on the outs.
Colin gets out of the entanglement, but Marina tries to abort her baby through some herbal tea. It doesn’t work. Weirdly, George Crane’s brother shows up (with the help of Daphne, making the connection with the general’s wife and finding George’s whereabouts). Unfortunately, George died on the front lines, but his brother Phillip thinks George would want them to marry so that he could take care of his brother’s child. At first, Marina says no because she thought she killed her baby, but when she feels something in her stomach farther along, she discovers that the baby is still alive, so she does decide to marry Phillip.
While Simon attends another one of Will’s boxing matches, Daphne sleuths around in his office and finally finds out why Simon is so dead set on not producing an heir. He tells her that he swore to his father on his father’s deathbed that he would not have an heir, to her utter shock and bewilderment. Simon’s dad was such a perfectionist that when Simon stuttered and was slow to speak as a young child, his dad was too hard on him. Simon even tried to write his dad letters when he sent him away to school, but his dad never read them and called Simon a disgrace to the family name.
One Last Go Around
At one final decked-out dance, hosted by the Duke and the Duchess of Hastings, everyone gathers in a mix of somewhat high spirits.
Daphne and Simon go into the evening prepared to part ways, but they have one final moment on the dance floor. It starts to rain, everyone but the couple leaves the floor, and Daphne tells the Duke that she understands why he resents his father. She tells him that he is worthy of love, even his darkest parts. They return to Hastings, and the Duke confesses that he doesn’t want to be alone for the rest of his life.
Amidst the reconciling between Simon and Daphne, Eloise is on the hunt for Lady Whistledown. She learns from the Queen’s main assistant that the Queen’s men have tracked down the shop where Lady Whistledown prints her pamphlets, and Eloise runs to Lady Whistledown’s rescue, apprehending her carriage and warning her that her identity could be revealed. Eloise doesn’t get to see who Lady Whistledown is.
Poor Penelope finally gets up the courage to tell Colin how she feels about him, but he interrupts her and tells her that he is leaving the next day to go travel.
Happily Ever After
Later on, Daphne and the Duke have sex for the first time in a while, and Simon doesn’t pull out. Fast forward a bit, and they have a beautiful baby son, whose name isn’t decided at the end of the season, but will probably start with A, since that is a Bridgerton family tradition.
Tying Up Loose Ends
Some honorable mentions in terms of siblings and subplots: Philippa Featherington attracts a suitor, and Benedict Bridgerton lives life on the wild side by attending some crazy artist parties after meeting Mr. Henry Granville (Julian Ovenden), the host of many of the parties. Benedict also starts seeing the Modiste Madame Delacroix (Kathryn Drysdale) after meeting her at a borderline orgy party, where he has a threesome with Delacroix and (he doesn’t know yet) Granville’s wife (Sandra Teles), and where he also walks in on Granville hooking up with another guy.
Oh yeah, and Penelope is actually the clever writer behind Lady Whistledown. And no, her best friend Eloise Bridgerton does not know. Dun, dun dunnnnnn.