If you’ve watched Netflix's Bridgerton series, then you already know the show is very visually appealing. And no, I’m not just talking about the Duke of Hastings. The costumes, the jewels, and the interiors are all reason enough to keep your eyes glued to the screen.
And ok, fine, when the Duke is on, none of the rest really matters.
What Is Bridgerton?
Consider this a light spoiler alert! If you plan to watch Bridgerton but haven’t yet, then you might want to come back later. If you’re not bothered by spoilers but are curious to know what Bridgerton is all about: it’s basically a Regency-era Gossip Girl set in 1800s England and complete with a mystery know-it-all. It's also your classic girl-meets-boy story, except the girl is Daphne Bridgerton, eldest daughter of the esteemed Bridgerton family, and the boy is Simon, Duke of Hastings. After a lot of ups and downs and local gossip, they pair off and marry, and things heat up very, very quickly.
Now, for anyone else who binged it as soon as it began, then there’s a good chance that you also ended the season wishing for a royal residence to call your own. Personally, with each estate that appeared on screen, I announced I wanted that one more than the last. Based on the real estate alone, I was extremely sold on being a duchess.
We spoke with Eleanor Brooke-Peat, the assistant curator of the estate’s 2019 exhibit, Magnificence & Convenience, to learn about the history of the actual castle and get a look at some of the spectacular rooms.
Castle Clyveden Is Actually Castle Howard
When the Duke whisks his new Duchess off to honeymoon at their sprawling family estate, Castle Clyveden, the steamiest scenes of the series unfold in one of the most beautiful castles in England. Castle Clyveden is actually Castle Howard, a private residence in North Yorkshire that has been a family home for over 300 years.
As I tried to figure out what makes this particular home so special—and wondered if there are any elements of royal living I can incorporate into my own daily life—I reached out to Brooke-Peat.
Redecorating the Castle
As you may remember in the show, one of Daphne’s first responsibilities as duchess is to redecorate Castle Clyveden to match her and her new husband’s tastes. In reality, Castle Howard saw the same constant redecoration, all depending on its inhabitants. “With each new phase of redecoration, the schemes of earlier generations have been covered up or swept away,” said Brooke-Peat.
When it comes to maintaining its visual history today, Castle Howard relies on probate inventories, which are detailed lists of objects in each room that were compiled on the death of the current Earl in residence. It also leans heavily on descriptions of visitors via letters and private journals, as well as paintings. In a world before photographs, these are the only ways to understand how the rooms have evolved with time.
Bridgerton takes place in 1813, and what we do know is that, at that time in history, Castle Howard was occupied by an Earl who had 12 children—ironic if you know the show’s storyline. “The interiors remained magnificent,” said Brooke-Peat, “but comfort and convenience became the priority.”
When it comes to the trends of the times, I also loved learning that Bridgerton stayed very true to one particular element. “Redecoration was happening elsewhere in the house, particularly in domestic rooms. Both family and servants’ quarters were refurbished using wallpaper, which had by now become an integral part of interior decoration.”
If you remember from Bridgerton, many of the rooms were covered in beautiful damask wallpapers—in muted tones for the more refined families, like the Bridgertons, and bright, vibrant tones for the more flamboyant characters, like the Featheringtons.
Even now, the property is ever-evolving. After Castle Howard faced a catastrophic fire in 1940, the house has consistently worked to redecorate in a way that honors the family history. “As both a visitor attraction and family home,” says Eleanor, “the aim is not to recreate decorative schemes from the past.” Instead, as the current inhabitants consider how to update their space, “new interiors will be historically informed and maintain the tradition of splendor and comfort.”
Royals at Castle Howard
Just like Castle Clyveden, Castle Howard has held the honor of hosting royalty. Most notably, in 1850, the current Earl and his family hosted Queen Victoria for a private visit. But unlike in Bridgerton, the home was newly fitted with gas lighting. “The crowning glory was a special installation of gas lights beneath the dome, creating 15 illuminated letters to spell out ‘GOD SAVE THE QUEEN’.”
That’s a detail I personally would love to see included in the next season of Bridgerton. Queen Charlotte would surely approve.
Maintaining the Massive Estate
Reading about the maintenance of the castle in the early 19th century reads almost like general upkeep of a regular house than a regal family estate set in the rolling hills of the English countryside. “Corridors, ceilings, and skirtings were occasionally repainted to help keep a fresh appearance. Furniture was repaired, re-upholstered and regilded, and clocks and musical instruments were regularly serviced and tuned.”
I don’t know about you, but I'm already counting down to the next season of Bridgerton. Until then, maybe a trip to Castle Howard is in order? For decorating research, of course.