Long before the Bridgerton Netflix series, Tina Andrews—actress, NAACP Image Award-winning writer, and director—developed an interest in Charlotte Sophia, Queen of England and wife of “Mad” King George III. Andrews’s 2013 novel, Charlotte Sophia: Myth, Madness and the Moor, explores the life of the unique historical figure, from her efforts to conceal her African heritage to her forbidden love for Johann Christian Bach, the son of composer Johann Sebastian Bach. Readers can now experience Andrews’s historical fiction tale in a whole new format. Recorded Books has released an audiobook version of Charlotte Sophia, which is narrated by actress Adjoa Andoh, who plays Lady Danbury in Bridgerton.
Andrews spoke to PW about how she first discovered Charlotte Sophia and the joys of sharing her amazing story with readers via print, stage play, audiobook, and beyond.
This must be such an amazing time for you.
It is. It’s been a 20-year journey on this material with the research, two dozen trips to London, writing the novel, scripting the play version done in Los Angeles and then New York, and now the pilot of an HBO Max series. So, with this new audiobook edition, I feel incredibly blessed to see the fruits of that labor finally realized.
How did you first discover Charlotte Sophia and her fascinating story?
When my father died in 1987, I inherited his library. One of his books was by Black historian J. A. Rogers and had an image of Queen Charlotte on her coronation day with the caption: “Charlotte Sophia. The first black Queen of England.” I nearly died. I’m thinking why don’t I know about Queen Charlotte? Why isn’t she taught in schools? So, I set about to learn more. But in those days, there was no internet and the few library books only had a mention of her without any reference to her color—and most of them were ancient. But I did learn that Queen Elizabeth II commented on her ethnic heritage at her 1952 coronation.
How did you finally research the story?
I knew I’d have to go to London. I started at the National Portrait Gallery in 2003 where a huge painting of her is on exhibit. I was then led to the British Museum where curators began to send me info. I was at the British Library for hours on end during each subsequent trip to London, and also consulted the Buckingham and Windsor Palace archives. Writing the book took eight years. The play came out in 2009 in Los Angeles, the novel in 2013, the play in New York in 2014, and a second edition in 2017. The research experience could be its own book!
So much of your book deals with Queen Charlotte's descent from a Moor in the 13th century and the Knights Templar. Talk a bit more about what you learned.
Madragana ben Bekar—the Moor—was a concubine of Portuguese King Afonso III. Her descendants, who lead to Charlotte Sophia, become a mind-boggling study in race-mixing and Templar involvement. One line even held the Holy Shroud for 300 years before it came to Turin. Several lines of African/Moorish blood come into the 15 generations prior to Charlotte especially once Margarita de Castro y Sousa and her descendants enter the genealogy.
What does Adjoa Andoh’s voice bring to Charlotte’s story?
Adjoa has done so many audiobooks and is fantastic. So, audiences are in for a real treat with Charlotte Sophia. What Adjoa brings as a narrator is pure theater and I was so thrilled to have her involved.
Audiobooks are increasingly a go-to option for busy readers these days. Are you a fan of audiobooks yourself?
Oh my, yes. I have been since my first audiobook, which was Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt.
How might the audio format enhance the experience of Charlotte Sophia?
You’ll be swept away by the tale of a young, German, put-upon royal forced to marry a man she didn’t know or love only to eventually fall for him and learn who she really is and what her purpose is.
How will the potential HBO Max series based on your book expand the Queen Charlotte universe?
Well, Hollywood has labeled me a “Historical Griot,” so I am part historian, part dramatist, all theater. I can only hope the series will be delicious enough to make people go to the internet or their history books to learn more about Charlotte so no one has to ask what I asked all those years ago: “Why don’t I know about Queen Charlotte?”