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Francesca Bridgerton’s Story shocks Bridgerton Fans

Warning, gentle reader: Spoilers ahead for Bridgerton season three, as well as plot points from the novels.

When a love connection is made in Bridgerton, it’s typically facilitated by an impassioned declaration of lust—as was the case between Luke Newton’s Colin and Nicola Coughlan’s Penelope. But when Francesca Bridgerton (played by Hannah Dodd) meets-cute with John, Earl of Kilmartin (Victor Alli) in the first half of the show’s third season, sparks fly in complete silence. “How will they know each other if they do not speak?” asks matriarch Violet Bridgerton (Ruth Gemmell), wary of their courtship—in part because it goes against the match Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) has selected for Francesca.

The unconventional love story between introverts Francesca and John is still unfurling in the third season of Bridgerton, which returns with part two on June 13. But viewers have already begun to speculate about the future of the sixth Bridgerton sibling—who has been referred to as “autistic coded” by some neurodivergent fans who say they share traits with the introspective Francesca. And like all the Bridgerton siblings, Francesca is the subject of her own romance novel in Julia Quinn’s original book series—which may reveal at least part of what’s in store for her.

Ahead, a preview of what’s to come with Francesca, including her character’s tragic turn in the novels.

Who is Francesca Bridgerton?

Described in the novels as her older sister Eloise’s (Claudia Jessie) “accidental twin” because of their close proximity in age, Francesca is the most subdued of the Bridgerton siblings. Until now, she has largely been sidelined on Bridgerton. She was gone for large swaths of seasons one and two, with the show blaming her absence on visits to her Aunt Winnie in the countryside town of Bath. When Francesca is reintroduced in Bridgerton season three, we learn that she’d rather be tickling the ivories than fending off potential suitors. “I don’t think she ever wants to be the center of attention, so she feels quite uncomfortable with it being all eyes on her,” Dodd recently told Town & Country.

Why is Francesca played by a new actor?

Ruby Locke, who played Francesca in seasons one and two, departed Bridgerton for a leading role on Netflix’s Lockwood & Co. “I have to hand it to Hannah Dodd, who stepped into the role of Francesca this year,” showrunner Jess Brownell previously told Vanity Fair. “There was the risk with the Francesca character that she could be unknowable or inaccessible, but Hannah brings this real nuance and subtlety that allows us inside her head in a really powerful way.”

As co-star Claudia Jessie told VF, “Can you imagine stepping into this two seasons in? I’m terrified turning up, and I’ve been there since day one. Hannah, the minute she turned up, it felt like she’d been with us for years. She is glorious through and through. Hannah has done a beautiful job. I came away from [this season] very, very, very proud of her.”

What is Francesca’s storyline in Bridgerton season three?

Despite her reticence about the marriage mart, the Queen names Francesca this season’s “sparkler,” precisely because she performs for herself and not the society set. The Queen then masterminds what she believes to be an ideal suitor for Francesca in Lord Samadani (David Mumeni). “I love my family dearly, but it can be rather lonely to be around them all at once,” Francesca tells him in the season’s third episode. Samadani, also one of eight siblings, disagrees with her viewpoint and makes his intentions for a similarly large family known. Dismayed by his response, Francesca retreats to the outskirts of that evening’s ball, where she meets John, Earl of Kilmartin, with whom she bonds over their shared need for solitude.

By the end of episode four, John has seemingly won Francesca over by rearranging a piece of music to her exact specifications. But Francesca’s desire for a quieter love clashes with her family’s tendency towards tortured romance. “The Bridgertons are mostly extroverted and charming and at ease in social situations. And then you have Francesca, who is the introvert of the family,” Brownell tells VF. “She’s much more reserved, much more taciturn. But she also has this really rich inner life and a strong point of view, which is challenging to Violet when Francesca debuts this year on the marriage mart. Violet knows very well how to shepherd her other children who are very vocal about what their feelings are, but because Francesca is more of an enigma, it creates a real hurdle for Violet.”

What happens to Francesca in her Bridgerton book?

When she was cast, Dodd says she picked up a copy of Francesca’s novel “because she’s not really present in the other books. That was all I really had to work off.”

Indeed, one of the major book to show changes in Bridgerton season three is that Francesca isn’t a major player in Colin and Penelope’s novel, Romancing Mister Bridgerton. Francesca and John’s romance takes place largely off the page between Benedict’s book, An Offer From a Gentleman, and Colin’s.

She doesn’t take center stage until in 2004’s When He Was Wicked, the sixth book in the Bridgerton series. During her marriage to John, Francesca bonds with Michael Stirling, her husband’s cousin and closest friend, who has yet to appear in the show. It is revealed in the book’s very first chapter that Michael fell in love with Francesca at first sight—mere hours before she walked down the aisle to marry his best mate. (Think Keira Knightley and Andrew Lincoln’s Love Actually storyline.)

Two years into their marriage, John dies of a ruptured cerebral aneurysm, making his closest relative, Michael the new earl. But Michael abandons his duties—and Francesca—by fleeing to India to grieve alone. The former friends are estranged four years before Francesca re-enters the marriage mart, seeking her second husband and the chance at starting a family. Michael enters the scene with similar wishes, neither hopeful for anything beyond a pragmatic match. But when Michael reconnects with Francesca, he realizes that his romantic feelings for her have not dimmed with time.

Will the show follow the same storyline as Francesca’s book?

Four episodes into the third season, it’s unclear how much of Francesca’s trajectory will remain true to the books. If she were to marry John during this season, it stands to reason that the show would also introduce Michael, given that Francesca meets him before getting married. But as of now, casting for that role has not been announced. And as showrunner Jess Brownell told VF, she feels able to take creative liberties with Francesca “because she doesn’t appear much in seasons one and two.”

The original article can be found on Vanity Fair.

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