Should Bridgerton’s Sapphic Couple Be the Focus of Next Season?

Just before she hands her daughter, Francesca (Hannah Dodd), off to be married, Violet Bridgerton (Ruth Gemmell) recalls the love she shared with her late husband, Edmund. She recalls being so taken by him that she could barely speak her own name; even the most familiar words eluded her. For years, it’s been the prism through which Lady Bridgerton sees love and it’s what she’s always wanted for her children.

But that’s not what Francesca has. Her daughter’s relationship with John Stirling, the Earl of Kilmartin, has been — often quite literally — muted. Theirs is an understated courtship, devoid of all the pomp and circumstance that we’ve witnessed over Bridgerton‘s run. They accept each other for who they are and value quiet and peace, above all else. Their courtship and engagement were short, and they plan a small, intimate wedding at Bridgerton House. It’s not the love Lady Bridgerton knew but it’s one she’s come to understand.

“What I was going to say is that, for the longest time, I thought that that is what love must be like for everyone — surprising, forceful, quick — but you have shown me that there is another way,” she admits. “There is…beauty in the slow approach.”

The couple weds and participates in one last ball before absconding to John’s family estate in the Scottish Highlands. But before Francesca and John depart, two more join their traveling party: Eloise (Claudia Jessie), Francesca’s older sister who seeks an opportunity to have more adventures outside the Bridgerton bubble, and John’s cousin, Michaela Stirling (Masali Baduza).

“I caution you, every sordid detail John has spoken about me is a lie,” Michaela jokes. “The truth is far worse.”

As she takes Michaela in for the first time, Francesca’s breath catches. Words elude her. She stumbles over her own name. There it is — surprising, forceful, quick — a love like her parents once had. Only with a woman. Yes, dearest gentle readers, the moment we’ve been waiting for since our first visit to 19th Century Regency London has finally arrived: Bridgerton has gotten gay.

John introduces his new wife, Francesca, to his cousin and best friend, Michaela Stirling.

The story represents a dramatic departure from Julie Quinn’s source material in When He Was Wicked. In the books, Michaela Stirling is Michael, who experiences that surprising, forceful, quick love when he first meets Francesca. Unwilling to disturb the newlyweds’ happiness, Michael keeps his affections buried and engages in meaningless affairs to stifle his hurt. But when John dies, Francesca latches onto Michael in her grief and the closeness only torments Michael more. His grief is coupled with guilt, over coveting John’s wife and inheriting his title and estate, and he runs away to India to avoid taking over his cousin’s old life. Eventually, though, he returns and ultimately he and Francesca find their way to each other.

“When I read her book, I, as a queer woman, really related to her book. Maybe in a way Julia Quinn didn’t intend, but a lot of Francesca’s book is about feeling different from her family and from the world around her and not really knowing why,” showrunner Jess Brownell told Deadline. “In the book, I think it’s mostly just about being introverted. But I think for a lot of queer people — not every queer person, but a lot of queer people — that sense of feeling different from the time you’re young, is part of our stories.”

Admittedly, this is not how I expected Bridgerton‘s queerness to play out. Like most Bridgerton-watching gays, I was convinced that Eloise would be the show’s resident queer character. She’s strong, fiercely independent and eschews all the trappings of the Regency era. She has this intense friendship with Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan) and it’s their break-up at the end of season two which reverberates the most. She was very much giving “young Anne Lister ” vibes to me personally.

“We’ve talked about Eloise in the room a lot about the fact that to a lot of people, she does read as queer, and I totally understand why,” Brownell told TVLine. “But we felt it’s really important to hold space in this show where everyone is obsessed with romance for there to be a character — specifically a female character — for whom that is not the priority.”

The wait for Francesca’s next chapter will be a long one. Certainly, the crafting of a new arc so dramatically different from the one laid out in Quinn’s version will take time. According to Brownell, Bridgerton‘s fourth season won’t likely debut until 2026. Even then, it’s unclear which pairing will be the focus of the show’s next season. Bridgerton‘s third season marked a departure from the sequence in Julia Quinn’s source material so it’s anyone’s guess what the future holds…and Brownell certainly isn’t telling. In addition to Francesca’s story, this season teed up possibilities for Benedict, Eloise, and even Lady Violet so the writers could go in any number of directions.

The queer television fan in me — scarred by years of abrupt cancellations and queer stories that we never get to see come to fruition — wants Francesca’s story to come as soon as possible, especially since Netflix has only guaranteed four seasons of the show. But, as a fan of the show, I’d rather it revert back to its earlier form: giving centerstage to one pairing at a time, rather than packing multiple couples into one season. This season was just too much and with so many other storylines to juggle, it detracted from the central romance. I’m not sure I ended the season thinking Colin Bridgerton was worthy of Penelope. But then again, it’s possible that no one deserves Nicola Coughlan and her perfect breasts.

Ultimately, I just want the same robust storytelling afforded to Francesca and Michaela as was given to Phoebe and Simon in season one. I want Francesca and Michaela to enjoy sultry sex scenes just like Colin and Penelope got to share this season. I want this same-sex couple to exist on the same playing field as all the other couples — or, as much as possible in the 19th Century — even if that means we have to wait a little longer to see it.

Bridgerton season three is now streaming on Netflix.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!


A black biracial, bisexual girl raised in the South, working hard to restore North Carolina's good name. Lover of sports, politics, good TV and Sonia Sotomayor. You can follow her latest rants on Twitter.

Natalie has written 409 articles for us.


  1. The degree of my fascination with your creations is equal to your own enthusiasm. The sketch is tasteful, and the authored material is of a high caliber. Yet, you appear uneasy about the prospect of heading in a direction that could cause unease. I’m confident you’ll be able to resolve this situation efficiently.

  2. “But then again, it’s possible that no one deserves Nicola Coughlan and her perfect breasts.”

    Lol hard agree on this and everything else here Natalie. I hope we get a season devoted just to Francesca and Michaela, although that would mean killing off John pretty quickly, and I do like him.

  3. i’m really glad they made Francesca queer instead of Eloise. that felt too easy.

    they had to cram so much into this season because i think most of the books have super time jumps that don’t work well for tv, so it feels like it’s anyone’s guess as to who’ll be next. i feel like they’re going to go with either Benedict or Eloise next and make us wait for Francesca and Michaela until maybe the fandom calms down about it. i have seen people make a case for Benedict’s love interest Sophie to be a transwoman, and i don’t hate that idea. just make them all queer!

  4. Honestly with how Daphne, Anthony, and Colin’s romances went you’d think maybe Violet would pull back her expectations in regards to her kids relationships. Probably not going to get any better regardless of which kid is the next focus.

  5. I’m not here for Francesca’s story being one of being in a stifling marriage and yearning for her cousin-in-law. For all the failings of the books, Francesca really did love John and you felt their marital happiness in the text. I’d like to see this reflected in the show. She genuinely loves her husband and married life, and has to parse out how much of the guilt she feels after his death (sorry for the spoilers) about moving on at all and how much of it is moving on with someone so close to her husband. And in the adaptation, apparently, how much of her misgivings is reconciling with a queer identity. A bisexual second chance at love, not a seedy affair.

    But it has to wait until after the tragedy. Because John’s death has to be a real tragedy, or this isn’t a romance. It’s some other kind of story.

  6. Reading reviews of the episode was really funny for my bc my autistic brain definitely misinterpreted that scene. I thought it was just showing that Francesca was just as tongue-tied around John’s family as he was around hers. I actually pegged Michaela as a potential sapphic love interest but thought she and Eloise were the ones who might get together. *facepalm*

    As it is I have kind of mixed feelings about the pairing bc I definitely endorse the queer angle (and that actress is STUNNING), but I also had a lot of affection for John and Francesca’s neurodivergent, maybe ace vibe. It’s also something underrepresented in romance stories. I appreciated the Violet coming to understand that love could look different for different people, and it kind of sucks to have the narrative immediately undercut that idea.

  7. I could really feel the queerness in Eloise and Cressida. Eloise was really like a queer woman in terms of personality and Cressida reflected the feeling of a queer woman really well in terms of appearance (After all, Jessica Madsen herself is queer)
    But unfortunately, unlike Eloise and Cressida, I could not feel anything queer about Francesca neither in terms of appearance nor in terms of personality. Francesca always gave me the same feeling that most straight women give me, and like all straight women, she was only thinking about men.
    That’s why it was hard for me to believe that she is queer.
    Personally, I got this feeling to some extent from Michaela, even though it was only a short moment in the series, but not from Francesca :)
    Anyway, my expectations from Michaela and Francesca’s love story are really high and I hope they will show a wonderful storytelling, otherwise I will be really upset, especially from Brownell Showrunner of the series. Because of the cost of building this ship (Michaela and Francesca), the sinking of the ship (Cressida) was my favorite.

Contribute to the conversation...

Yay! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated by the guidelines laid out in our comment policy. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation and thanks for stopping by!