Who Is Michaela Stirling in “Bridgerton”?

Warning for Bridgerton fans who don’t want to know what happens in Francesca’s story: Spoilers ahead!

Fans of Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton book series were in for a surprise when, in the Netflix adaptation’s season three finale, it was revealed that Michael Stirling from the novels has been replaced by a new female version of the character, Michaela Stirling.

For those of you who haven’t read them, in the books, the second-born Bridgerton daughter falls in love with her husband’s cousin Michael after she is widowed.

In the sixth Bridgerton novel, When He Was Wicked, Michael is a 19th-century playboy and bachelor who becomes the new Earl of Kilmartin when John unexpectedly dies, due to a brain injury. John’s death occurs only two years into his marriage with Francesca. The young widow turns to Michael for comfort, as the two had already formed a close friendship prior to John’s passing. But unbeknownst to her, Michael has been secretly pining for her since they first met.

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With Michaela’s introduction to the Bridgerton universe, it’s probably safe to assume that Francesca’s season will explore her identity as a queer woman in Britain’s Regency era.

Indeed, we already saw hints of the future couple’s romance when the two women were first introduced to each other and Francesca literally forgot her own name—a callback to a conversation she’d had with her mother, who described the shock of love at first sight: “When I first met your father, I could barely speak my own name. I was so taken by him. I stumbled over words most familiar.”

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“When I first read When He Was Wicked in the lead-up to season one, I really related to it as a queer woman,” Bridgerton showrunner Jess Brownell told Entertainment Weekly. “There’s some themes in that book about Francesca feeling different. Julia Quinn just means it in terms of her being an introvert. But for a lot of us in the queer community, that sense of feeling different from a young age is a part of our stories. So, I felt like there was good thematic resonance telling a queer story with Francesca.”

Brownell added, “And I didn’t want to just insert a queer character to check a box. I really wanted to tell a story about a portion of the queer experience. There’s also a certain piece of Francesca’s story historically that allows us to ensure a happily ever after for her and Michaela. It was really important for me in crafting a main queer story for us to give that couple a happy ending just like every other couple.”

While we don’t yet know which character season four will revolve around, Brownell teased that we will definitely be getting more of Michaela. “I can’t say in what capacity, just in terms of not tipping my hand of where we’re going. But there is going to be a relationship between Michaela and Fran, as per the books,” she said.

And if you’re preemptively mourning the loss of the chemistry between Hannah Dodd and Victor Alli, who play Francesca and John, respectively, have no fear—there’s more in store for that relationship, too. “I also want to say that we’re still honoring what John and Francesca have as well,” the showrunner said. “I know a lot of people have really connected with that relationship. And something I love about Francesca’s book is it’s actually a story of two great loves. So we do intend to honor that.”

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As an associate editor at HarpersBAZAAR.com, Chelsey keeps a finger on the pulse on all things celeb news. She also writes on social movements, connecting with activists leading the fight on workers’ rights, climate justice, and more. Offline, she’s probably spending too much time on TikTok, rewatching Emma (the 2020 version, of course), or buying yet another corset.