Whether you enjoy some steamy romance or you're just a sucker for a good period drama, it seems as if everyone's latest TV obsession is Bridgerton. The new Netflix series, which is based on the romance novel series by Julia Quinn and produced by Grey's Anatomy's Shonda Rhimes, delivers everything from lavish costumes and gorgeous set design to an absolutely swoon-worthy cast (and everything in between!). But perhaps one of the best parts about the series is the enigmatic identity of Lady Whistledown (voiced by Julie Andrews), the town's anonymous gossip columnist who shakes up Regency-era London with her all-knowing scandal sheet.
Which, of course, leads us to the question everyone has been wondering since the very first episode: Who is Lady Whistledown, anyway? Well, dear readers, we're happy to say that we have all the answers as to the mysterious woman's identity — and you'll absolutely want to read on for the show's shocking reveal of the biggest secret of the season. (Obviously, some major spoilers ahead!)
So, who is Lady Whistledown?
Gossip Girl may have waited six long seasons to reveal the true identity of the titular character, but Bridgerton didn't wait — it unmasked its anonymous narrator in the last episode of the first season. In the very final moments of episode 8, Lady Whistledown is revealed to be none other than Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan), the youngest Featherington daughter and the shy, unassuming best friend of Eloise Bridgerton (Claudia Jessie) — yes, the very same person who continuously attempted to uncover Lady Whistledown's identity throughout the season!
In case you missed it, the shocking final scene shows a hooded figure riding in a carriage as Julie Andrews narrates Lady Whistledown's latest gossip column. “Perhaps I will come forward one day," she says. "Though, you must know, dear reader, that decision shall be left entirely up to me. Yours truly, Lady Whistledown." She then lowers her hood to reveal her true identity — and it's Penelope with a sly, knowing smile on her face!
What were some clues about Lady Whistledown's identity?
At first glance, it might seem that our darling Pen would be the very last person that could be the sly and conniving Lady Whistledown: She's shy and sweet, and her storyline in the show mainly centers around being desperately and secretly in love with Colin Bridgerton (Luke Netwon). Not to mention, her own family — the Featheringtons — is often the subject of scathing criticism from Lady Whistledown (which is certainly a genius move to ensure that no one will suspect her!).
If you really think about it, though, Penelope being Lady Whistledown actually makes sense: She had access to every high-society function as a Featherington, where she was able to expertly blend into the background and fly under the radar to overhear some of the town's best gossip. She's also one of the very few people who knew about Marina Thompson's (Ruby Barker) out-of-wedlock pregnancy, a scandal that Lady Whistledown shockingly exposes — and she had plenty of motive to expose it, too, being that Penelope was deeply in love with Colin (who was ready to marry Marina without knowing about her pregnancy from another man).
In fact, according to Penelope's own Nicola Coughlan, you'll often see the character lurking in the background in some of the show's key scenes — the very same moments that Whistledown ends up writing about in her column. “There'd be certain things where the director would say, ‘We want to stand you here and do this.’ And I'd think, ‘I can't, because in my column, I write that they meet at this point,'" Nicola told Town & Country. "So, if you went back, you'll spot me in a couple of scenes like 'Where's Waldo.'"
Why did Bridgerton reveal Lady Whistledown's identity in season 1?
While Netflix's Bridgerton stays true to the original book series in regards to the true identity of Lady Whistledown, the big reveal actually came a lot later in the books. Specifically, Lady Whistledown isn't revealed to be Penelope until the fourth novel, titled Romancing Mister Bridgerton. So why did the show decide to spill the beans on Bridgerton's biggest secret so early on?
"For me, it felt like it was time," Bridgerton creator Chris Van Dusen explained in an interview with Decider. “I think that there were always two tracks for us in the writers’ room, when looking at Lady Whistledown. We knew that there was a portion of the audience that had read the books and had their thoughts and theories about who Lady Whistledown was. Then, there was an entirely new group of people that are not as familiar with the books, and have no idea where the story of Lady Whistledown went. It was about keeping the mystery alive and fun for fans of the books, but also, never being ahead of it. Never telegraphing where we’re going."
Well, now that viewers are in on Lady Whistledown's secret identity, the only question that remains is what this means for season 2 of Bridgerton. How long can Penelope keep up the ruse, and will her secret eventually be exposed to the other characters? It looks like we'll have to wait to find out, dear readers, but we're definitely already on the edge of our seats for the next chapter of the Bridgerton saga!
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