Portrayed by: Jonathan Bailey
Book | Show: Julia Quinn’s The Viscount Who Loved Me and Netflix’s Bridgerton
Bridgerton might be a romance series, but its complex characters are the best part. While the first season focuses primarily on book one, The Duke and I, Viscount Anthony Bridgerton’s role preludes what is to come for his arc and showcases just how much is brewing within. The first season forces us to question plenty. Do we like him? Do we not? Are we supposed to? What is he trying to tell us with all the toxic masculinity he exudes? He’s here to tell us an abundance, and ultimately, we’re here to discuss anxiety, time, efforts, the absence of mental health discourse in the 19th-century, and eventual healing because Anthony Bridgerton’s struggles are relatable for many.
A few overarching themes throughout Season 1 appropriately set up what we know is to come for most characters, and the absence of transparency is a big one. The season focuses intently on the scarcity of communication between mothers and daughters and the absence of vulnerability amongst men. (The lack of honest communication even leads Simon and Daphne to their marital conflict.) The bottom line is, on Bridgerton, people don’t always talk, and men especially don’t divulge their emotions.
Before we dive deep into this analysis, we need to take a moment and commend Jonathan Bailey’s performances before anything else. If it weren’t for the wide range of emotions he consistently brings to the character, Anthony Bridgerton would not be as fleshed out in a season where he isn’t meant to shine. Anxiety looks different in everyone—no two people have the same stories or even reactions. But from the moment he first appears on our screens, Bailey takes every opportunity to show the audience that Anthony Bridgerton is consistently drowning in waves that will not subdue.
There’s also much to say about the toxic masculinity of the time (which we still battle today). If we were to examine the character using Foucault’s panopticon theory, his duties effectively loom over him like inexhaustible watchful eyes. Since conversations about therapy weren’t happening the way they are today, men did not have a safe space to share their sentiments. And because of their duties, most men didn’t marry for love but to fulfill the roles society marks for them. Though the Bridgertons are different, some of these difficulties still stand in their way—despite what a close and loving family they are, the formidable trauma towering over them remains a protruding shadow they seldom speak about.
Grief impacts each of them immensely, but no two harbor anguish the same way, and with Anthony, the title he holds is enough to force him to conceal every ounce of it. He has to don the nobleman’s veneer while he crumbles internally, worsening day by day while his trauma falls through the cracks.
Anthony Bridgerton and The Harrowing Fears
Book readers are aware of Anthony’s harrowing fear that he too will die before he turns 38, just like his father did from a bee sting. In fact, he is convinced that he won’t even make it as long as his father did, and until he falls in love with Kate Sharma (Sheffield), no one is aware of this colossal fear he bears. While his mother could potentially understand how triggering the bee sting might have been when he’s caught in the garden with Kate, it is not enough for her to know that her son genuinely believes his own time on this earth is limited. While no other character is aware, the narration tells us this, and in the TV series, the pocket watch acts as a ticking time bomb for something even more prominent.
The same cannot be said about the revelations we know of in Season 2. Still, because Jonathan Bailey is interested in exploring Anthony Bridgerton’s mortality, we can conclude that though his fears aren’t tied to a specific age, he is still afraid of grief’s lasting mark on a person. And mainly in love.
Time and Anxiety
Despite some of what we learned in Bridgerton Season 2, the signs within the first season remain. It might appear as though Anthony’s means of tracking time are to be on top of his duties, but there’s more to the viscount consistently looking at his father’s watch. It’s the intricate expressiveness Bailey wears on his face amidst quiet moments that shows the audience that there’s something we don’t know. There’s something we need to look further into, and sometimes, even without source material, there are clues in the background.
In this case, it can be the white horse painting hanging above the desk in his study that serves as more than a piece of fine art. In theological studies, white horses symbolize death. They also represent the balance between wisdom and power—two things that he has hidden deep within that will surface when he’s given a safe place to talk. White horses also symbolize nobility, yet another trait in Anthony that is largely illuminated throughout the season even when it isn’t boldly evident. Death is where he believes he’s headed, but nobility is what he’ll find.
You’d think he’d be better at managing time for someone who looks at his father’s watch as much. Except that’s not entirely why he looks at it so often, and he isn’t even thinking of the impending death, but time is precious to Anthony Bridgerton. Time is limited. As his mother states in “The Art of the Swoon,” time, as we both know, is certainly of the essence. While we can be sure Violet isn’t referring to what Anthony thinks she is referring to, it’s undoubtedly something to dissect further because we know he believes his time is, indeed, of the essence. Like a trigger, his entire being crumbles at that moment as she says it. Bailey doesn’t miss a single beat in showing the audience Anthony’s efforts to keep his trauma and his uncertainties concealed. While he might not harbor the same fears that book Anthony does, mortality is a tough pill to swallow, and therefore, love is an afterthought.
He might not be afraid of dying young, but death and grief haunt him incessantly, and as a result, Anthony Bridgerton’s actions correlate with the heartaches that he hasn’t worked through. He could be assertive and cold. He could throw siring heirs on his brothers. He could be careless with who he chooses as a partner because it will not matter when his death comes. Or so he thinks.
“It’s a work in progress to be sure.” That’s what Anthony Bridgerton is, a chaotic work in progress who is trying. The road toward finding balance is anything but easy, and yet his efforts are so telling. His actions, though unthinkable, are a direct outcome of Anthony taking his mother’s words to heart about being a better viscount but not taking the time to hear what she is saying.
Thereby, above all things, Anthony Bridgerton needs to slow down. Instead of immediately jumping the gun to do something, he needs to allow himself moments just to think. We see much of this in Season 1 and during various instances in Season 2, like the poetry reading, the first proposal, the reckless statements, the interviews, and more.
While Anthony is present throughout the season, he isn’t fully there, not in his own life or anyone else’s. Still, he is putting in the effort—he is trying. However, while his diligence is obstinate in “Shock and Delight,” by the end of the episode, when Anthony learns that Berbrooke has dishonored his sister, he immediately revokes his blessing and apologizes to Daphne. There is even the little moment where he questions why Daphne didn’t tell him herself, and when she states that he wouldn’t have believed her over another man’s word, it’s a fantastic moment of clarity, which the audience could see clear as day on his expression.
It’s a game of trial and error. If this were the present day, he could file a restraining order against Nigel, and there would be no question of defending his sister’s honor. However, his brain inevitably and immediately jumps to a duel—both with Berbrooke and Simon because talking things through doesn’t work in 19th-century England. What does he know? What does he fully process? Balance? Wisdom? Power? Anthony Bridgerton doesn’t know any of them right now. And yet, he’s trying, which is captivating to look into, especially given Bailey’s nuanced performances that consistently show us more in silence. It’s in these moments that we could decipher what an unyielding holding the panopticon of duties has on him.
At the end of the day, effort matters—trying matters, and throughout the series, that’s the overarching theme of the viscount’s journey. He learns. In Season 1, Episode 4, “An Affair of Honor,” Anthony clarifies that he knows better than to answer for Daphne and that she will have his support with whatever decision she makes regarding Prince Friedrich. This statement is a big step for Anthony in showcasing his understanding of female agency as he acknowledges that from this moment on, he won’t speak on behalf of his sister.
But as mentioned above, he still believes he must fight for her honor, and the only way he knows how to do that is through a duel. And it’s not just about what happens to Daphne, but if her name is sullied, Eloise, Francesca, and Hyacinth’s reputations are at stake, too. The belief that this is necessary also stems from his conversation with Violet in “Diamond of the First Water,” where his duties as the viscount are questioned. What would Edmund Bridgerton do if he were alive today? Protect his family’s name. Protect his children’s honor. It’s all they knew, and thus, it’s all Anthony knows.
There’s also the attempt at an apology for shooting Simon—one we would’ve forgiven him for had he gone without, but again, it’s ample proof that he’s trying. Later, we see more evidence of his efforts when he apologizes to Colin for being too harsh with him after the surprise engagement announcement. And that’s who Anthony Bridgerton is—once his mistakes are apparent, he tries to make things right in the best way he knows how.
He’s trying—really and truly. Do we think he’s happy for Benedict when he mentions his “friendship” with Madam Delacroix? He’s trying. Will Hyacinth play pall mall? He is trying. While he starts off the series as the proclaimed viscount, he is on his way toward genuinely fulfilling the role by the end.
The Capacity for Love
Anthony Bridgerton tries even when he knows he’s doomed in the process, and the audience can see tangible proof of this in his relationship with Siena Rosso. She isn’t suitable for him, and he isn’t right for her. But what was the purpose of this arc in Season 1 if not to show us that his heart holds more capacity for love than he even understands?
To disclose what this relationship shows us about Anthony, we need to note the absence of contentment and the lack of love. First, even though feelings are present, their relationship is primarily physical. And while nudity is more armor for Anthony than clothes themselves, baring his soul isn’t something he’s given a chance to do with Siena. Thereby, Anthony’s belief that this could be something more is entirely due to the underlying truth that he does, in fact, want love in his life.
Anthony Bridgerton genuinely believes he could dismiss love when he’s a man who cares profoundly deep down. He is a man who doesn’t bother getting to know himself because it’s all too much—the vulnerability, the unveiling—it makes confrontations with grief harder. The armor he hides behind makes Anthony the character he is in Season 1. And it’s that part of him that cares for Siena. The part that’s desperate for something more, but he doesn’t know how to uncover it. It’s easier to be physically nude in front of Siena and other women than fully clothed, his honor hanging by a thread, in front of Kate Sharma.
If this were love, elements of the relationship would come easier. If this were love, she’d want him to bare his soul. She’d desire to hear all about his father’s pocket watch. She’d ask about it. She’d pay attention to it. If this were love, he’d want to talk to her. It’d be effortless to open up. In short, she was a vessel for Anthony to exhibit how much he is capable of giving if someone were to meet him halfway.
The truth is, Anthony Bridgerton needs to talk to someone. He needs to be with someone who’ll make it easy for him to safely admit that he is entirely and utterly terrified of loss and traumatized by grief. And that’s where Kate Sharma comes in—a woman with equally solemn burdens that no one knows of and that no one but Anthony could understand as profoundly. A woman who will be able to call him out on his clownery and step on his boots when she sees fit. A woman who will boldly give him a taste of his own medicine and simultaneously be the reason he comes undone.
Once again, Jonathan Bailey has made it clear that he believes Anthony is a man who suffers from anxiety, and in numerous interviews, he has said it’s something he considers to be noticeable. In order to work through all of this, Anthony needs to get out of his own head and fully show his true self to his loved ones.
There might be changes here and there, but both TV and book Anthony have one thing in common: grief broke them beyond repair. They fear death. Why should it matter if it will end soon? It can’t possibly be as great as his parents’ life, so why bother? It takes us back to his conversation with Siena, especially the final one, where it becomes clear that she is like an addiction. She is his reckless dream—if it can’t be great, it will be as he wants. It doesn’t matter anyway.
But then the reckless dreams turn to an amiable wife, and that’s where Edwina Sharma comes in. She’s good, and she’s a safe option. She’ll be the perfect wife on paper, allowing him to fulfill his duties, which could perhaps steer the haunting darkness away from him if he does one thing right.
Yet Anthony Bridgerton forgets that he is also a good man. He repeatedly claims he’s a gentleman, but he forgets that he deserves to follow his heart over societal demands. He claims not to care when he cares so intensely he doesn’t know what to do with all that’s bursting within him. He claims not to be soft, but he is. Kate Sharma heals his soul, but she doesn’t change his character; she helps remedy his flaws and magnifies what was already good. And Anthony has always been a man capable of love; he merely believed great love wasn’t in the picture for him, and he avoided it on all counts.
To love and to fall in love are two different things. It’s easy to love someone, for all that means is that you care. You care, and you care deeply. He is a man who’d die for his family and a man who’d later die for his wife. And the TV series shows the audience just how much he’s capable of and how little of his capabilities he understands. As we keep saying, conversation matters, and for a family who was so obvious in naming their children in alphabetical order, you’d think they wouldn’t love metaphors as much as they do and get to the point.
Anthony Bridgerton’s journey at the end of “After the Rain” is just beginning—the chaos that will ensue when he meets a woman equally as chaotic as he is will kick things into motion and show him what he’s been missing all along. A confidant. A best friend—someone to talk to. Is Simon right in believing that the late Edmund Bridgerton would not be proud of his son in “Oceans Apart?” No. He isn’t perfect, but he would give him credit where credit is due. He deserves to be criticized because he needs to grow, but Anthony has eagerly done his best.
Bridgerton Season 2
The Grieving Son
One of the significant changes from The Viscount Who Loved Me is the detail that Anthony is the one beside Edmund Bridgerton when he is stung. And every minute detail throughout “A Bee in Your Bonnet” shows us how profoundly Anthony admired his father, allowing us to understand the tremendous grief he lives through that much more closely. You don’t have to understand the excruciating pain grief inflicts to understand the colossal mark it leaves behind, permanently changing every person affected by it. A part of Anthony Bridgerton died with his father that morning, and every day following, pieces of him continued to shatter.
And in watching his mother lose herself to the haunting dismay, Anthony began to fear the idea of causing someone such pain. Violet’s grief, cobbled with his own, is why Anthony Bridgerton swears off love in the show, essentially fearing that if he finds adoration as great as what his parents shared, he’d one day be the cause of never-ending mourning. Or even more unbearable for him, he’d experience it. And he comes close, tasting the worst kind of fear once again as he watches Kate Sharma fall off the horse. He tells Violet as much when he sobs at the news that she is awake, noting that he does not think he could see her, later confirming how fearful he was of losing Kate.
Where Season 1 lacks transparency and communication, Season 2 brings it all to the surface, allowing mother and son to find healing when they grieve together by finally talking things through. We’ve already said a lot in our review for Season 2, Episode 8, “The Viscount Who Loved Me,” but Anthony needed Violet’s words to understand that despite all the pain, love would heal him more than it would continue to break him.
When Edmund died, the wall that went up inside Anthony was impenetrable, and no matter how hard anyone would try, they couldn’t get through to him; he’d push back, closing himself up even further. In the little moments where he tries, he does so, believing that he isn’t good enough anyway. But circumstances begin to change because of Kate Sharma and the effortless unveiling that transpires as his soul finds serenity with hers.
Their love story is about shared grief and healing—two people coming together to challenge one another in ways no one else could. No one can achieve anything alone, and expecting this from a single human being is unrealistic and toxic. In Kate, Anthony finds someone who will reprimand his dramatic antics, love him through his imperfections, and ease his burdens simply by orbiting in his corner. In understanding what Anthony lacks because it’s so similar to her needs, Kate allows him the safe space to unwind, as he does for her.
Again, we must acknowledge that Anthony’s walls are partly his own doing and simultaneously because mental health conversations were just beginning in the 19th-century. Edmund Bridgerton didn’t have it all together, but he had Violet. Women on Bridgerton run the show, and before Kate, Anthony would just leap forward with his decisions without thinking them through. (Season 2, Episode 4, “Victory,” is proof of this.)
Finding Perfect Laughter
Before Anthony’s walls could crumble, he needed to find laughter again. And he finds it seamlessly with Kate, and later, a new perspective allows him to discover it with his family during their country dance. It happens quietly in the corners of Aubrey Hall and almost effortlessly, amidst all the bickering and yearning. His anxiety is more pronounced in Season 2 as we dig into his beliefs that he is a failure and despised by all those he loves.
This family doesn’t talk as much as they should, but when everything starts to happen in the finale with Violet and Gregory, we can see the armor come undone inside him. It’s not that he pales in comparison to Edmund, but Anthony loves him so much that he cannot fathom the idea of being as good as him. But what he fails to realize is that Hyacinth and Gregory predominantly think the world of him.
These anxieties are where the panopticon comes in because Anthony Bridgerton is thrust into a role he is unprepared for, and in the aftermath, society demands he suppress all of his grief to keep the shadows of the patriarchy prevalent. He couldn’t show the depth of his pain or any heartaches because he needed to be the strong one as the man of the house. In masking his trauma and leaving behind the sweet boy he was, Anthony Bridgerton strictly focused on duties. But slowly, after Kate began to look into the broken parts of his heart, he began to see more clearly. In finding an indescribable sense of comfort in her presence, the walls around his heart started cracking.
He began to shift gears towards supporting his siblings in every way that he could and being there for them through actions, not just words. And this, this is truly the beginning of it all. (How did he know Benedict applied for art school when Colin was the only he told? His observance in their funds might be overbearing, but chief of all, Anthony knows how to take care of them. He wants them to succeed at whatever it is they’re aiming toward.)
What Season 3 can show is that the grief he carries is intermingling with love and healing. He could be the man Edmund Bridgerton always wanted him to be—imperfect but taking things on before determining that they are too much for him.
His father never expected him to be perfect, and neither did his mother. Still, grief is tricky in how it manifests, and now, Anthony can find rest, knowing with every part of his being that, as his father believed, the good and the bad are all deserving of love.
The Nicest Man in London
Anthony Bridgerton’s capacity for love remains his greatest strength because if he didn’t care as profoundly as he does, the belief that he is consistently failing wouldn’t be such a heavy burden. He might not be a man of poetry, but he is far from a prosaic heart—the nicest man in London. If he were merely given time to grieve before duties were shoved down his throat, perhaps it wouldn’t be as treacherous of a slope to climb. His grief wouldn’t be as unbearable if he didn’t value his father or if he didn’t adore his family with every piece of his broken soul.
Death does something to a person that words will never come close to describing—on top of the perpetual despair that manifests in the form of endlessly suffocating waves, anxiety took its toll on Anthony, too, often blurring what was right and wrong, forcing him to question anything and everything. There is no magical, overnight fix to anxiety or grief, but being able to share the burdens and talking them through make the pain more endurable. And now, finally, Anthony Bridgerton could learn to live with it in every way. He could be a better son, a better brother, a better husband, and soon, a better father. He could be the best version of himself.
In finding laughter with Kate, Anthony extends the joy to everyone around him. He finally breathes again when she’s okay, showing through his physicality that every part of him was shattering at the thought of history repeating itself. His love for Kate and his selfless desires to ensure that she is well even while he suffers are illuminated brilliantly in the finale.
There’s also much to be said about his distinguished understanding of agency that’s now even sharper than in Season 1. Throughout the season, he is the one person who asks Kate what she wants. He is the one person who consistently wants her to choose for herself, and he promises as much in his proposal when he states that he wants a life that suits them both. There are mishaps in “Off To The Races” when he essentially underestimates her and the whole ordeal with Dorset, but following everything that transpires at Aubrey Hall, his colossal respect for her is unmistakable. Once again, it comes down to the detail that he makes amends just as quickly when he makes a mistake.
Moreover, this also shows that though others forgive him, Anthony Bridgerton (much like Kate Sharma) has an unspeakably challenging time forgiving himself. Because of his failures, Anthony believes many things are impossible for him. But much of it is in his head. As his father tells him in “A Bee In Your Bonnet,“—you decided that stag was too large to shoot before you even touched the trigger, I’m afraid. And that’s ultimately how anxiety works. It’s why Anthony believes he pales in comparison to his father because he believes Edmund’s shoes are inconceivable to fill, not realizing that he’s a product of both his parents, capable of taking on whatever he sets his mind to.
Anxiety tells us we can’t do something when we can, and it tells us we are not worthy, but awareness of these lies often leads to better management. Anthony might not understand to the degree that we do in the 21st-century, but he can decipher enough to know that when those thoughts creep up late at night, he could turn to the woman beside him, understanding with every aching bone in his body that she chose all of him. He would do anything to make her happy, and she’ll hold his hand through whatever darkness, making him stronger through their shared vulnerability and the gentleness she ceaselessly inspires to come forward.
Sometimes, Anthony Bridgerton thinks too little, and sometimes, the thoughts are so overwhelmingly powerful, his entire being trembles in states of panic. He bottles up more than he needs to, all of his tears included, until they demand to be set free. Societal demands tether Anthony towards duties beyond anything else as a regency man. But as the walls in his heart shatter, and the scars heal over time, the powerful Viscount Bridgerton will be more than fitting for his most suitable title yet—out in society and the intimate corners of his home—he’ll be the pinnacle of man humbled by love.
We’ll expand on this deep dive more when Anthony Bridgerton returns in Season 3.