Portrayed by: Phoebe Dynevor
Book | Show: Julia Quinn’s The Duke and I and Netflix’s Bridgerton
Daphne Bridgerton isn’t a character I planned to write this for, but after the TV show’s premiere, it only seemed fitting that I take her arc apart, too. And it’s a rather simple one really, which is perhaps why I struggled for a bit—I like Daphne, but I had a hard time relating to her. But that’s just it, when you look into her character through feminist study, and you look into her as a woman in her own right, it almost feels wrong not to appreciate her even though you are nothing like her.
When you’re more of a Kate Sheffield or an Eloise Bridgerton or even a Penelope Featherington, diamonds of the first water like Daphne almost feel like they are not real—that they are written for the sake of a story, for the sake of the love story especially, but that’s the thing, women like Daphne exist and they are in fact, very real. And they are great! There are women in this world that want to fly and never settle, and there are women who dream of the quiet life, of marriage, children, and everything in between. And sometimes, there is both—at least thankfully in the 21st century we have the option to be both. We have the option to choose, and with Daphne’s character, that is her great journey through all this—validating her choices and understanding them as women who might not be like her.
Women can be both and women can be one or the other. This isn’t a defense of Daphne Bridgerton’s character or her actions by any means, but instead, it’s paying homage to a character I never expected to care for as much as I do. So much of it is due to Phoebe Dynevor’s performance and how well she brought the character to life. Daphne’s journey is about finding her own agency—finding her voice, learning about herself, her body, and her desires as a woman in a society that has trained her to be one specific way. It’s more obvious with a character like Eloise for instance, but Daphne is searching for her own voice, too.
Bridgerton is the kind of series that’s highlighting female agency–how women conform to it in the ways in which they are comfortable with and how they rebel, too. And each of the women, in their one way are on the kind of journey that is worth digging into.
At this point, the Bridgertons have a special place in our hearts—all of them so eventually, each one will get a Character Deep Dive.
The thing with Daphne is that the most I ever liked her is actually in The Viscount Who Loved Me where it was so easy to care about this woman who’s the duchess and yet so kind. Somehow and especially after the events of The Duke and I, I didn’t expect kindness from her. I expected a bit of pompousness, but that is not the kind of child Edmund and Violet Bridgerton raised. Thus, this deep dive is choosing to ignore book canon because there, I will always have my reservations towards Daphne, but with the TV series—I care about her. And I care a lot.
I care about the way she cares about her family and I care about the fact that she is, in every way, like a second mother to her younger Bridgertons. I adore kids, I want kids, but I am most certainly not the type of person that kids run to—some women are, and it’s fascinating to see just how much Daphne embodies that type of a woman. There is a warmth to them that exudes rather obviously perhaps. And it’s why we often see her in sweet moments where she’s holding Gregory and Hyacinth’s hand (1×05).
There are women whose choice it is to dress up and get ready in order to attract a husband—in order to find love, that is something that they seek. And perhaps not as many today with the amount of opportunities we have as women, but back then especially, that desire was prevalent and that desire, though not the only valid one is still enough reason to understand her. It’s enough reason to say that a woman’s choice, whatever that may be is entirely valuable.
More than anything however, Daphne is someone who is kind—someone who cares about other people and someone who especially cares about transparency. She cares about truth. She cares about the people she loves and she is, without question, a nurturer. She is a the kind of woman who will help someone if she believes they need it, if she is asked to, or just because she is a duchess and it’s something she should do.
The title goes to someone who is acutely deserving of it and someone who uses it rightfully. After losing their father, watching their mother suffer through childbirth and having to guide her siblings through such moments, Daphne understands what it means to stand strong. She uses her wit and her force to stand her ground, but she also sees her siblings as they are—she understands their pain, and she is, in every way, the one they can now come to. And the one presumably, the girls will because Violet is really terrible with important conversations.
Daphne, much like Colin, is the sibling who is easiest to talk to—they each have such riveting personalities, no two are exactly alike, but to a degree, they are the ones, along with Benedict who’d make processes of important transformations easier. And especially when it comes to love because Daphne’s challenges in the way she and Simon have come to find love have done a great job in shaping her character. It’s why we ultimately can’t wait until Colin chooses to ask her for advice about Penelope. And perhaps others will come to her, too–we’d love to see it because she has done a great job of making people safe.
She and Eloise could not be more different, but by the end of the season, Daphne knows and understands Eloise to the t. She knows balls make her uncomfortable and she chooses to tell her the library is available for her use throughout the entire time they are to be there. She chooses to see her sister as she is and appreciates her that way. The interesting thing about Eloise’s comment to Daphne about being perfect is perhaps something only eldest siblings can understand–or the ones who have had a certain amount of pressure placed on them since a young age.
There is always someone or multiple people in a family that people depend on more than others. There is more pressure on them to achieve or do certain things and that is not something I’ve ever fully understood because while I know of it because I am the eldest in my family, I know people who aren’t that have had the very same feelings. It’s fascinating to say the least and Daphne, without question, falls into this category. She is the eldest of the women and thus, so much of what she does is reflected on the entire family as well.
We see it and we commend it.
She has made mistakes, Daphne Bridgerton is far, far from perfect, and though she has not apologized, and we are left to our own devices to believe that she has—it does not change the fact that a large part of her naiveté is of the times, but her heart is in the right place. And that is something that will always matter—heart.
We’ll add this bit from our review of Bridgerton’s 1×08 “After the Rain,” which really is, why this love story and this character is that much more special to us today.
We knew that any conversation with Violet about Edmund would make us teary-eyed, but we didn’t expect to be full blown ugly crying. (Are we even prepared for season two at this point?) Violet states that the last time she danced, ten-years-ago, was with Edmund—she states that she still (and might always) wake up every morning and touch the pillow where her late husband laid. Ruth Gemmell is exceptional in this delivery, and we’re so glad she’s bringing this character to life as she is. Violet will never stop loving Edmund, and she’ll never stop hoping that they had more time. She’ll never stop missing him. And when Daphne states that there’s nothing more she could do, that she doesn’t know how to keep fighting when the duke has made up his mind, Violet states that she must choose to love every single day. “You are a Bridgerton. There is nothing you cannot do.” And that’s it right there—that’s why we’re ugly crying.
This family isn’t perfect—far from in fact, but they are good and kind, and they are loyal. They fight for what they love and they protect what they cherish. They put aside their pride when need be because the tremendous loss they have lived through in losing an incomparably loving father has forced them to live their lives honorably. It has forced them to go in headfirst and come out of the other side stronger than ever. And after this moment of vulnerability, a moment where Violet didn’t sugarcoat or use metaphors, but opened her heart up to her daughter, growth took place. Transparency was at bay beautifully, and it told the audience that Daphne is no longer a debutante, she’s no longer just a child who doesn’t understand, but she is a wife, she is a woman, and she is a Bridgerton. She is a woman with a choice and thus she makes the choice to bare her soul to her husband. She makes the choice to let rainfall take her to a place of child-like wonder where there’s nothing more to do than to be honest and to be bold in the choice she makes. And that choice is to tell Simon just how loved he is. That choice is the decision to fight for love.
And that’s what Daphne has—she has immense heart and compassion. She is rightfully fitted to be a duchess because she does not judge and she does not boast. She is humble and kind, and much like all the Bridgertons, there is a fire in here, too. They are all far from perfect, we’ll keep saying this, but they try, and each of them in their own way are special. For these very reasons, we’ll always appreciate a character like her, and we can’t wait to see more of her growth in smaller scenes throughout the series. As a mother, a wife, a sibling, a duchess, and a friend, Daphne has ample room to be given the opportunities to shine.