It is so easy to pity a single woman without ever realizing that she might be in a far more advantageous position than anyone else. In a patriarchal society, dating and marriage are never on an equal playing field. It would be a little delusional to breathe a sigh of relief, thinking that what Agatha faced was just something that happened two hundred years ago. We are not talking about Lord Danbury, but the fact that Agatha’s life was tailored for him. The male gaze still dominates huge swaths of women’s lives, and there is no escaping it anytime soon. In “Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story,” Agatha hated her husband. She was just waiting for his death, and the day he died, she was happy, but that did not last long. Because once he passed away, she did not know what to do with herself. As much as she loathed him, she did not know any other way of life; she had never been taught it.
Like Agatha said, she had no idea what kind of person she was outside of her marriage. If you look at it carefully, Lady Agatha Danbury had an understanding of diplomacy and politics that her husband could only wish for. It was Agatha’s efforts that brought her family into the good graces of the queen, allowed them to hold the first ball of the season, and potentially paved the way for a more equal society. In fact, it was through Agatha that we saw that racial discrimination still makes room for misogyny. Herman Danbury had fought his entire life to be considered an equal, and he knew, rightfully so, that he was just as good, if not better than the others of the ton. But he was not able to extend the same courtesy to his wife. He was outright dismissive of her intelligence and sometimes took special pleasure in insulting her. Remember the jibe about not “gawking like a peasant”? Agatha’s needs were never a priority for Herman; in fact, he had no idea that he needed to respect her, if nothing else. She was just something that existed for his pleasure and whimsy. Agatha knew this and tolerated it until the day she would be free. When the day finally came around, she was lost.
Agatha did find love, probably many times, one of which was Lord Ledger in “Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story.” It was the first time, as Agatha says, that her garden bloomed. She actually liked the man. He was kind, gentle, and cared more for Agatha than her husband ever had. She knew that the relationship must come to an end sooner or later, but her heart was broken nonetheless when it was over. There was a lesson in this heartbreak that Agatha would not realize until much later. The heartbreak was of her choosing. She had not chosen any aspect of her life with Herman Danbury, but when she started a liaison with Lord Ledger, she chose him. She understood and chose the dynamics of their relationship, and she also chose to accept the fact that it wouldn’t last very long. She knew before she started seeing him so regularly that it would end in heartbreak since he was a married man. Yet she continued with it, which meant that the heartbreak, as devastating as it was, did not catch her off-guard. She only had herself to answer to and no one else, a position that was new to her: making a decision for herself and owning up to its consequences.
We believe that when Princess Augusta called Lady Danbury “a worthy adversary,” it was the first compliment we had seen her receive for her capabilities and intelligence. Her husband must never have said anything like that, and we doubt Lord Ledger ventured there. He might have complimented her beauty or her charms, but we don’t think her intelligence was part of that conversation.
After the death of Herman, Agatha’s life was made even more difficult when she discovered that she might just be penniless and lose the privileges that come with a marital status, the land and the titles being one of them. Agatha needed to take care of her children as much as herself, and in her limited options, she turned to the next best thing she could do: another marriage. She found a nice prospect as well: Adolphus, Queen Charlotte’s brother. He was a nicer man than Herman Danbury; he cared for her and even loved her, and this wedding would have raised her social status to a great height. But Agatha couldn’t do it. She understood that despite it all, she still wouldn’t be an equal. She would once again be another man’s wife, and even though he was a good man, Agatha did not want that life. Once she tasted what life could be like when she lived independently, she knew that she wanted that above all else. That’s what freedom does for women; once they get a taste of it, it is impossible to let go. When Agatha rejected Adolphus, she was genuinely left without any way to take care of herself or her family. But it turns out that her good intentions and empathy as a woman were her saving grace. Charlotte recognized the need for a succession of titles for noble families of color, and she made sure that Agatha got what she needed: her son being named Lord Danbury.
It is a little odd that Lady Danbury, a woman who knew the pitfalls of marriage, went on to become such a prolific matchmaker. Maybe, just like Charlotte, she believed in the wisdom of unions over individual happiness, with herself as the sole exception to this. Agatha Danbury had a good life, one she forged for herself, and is one of the few women in the Bridgerton universe who has managed to have an agency of their own, apart from the pursuit of romantic interests. It was amazing seeing her side of the story, and we hope that Season 3 of Bridgerton gives us another deeper look into her life.