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Why Princess Augusta From Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story Looks So Familiar

"Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story" often reflects — and then bends — the reality of the historical characters whose life stories it portrays. In reality, Augusta, Dowager Princess of Wales (Michelle Fairley) was forced into a merry-go-round of a mercenary marriage strained by her husband's constant fighting with his father and mother. While Augusta delivered nine children, eight of whom lived to see adulthood and four of whom produced further children, Frederick's parents still shunned the couple socially, especially when Frederick chose to hide Augusta's first pregnancy and fled to the country to deliver her child, rather than stand up to the judgmental weight of his parents. Due to the way their first daughter had been born, they remained exiled from the court for years. But Augusta outlived the king, her husband, and her mother-in-law and helped her son ascend the throne; she became an advisor to George III, shaped many of his political policies before he married, and arranged his happy (for a time) marriage to the real Queen Charlotte.

As in "Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story," his parent's difficult marriage has had a major effect on George III (Corey Mylchreest); he wishes to marry for love, to avoid extramarital scandals, and to make a happy marriage. It's a marriage his mother helps him make, even though it will result in Charlotte rising in popularity and eclipsing her in popularity at court. All of this is in spite of George's fears about his mental health, which has him chatting with statues of Venus out in the palace courtyard. 

Michelle Fairley, the actress who plays this fictionalized version of Augusta, has quite a familiar face and an incredible resume. Chances are, fans of the Netflix series immediately recognize her from somewhere. 

She made a good first impression in The Others

Michelle Fairley put in a lot of work with the BBC and other British television and film companies and became a major force on the stage before landing her first major film role — that of Mrs. Marlish in the ghost tale "The Others." Mrs. Marlish has come to a remote country home in Jersey, England, hoping to purchase it. But spooky goings-on have encouraged her to hire a medium, an Old Lady (Renée Asherson) who informs her the spirits dwelling within the house are hostile to her presence. 

This is true, as until this very séance Grace Stewart (Nicole Kidman) and her two children Anne (Alakina Mann) and Nicholas (James Bentley) had no idea that they were dead. Now that they know they hold the power and are not being haunted by wicked spirits, Grace's will turns to an iron resolve. The Marlishes leave the home behind, and that's a good thing, as Grace declares the house belongs to her family now.

"The Others" provided Fairley with her first really meaty part in an international production, and she's spoken before about enjoying mind-teasing, nerve-wracking roles like her one in the film. "I like to use my brain, to be pushed. I'm not somebody who responds well to safeness. I like being pushed right to the edge," she told Theatre.London in 2017.

Michelle Fairley broke through as Hermione's mom

Nine years after "The Others," Michelle Fairley landed another significant part — that of Hermione Grainger's (Emma Watson) mother in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1." Fairley had to step in for another actress, Heather Bleasdale, who played Mrs. Grainger in "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets." She only has a short time to make an impression on the audience and manages to be quietly heartbreaking.

Taking over a pivotal role from someone who made a strong impression during their time in a franchise is difficult, but Fairley manages to bring calm, centered reason to Mrs. Grainger. She only gets a few scenes to portray her character's kindliness — and then her memories are altered and she's given a new identity by her protective daughter, that of Monica Wilkins. At least it works to protect the character from the Death Eaters pursuing her daughter.

Fairley was excited at the time to join the film's cast. She told the Coleraine Times (as archived by Snitch Seeker) that she was not familiar with the book or movie series, but had friends who enjoyed the series. "It's not a very large part, maybe three or four scenes which will take just a few days filming. But it's very nice indeed for me," she said in 2009.

She became world-famous with Catelyn Stark and Game of Thrones

If you know Michelle Fairley from anything besides "Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story," then you likely remember her as the fiery matriarch, Catelyn Stark, from HBO's blockbuster fantasy epic "Game of Thrones."  Catelyn's big, happy brood meets with difficult times when winter arrives, and Catelyn loses her beloved husband, Eddard (Sean Bean), who is executed. 

For two seasons, Catelyn moves through the world without Eddard, trying to save Winterfell and secure her children's futures. Her protective political machinations put her in direct conflict with the Lannisters. Robb (Richard Madden) soon requires the lost support of Walder Frey (David Bradley), whose daughter he spurned to marry Talisa (Oona Chaplin). To soothe his irritated pride and the ruptured bargain, Walder demands Edmure Tully (Tobias Menzie) marry one of his daughters. Edmure is assigned Roslin (Alexandra Dowling), and Robb, Talisa and Catelyn attend the ceremony. They're guaranteed safety, or so it seems. Enter the Red Wedding, where Robb, Catelyn, Talisa and even Robb's direwolf, Grey Wind, meet their ends at the hands of the Lannisters, Freys, and House Bolton.

Fairley declared that she was selected for her role by the show's producers due to her theatrical skills; she was offered the role by one of the program's producers after being seen playing Emilia in a production of "Othello." "Catelyn goes through the loss of her husband, the loss of her children and eventually makes the decision to kill herself because she thinks that there's nothing left to live for — and they thought, because of the final scenes in Othello, that I could maybe achieve that for them," she told Gulf News Television in 2015.

She dug for Texas tea with Suits

After "Game of Thrones," Michelle Fairley popped up in the USA legal drama "Suits." For 8 episodes of Season 3, she played Ava Hessington. Hessington is an oil company bigwig who requires the services of series lead Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht) to help her untangle a messy lawsuit that could down the family business for good. It seems Ava has been charged with murder and bribery related to events . It takes a lot of work to figure out that Ava is indeed innocent; the crime's been pinned on her by Stephen Huntley (Max Beesley). A super convenient twist of fate for Harvey, as his secretary and crush, Donna Paulsen (Sarah Rafferty) dates Stephen during Ava's trial. 

Fairley's new "Suits" co-stars declared that they had a lot of fun working with her. In fact, the future Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, declared her admiration of Fairley to Access Hollywood in 2013. After watching the Red Wedding episode of "Game of Thrones, she declared, "I wrote her a long e-mail after I watched it going, 'I am just blown away. You are a force. It's amazing.' And then I saw her the next day and I brought her flowers and a card like, 'Rest in peace, Lady Stark. Cheers to you.'" she said.

She showed her villainous side in 24: Live Another Day

Michelle Fairley also popped up in Fox's "24" revival, "24: Live Another Day." This time she plays a true baddie — Margot Al-Harazi, a terrorist. Margot and her husband, Mahmoud Al-Harazi (Christopher Sciueref) take part in multiple bombing attacks. A drone attack then kills her husband along with multiple civilians, and Margot — using her daughter and son as helpmeets — decides to enact a terrible revenge on President James Heller (William Devane). She begins participating in drone attacks of her own, leading up to the planned assassination of President Heller during a trip to London. Who else can stop her but Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland)? The end result is another day saved and Margot taking a flying leap out of a window.

She told TV Line in 2014 that her goal in playing Margot was to humanize her. "You don't want to play just a crazy killer, a mad woman. Some people may see her like that, but the fact is she's intelligent, she's powerful, she's completely committed.... This is her life's work and there is no limit to what she is prepared to sacrifice to obtain her goal," she said. She also told Entertainment Weekly that she had a ton of fun playing Margot and would love to play another villain character.

She held down the fort in In the Heart of the Sea

In the historical survival epic "In The Heart of the Sea," Michelle Fairley is once again called upon to portray someone with loving instincts. This time she's Mrs. Nickerson, the wife of Thomas (Brendan Gleeson as an older man and Tom Holland as a youth). Thomas and his wife host Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw), an author who has paid him for his story. Nickerson proceeds to tell the story of his youth upon the decks of the Essex, a whaling ship that was rammed by a whale. 

The resulting wreck caused the surviving men to flounder in boats for days. Starving and dying of thirst, they eventually resort to cannibalism, and few survivors make it back to New England. It's Mrs. Nickerson who helps encourage Thomas to tell the entire truth about his experience, telling him that whatever he says will not dim her love for him. It is, in fact, Mrs. Nickerson who pleads Melville to convince Thomas to tell the entirety of what he's been through so that he may finally be unburdened.

While the film was a notorious critical flop and did not manage to make its budget back, Fairley acquits herself well in her emotional scenes. She does well as a tortured wife whose deep love for her husband has long been complicated by his deep emotional scars.

She was another claimant to the throne in The White Princess

Recently, Michelle Fairley has appeared in several historical epics between theatrical plays. She most notably appeared in another royalty-related miniseries: Starz's "The White Princess." In it, she portrays Margaret Beaufort, whose endless scheming against the York cause to favor the Tudor one bears fruit but also causes her great strife — especially when Elizabeth of York (Jodie Comer) marries her son, Henry VII (Jacob Collins-Levy). From Elizabeth will come the dynasty of Henry VIII, which — for better and for worse — will change England forever but not bear a continual, direct royal line. Many magical diversions are inserted into the story, and Henry comes to believe his mother has cursed the entire Beaufort-Tudor line due to her decision to murder two princes.

"Margaret was not just one human being. She was many different people. She's like a snake," Fairley told Elle in 2017. Fairley also notes that Margaret's religious beliefs bolster what she believes is a righteous and just cause.

Michelle Fairley definitely knows how to make audiences believe in her, whether she's playing a wicked villain, a forbearance-filled mom, or anyone in between. Hopefully, she will keep on shining in all of her future projects.