Who Is Michaela Stirling in ‘Bridgerton’? Francesca Changes, Explained

SPOILER ALERT: This post contains details from the Bridgerton Season 3, Part 2 finale.

Season 3 of Shondaland’s and Netflix’s Bridgerton is now complete, with Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan) and Colin (Luke Newton) happily married, though not without some trials. With Part 2 of Season 3 now streaming on Netflix, the friends-to-lovers arc has been seen through to an elaborate wedding and a revelation that Penelope is, in fact, the prolific gossip column writer Lady Whistledown.

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Francesca’s (Hannah Dodd) love story — or at least part of it — also unfolded alongside that of #Polin, but the introduction of a certain character in Season 3’s finale hints at big things to come for the recast character, who was portrayed by Ruby Stokes in Seasons 1 and 2.

Yes, dear reader, Michaela Stirling’s introduction marks a big deal. Who is Michaela Stirling, you ask? Read on for an explanation of the major character reveal, and why the change to her gender makes way for a big plot twist.

Who is Michaela Stirling?

Michaela Stirling (portrayed by Masali Baduza), enters the Bridgertonverse in the final moments of the Season 3 finale at the Featherington sisters’ ball. John Stirling (Victor Alli), who has just married Hannah Dodd’s Francesca in a small, intimate ceremony held in the Bridgerton drawing room, introduces his wife to Michaela, his cousin.

South African actress Masali Baduza portrayed Persephone ‘Sephy’ Hadley in Noughts + Crosses, and she appeared as Fumbe in The Woman King.

Is Michaela Stirling in the Bridgerton books?

Not exactly. In Francesca’s book, When He Was Wicked, by Julia Quinn, John’s cousin is a man named Michael. Michael is introduced very early on in the novel, and his inner monologue reveals that he covets Francesca, who is already married to John. The literary John tragically dies of an aneurysm in the books, and Michael, who inherits his title as the Earl of Kilmartin, assumes all of his responsibilities. Francesca, who remains the Countess of Kilmartin, attempts to search for a new husband, but once Michael makes romantic advances, which she welcomes, they realize their feelings for each other and marry.

Could Michaela Stirling become a love interest for Francesca Bridgerton?

Season 3 showrunner Jess Brownell told Deadline that she has “been pitching the Francesca queer story from the beginning.”

The look on Francesca’s (Hannah Dodd’s) face when Michaela is introduced leaves plenty of room for an exploration of a romance between the two women.

“When I read her book, I, as a queer woman, really related to her book. Maybe in a way Julia Quinn didn’t intend, but a lot of Francesca’s book is about feeling different from her family and from the world around her and not really knowing why,” she said. “In the book, I think it’s mostly just about being introverted. But I think for a lot of queer people, not every queer person, but a lot of queer people, that sense of feeling different from the time you’re young, is part of our stories. So it felt like a natural one to gender bend.”

Brownell doesn’t want the thread to turn into a “queer tragedy.”

The Regency era didn’t allow women to inherit titles, as Michaela would have to do if Alli’s Stirling does die later on, but Brownell teased a “queer happily ever after” versus a “queer trauma.”

These questions and many more can only be answered in Season 4 of the Netflix period series, which is in the works.

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