Is Francesca Bridgerton Gay? Why Michael Is Now Michaela

‘Bridgerton’ crosses boundaries of time, space, race, and now sexuality after introducing Michaela Stirling to Francesca.

Jamie Lerner - Author

Jun. 25 2024, Updated 2:54 p.m. ET

Francesca sits at the piano in 'Bridgerton' Season 3
Source: Netflix

Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers for Bridgerton Season 3.

The days of queer coding are over; now art is just queer and we love it! What better way to celebrate Pride Month than by introducing a potentially queer relationship in the final episode of Bridgerton Season 3? Netflix’s Bridgerton has broken boundaries as far as viewership and creators, proving how revisionist history through modern means is both entertaining and popular.

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Between its soundtrack of classical covers of modern songs to its colorblind casting, Bridgerton is one of the most-watched shows on Netflix. And now that Season 3 has introduced us and Francesca Bridgerton (Hannah Dodd) to a new character named Michaela Stirling (Masali Baduza), fans are wondering if Francesca is actually gay. So what is her sexuality?

John Stirling and Francesca Bridgerton marry in 'Bridgerton' Season 3
Source: Netflix
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Is Francesca Bridgerton gay?

It’s so easy to get caught up in labeling everything and everyone. It makes sense that after Francesca has a flustered reaction to meeting Michaela, viewers could jump to conclusions that she’s gay, but in the end, sexuality is fluid and often undefined, especially when we’re figuring it out. In fact, Francesca’s love for John Stirling is the central theme throughout so much of Season 3 and it would be a slap in the face to fans to pretend she never loved him.

Francesca and John’s wedding is the main event of the Season 3 finale, in which Francesca finally convinces her family to support her decision to marry John and move to Scotland. But at the wedding, Francesca meets John’s cousin Michaela Stirling. Michaela immediately jokes, “I caution you. Every sordid detail John has spoken about me is a lie. The truth is far worse.”

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Michaela Stirling enters 'Bridgerton' in Season 3
Source: Netflix

Whenever someone who is figuring themselves out meets a confident and charming woman, it’s only natural to get flustered. Francesca is so caught off guard that she forgets to introduce herself by her new married name. In the final moments of Season 3, showrunners are clearly hinting at a potential romance between Francesca and Michaela, despite Francesca’s recent marriage to John.

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Here's what the book and the showrunners reveal about Francesca's future journey...

*Book spoilers and potential future season spoilers ahead*

The book and the showrunners confirm that Francesca will go on a queer journey.

In the Bridgerton book series, Francesca marries John’s cousin after John passes away from an aneurysm just a few years after their wedding. But in the book, John’s cousin is named Michael Stirling. Clearly, Michaela is a gender-swapped version of Michael, meaning that Francesca’s arc with Michael from the book will now be a queer love story with Michaela on the show.

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Showrunner and executive producer Jess Brownell confirmed to Glamour that she felt Francesca’s second love would be the perfect moment to introduce a queer storyline into Bridgerton. “So the first time I read When He Was Wicked, which is Francesca’s book, I really related to it as a queer woman,” Jess said.

She went on: “Her book talks a lot about how different she feels, and I think Julia Quinn’s intention in the book is just that Fran feels different because she’s introverted. But for many of us in the queer community, that sense of feeling different is a part of our stories. I felt like there was fertile ground thematically in her book to nod toward telling a queer story.”

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Francesca kisses John Stirling during their wedding in 'Bridgerton' Season 3
Source: Netflix

Although Francesca seemingly has her happy ending by marrying John, there’s much more to the story. “There are also some elements of her story that allow us to make sure we can tell a pretty happy ending for Francesca and Michaela,” Jess confirmed. “It was important for me in telling a main queer story for us to be able to give them a happily ever after, as we have with every other couple.”

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But she also clarified that she doesn’t think “the reveal of Francesca’s future queerness negates what she has with John … Every relationship is different, and lots of different kinds of love are valid … Going forward, I’m hopeful to tell a very nuanced story about Francesca having two great loves in her life.”

Julia Quinn addressed Netflix swapping Michael for Michaela.

John Stirling introduces his new wife, Francesca Bridgerton, to his cousin, Michaela Stirling.
Source: Netflix

While many Bridgerton fans were surprised by the gender swap, which clearly deviates from the book's plot, others expressed disappointment (sigh). So, author Julia Quinn took to Facebook to address the decision. "Many Bridgerton fans have expressed their surprise, and for some, disappointment in the twist at the end of Bridgerton Season 3 — that Michael Stirling, with whom Francesca eventually falls in love in When He Was Wicked, would instead be Michaela," she begins.

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While she admits that "switching the gender of a major character is a huge change," she says she "needed more information before conferring [her] agreement," after Jess approached her with the idea.

Julia emphasized that "Francesca's abiding love for John be shown on screen" and that she wanted viewers to witness "how deeply she loved John, and how deeply Michael, his cousin, also loved him." Without showing these dynamics on screen, Julia says "their feelings of guilt at falling in love with each other after John’s death made no sense. I didn't want to just tell the reader that they loved him. I wanted the reader to feel it." So, after some back and forth, Julia eventually agreed to the change.

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Francesca Bridgerton gazing into John Stirling's eyes.
Source: Netflix

And after Part 2 of Season 3 of Bridgerton debuted on June 13, 2024, Julia says she is "confident now that when Francesca has her Bridgerton season, it will be the most emotional and heart-wrenching story of the show, just like When He Was Wicked has always been the true tear-jerker of the Bridgerton book series."

The author proceeded to thank her readers and fans for sharing their feedback and added that she is "grateful for [their] understanding and touched by [their] deep commitment to the characters of the Bridgerton world. "I ask that you grant me and the Shondaland team some faith as we move forward," she said. "I think we are going to end up with two stories, one on page and one on screen, and they will both be beautiful and moving."

We are excited to see how Francesca and Michaela’s story pans out, even if we have to wait two whole years for Season 4!

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