Who Is Michaela Stirling? Francesca's Love Story Takes A Queer ...

13 Jun 2024

Bridgerton. (L to R) Victor Alli as John Stirling, Hannah Dodd as Francesca Bridgerton in episode ... [+] 308 of Bridgerton.


Warning: Spoilers ahead for Bridgerton Season 3.

In the Season 3 finale of Bridgerton, the Netflix series has unveiled a significant twist in Francesca’s love story. Who is Michaela Stirling, and what does her character mean for Francesca’s romance moving forward?

In the TV series, Francesca (played by Hannah Dodd) makes her societal debut in Season 3 upon returning from Bath. She differs from the other debutantes because she shows little interest in meeting suitors. Because she is not seeking attention, the Queen names Francesca her “sparkler” and introduces her to the prestigious Lord Samadani.

Samadani is simply a logical match, so her heart skips when she meets John Stirling, the Earl of Kilmartin (Victor Alli), at the Innovations ball. John is a kind gentleman who shares her love for quiet. In Episode 4, he gifts Francesca a piece of sheet music rearranged to her specific liking.

“He [John] was quite different, to say, Mr. Samadani and some other characters that we saw earlier in part one,” says Victor Alli, who plays John, in an interview with Forbes. “He is very sure of himself. Despite his shyness, he’s quite confident and doesn’t feel he needs to prove anything or try to change.”

Bridgerton. (L to R) Hannah Dodd as Francesca Bridgerton, Victor Alli as John Stirling in episode ... [+] 306 of Bridgerton.


Their relationship grows even stronger in the second part of Bridgerton Season 3. John continues to court Francesca, and they get to know each other more. Finally, the couple announces their engagement, rather quickly, so they can marry and retreat peacefully to John’s estate in Scotland.

While the Bridgertons are excited about the match, Lady Bridgerton still has concerns. Their love story is not a whirlwind of passion like her other children have experienced. Instead, their romance is subtle and delicate, matching their reserved personalities. Violet delays asking the Queen for their permission to marry, which frustrates Francesca.

Francesca is forced to come clean about their engagement when the Queen suspects that someone in the Bridgerton family is Lady Whistledown. Queen Charlotte tells the couple they do not need her permission to marry. Francesca and John tie the knot in an intimate ceremony, and afterward, they announce their plans to leave Mayfair for Scotland. Eloise asks to join them on their travels so she can start to explore the world beyond the ton.

But before they leave, viewers meet Lord Kilmartin’s cousin, who will play a major role in Francesca’s season.

Who Is Michaela Stirling In Bridgerton?

Masali Baduza portrays Michaela Stirling in Bridgerton.

Courtesy of Netflix

In the final episode of Season 3, “Into The Light,” John Stirling introduces Francesca and Eloise to his cousin, Michaela Stirling (Masali Baduza), at the Dankworth-Finch ball. When Francesca meets Michaela, an instant spark of chemistry leaves Francesca speechless. “I caution you. Every sordid detail John has spoken about me is a lie,” Michaela says to Francesca. “The truth is far worse.”

This surprise twist paves the way for Francesca to have a relationship with Michaela in a future season of Bridgerton, marking the first time a queer romance will take center stage in the Netflix series.

“It will take a lot of people by surprise,” Alli says about Michaela. “I remember Jess Brownell on a Zoom call and she was telling me and I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh!’” Alli added that the showrunner and the Bridgerton team have made “some really strong decisions” from season one until now, and he’s excited for Michaela to come “into this world.”

“I had an amazing welcome into the ton and the cast, and absolutely she will get that as well. I’m really excited for her to come on board and show everyone how incredible she is,” he continued.

After Season 3, part one, was released in May, some fans theorized on X and debated in a Reddit thread that Francesca could be gay. “did they make francesca gay on bridgerton??? or am i just reading into things? pls tell me if you got the same vibes,” one X user wrote.

Bridgerton. (L to R) Will Tilston as Gregory Bridgerton, Florence Hunt as Hyacinth Bridgerton, Ruth ... [+] Gemmell as Lady Violet Bridgerton, Hannah Dodd as Francesca Bridgerton, Victor Alli as John Stirling, Daniel Francis as Lord Anderson, Adjoa Andoh as Lady Agatha Danbury in episode 308 of Bridgerton.


Michaela’s introduction comes after series showrunner Jess Brownell previously told Pride that she wanted to incorporate more LGBTQ+ storylines in the show.

“I want to see more queer joy on my screens and that was definitely a priority for me when I stepped into the showrunner role,” she said. “How exactly that plays out over this season and the next couple seasons, I can’t say specifically, but I will say I’m excited for fans to see that.”

How Is Michaela Stirling Different From The Books?

Warning: Spoilers ahead for the sixth book in the Bridgerton series, “When He Was Wicked.”

In Julia Quinn’s book, “When He Was Wicked,” John’s cousin is a man named Michael Stirling. The book begins with Francesca and John, married and in love, living in Scotland as the Earl and Countess of Kilmartin. They both share a close bond with Michael.

Tragically, John dies two years later from a ruptured cerebral aneurysm, leaving Francesca a widow. Michael becomes the new earl and flees to India out of grief. Upon his return four years later, Francesca desires a child and wishes to remarry. Michael, who has secretly harbored feelings for Francesca, realizes he wants to be more than just friends, and they eventually fall in love and have children.

ForbesWho Does Francesca Bridgerton Marry? Her Love Story Debuts In Season 3By Monica Mercuri

It’s currently unknown how Michaela and Francesca’s future romance will play out in Bridgerton and which future season will highlight Francesca’s love story. (Fans have speculated that Season 4 will focus on Francesca, Benedict, or Eloise.)

Who Plays Michaela Stirling In Bridgerton?

TORONTO, ONTARIO - SEPTEMBER 09: Masali Baduza attends "The Woman King" Premiere during the 2022 ... [+] Toronto International Film Festival at Roy Thomson Hall on September 09, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Unique Nicole/Getty Images)

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Michaela Stirling, Francesca’s presumed future love interest in Bridgerton, is played by South African actress Masali Baduza. Baduza is best known for her roles in The Woman King (2022) and the British television drama Noughts + Crosses.

All episodes of Bridgerton Season 3 are streaming on Netflix.

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