This Bridgerton Character Is Based On A Real Man

By Olivia Emily

1 month ago

Martins Imhangbe’s character has more truth to him than you might think


Despite being set in the Regency period, Bridgerton has been widely praised for the diversity of its characters and storylines. Of course, in the Bridgerton universe, Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) is Black – which stems from a famous portrait of and a theory that the real Georgian Queen had African ancestry. This opened doors for peoples of colour in 18th century England, shooting characters like Lady Danbury (Adjoa Andoh) into the upper echelons of society and meaning the glamorous balls we see on screen aren’t only populated by white faces, which would sadly be a more truthful representation of history. One fan-favourite Black character is, of course, Will Mondrich (Martins Imhangbe) who experiences somewhat of a rags to riches storyline in Bridgerton season 3 when his son Nicky unexpectedly inherits the Baron of Kent title from his mother Alice’s (Emma Naomi) late great aunt, the Lady of Kent.

Developing from amateur boxer to members’ club owner and now to father of a Baron, Will has experienced a real variation in storylines throughout the series. It sadly goes without saying that a Black man in Regency England would not get to experience such riches – not to mention his friendships with the Bridgertons and, in season 1, Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page). You might be surprised to hear, then, that there’s more truth to Will Mondrich than you might think…

James Bryan as Nicky Mondrich, Martins Imhangbe as Will Mondrich, Ariella Warburton as Daisy Mondrich, Emma Naomi as Alice Mondrich, Elias Amos as John Mondrich in episode 301 of Bridgerton

(L to R) James Bryan as Nicky Mondrich, Martins Imhangbe as Will Mondrich, Ariella Warburton as Daisy Mondrich, Emma Naomi as Alice Mondrich, Elias Amos as John Mondrich in episode 301 of Bridgerton. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2024

Is Will Mondrich Based On A Real Person?

The Bridgerton character Will Mondrich is loosely based on a real man called Bill Richmond. Born into slavery in Richmondtown, New York in August 1763, Bill grew up under the control of Reverend Richard Charlton but, as a young teenager, he was spotted by Lord Percy (a commander of the British forces during the American War of Independence) brawling in a local tavern. Amused, Percy arranged fights between Bill and other British soldiers for the entertainment of his guests.

By 1777, when Bill was 14 years old, Percy had set his mind to arranging Bill’s freedom from Charlton, his transportation to northern England, his literacy education, and an apprenticeship with a cabinet maker in Yorkshire. In Yorkshire, Bill worked for the cabinet maker, transforming into a well-dressed, literate and self-confident Black man – which naturally attracted disdain from the white Yorkshire locals. He would experience rampant racism, sparking several brawls because of insults flung at Bill. But he also fought in arranged boxing matches, winning five known matches during his time in Yorkshire, defeating: George ‘Dockey’ Moore, two unnamed soldiers, one unnamed blacksmith and a man named Frank Myers.

Eventually, Bill met (and fell in love with) a woman named Mary Dunwick. By June 1791, now aged 28, Bill married Mary in Wakefield; the two would have several children. But the racism in Yorkshire was getting too much, with Bill labelled the ‘black devil’ and his reputation worsening having married a white woman. By 1795, the couple had upped sticks and moved to London, where Bill resumed his boxing career in his forties. Attracting the appeal of the upper class, Bill became a member of the household of Thomas Pitt, 2nd Baron Camelford, a British peer and naval officer. A fellow boxing enthusiast, it is thought that Bill trained Pitt to box, and the pair visited several prize fights together.

Bill’s reputation preceded him as a boxer, and he became one of the nation’s leading fighters, twice exhibiting his skills for visiting European royalty. Strikingly, Bill was even one of the boxers – known then as a pugilist – selected as an usher at the Coronation of George IV in 1821, son of King George III and Queen Charlotte.

As well as boxing, Richmond ran a pub near Leicester Square called The Horse and Dolphin, which he purchased with his winnings. Here he met Tom Molineaux, a fellow Black former American slave, and the two struck up a friendship. Mind ever on boxing, however, Bill saw the potential in Tom, and put aside his own career in order to train Tom up. By the 1820s was running a boxing academy for amateur fighters, including the likes of William Hazlitt, Lord Byron, and American John Neal. Bill died in 1829 aged 66, after an evening spent with his close friend and fellow boxer Tom Cribb.

BRIDGERTON MARTINS IMHANGBE as WILL MONDRICH in episode 108 of BRIDGERTON

BRIDGERTON MARTINS IMHANGBE as WILL MONDRICH in episode 108 of BRIDGERTON. LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX © 2020

While Will Mondrich wasn’t born in the US, it’s easy to see the parallels between his story and Bill Richmond’s. If we skip over Bill’s youth and straight to his time in London, we can see that he earned favour with the upper classes, just as Will does in Bridgerton. In season one, we see how Will’s fights attract the attention of Lords, Viscounts, Earls and Barons, with bets placed on his wins. This leads to his major plot point in season one: when Lord Featherington offers Will a cut of his winnings if Will throws his upcoming boxing match. At first, Will states that his honour is not for sale. But, tossing and turning the night before the fight, Will confides in his wife, Alice, that he doesn’t feel he can fight forever and that he wants a better life for his three children. Will throws the fight and gets his cut from Lord Featherington, investing the money in a gentlemen’s club, which he opens in season two. Turning back to Bill, he invested his winnings from a fight in a Leicester Square pub named The Horse and Dolphin – no evidence to suggest the real boxer threw this fight, though. Of course, Bill and Will’s names are similar, too: both are nicknames for men called William.

‘Initially, Will Mondrich was more based on Bill Richmond because he had an American accent in the early stages of developing the character,’ Imhangbe recently told The News Movement. ‘But over time, it was more beneficial for the series to have him from London, instead of trying to go into the backstory of how he came from New York and everything else. It was interesting finding the balance between my interpretation of this character but also what’s already there and honouring that, but also not being attached to it. It was interesting having a springboard but also being able to fly.’

Martins Imhangbe as Will Mondrich, Emma Naomi as Alice Mondrich in episode 302 of Bridgerton

(L to R) Martins Imhangbe as Will Mondrich, Emma Naomi as Alice Mondrich in episode 302 of Bridgerton. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2024

Is Alice Mondrich Based On A Real Person?

So, what about Will’s wife? We don’t know much about Bill Richmond’s wife Mary Dunwick, but we do know that the pair met in Yorkshire and that Mary was white. Indeed, Bill’s wooing of a white woman as a Black man was very controversial in their village. In Bridgerton, however, Alice Mondrich is played by Black actor Emma Naomi.

WATCH

All episodes of Bridgerton are streaming exclusively on Netflix. netflix.com

Season 3 part 2 launches on Netflix on Thursday 13 June 2024.