Viewers of Shondaland’s latest series already know that Queen Charlotte is an absolute scene-stealer. But there’s one scene of hers in particular that has caught the attention of fans and left them asking an interesting question: What is snuff in Bridgerton on Netflix, exactly?
The Queen is first seen sniffing the mysterious substance during Episode Two, “Shock and Delight,” of the new hit-show by Shonda Rhimes’ production company. The sumptuous series follows the love lives and scandal of Regency-era London, where Daphne Bridgerton—the next daughter to marry in the show’s titular family—is dubbed a crown jewel during matchmaking season by none other than Queen Charlotte herself. Now, during one scene with Daphne’s mother, the Queen breaks out a snuff box and proceeds to snort the substance off the back of her hand. While some fans might liken the action to a different drug, it turns out that sniffing snuff is actually a far more period-accurate habit.
Snuff is just a form of dried tobacco, which was extremely popular during the 1800s. Instead of smoking the tobacco—which was banned in some spaces as early as the 17th century, according to the BBC—tobacco users could grind tobacco leaves into a fine, powdery substance using a mortar and pestle and sniff it for a similar high.
The practice was employed by just about every social class, but it was elevated to a degree when members of the royal family began to partake in the habit. According to an entry from the Wolverhampton Art Gallery, snuff-taking even developed its own complicated etiquette rules during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Queen Charlotte, meanwhile, earned the nickname “Snuffy Charlotte” in real life from the habit. Bridgerton’s portrayal of Queen Charlotte also shows her as “addicted to snuff” during the series, according to an interview with actress Rosheuvel. As for whether other parts of Bridgerton are based on a true story, well, that’s a little more complicated. In reality, the series is based in large part around a series of books by author Julia Quinn—which you can purchase over on Amazon
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