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Lord John Stirling in Bridgerton© Netflix

Why books fans are already heartbroken watching Bridgerton season 3

John Stirling is played by Victor Alli

Megan Bull
TV Writer
May 23, 2024
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Francesca Bridgerton is our diamond of the season, but as fans of the books know all too well, she's in for a bumpy ride. 

While it's Penelope Featherington and Colin Bridgerton's love story at the heart of series three, the show has laid the groundwork for Francesca's romance with Lord John Stirling, played by Grantchester's Victor Alli. Warning – spoilers ahead! 

Bridgerton season three part one – trailer

While Francesca and John, also known as the Earl of Kilmartin, are a perfect match with their shared love of music and composition; for readers the Earl's introduction in season three is nothing short of bittersweet, considering he only has a few years left to live. 

Lord John Stirling in Bridgerton© Netflix
Lord John Stirling has caught the eye of Francesca Bridgerton in season three part one

Before the sixth book, When He Was Wicked, Francesca had married John in a love match. However, at the beginning of the novel, it transpires that she is now a widow, and has been grieving the loss of her husband for the past four years. 

Devastatingly, Francesca and John were only married for two years, with the author noting that he died from a cerebral aneurysm. Ultimately the Earl's death is the driving force of the novel, as it reunites Francesca with John's cousin, Michael Stirling, who has secretly been in love with her for years.

"After a lifetime of chasing women, of smiling slyly as they chased him, of allowing himself to be caught but never permitting his heart to become engaged, he took one look at Francesca Bridgerton and fell so fast and hard into love it was a wonder he managed to remain standing," explains the book's logline. 

"Unfortunately for Michael, however, Francesca's surname was to remain Bridgerton for only a mere thirty-six hours longer–the occasion of their meeting was, lamentably, a supper celebrating her imminent wedding to his cousin.

Francesca and John in Bridgerton© Netflix
In Francesca's book, When He Was Wicked, it was revealed that John has passed away, leaving her a widow

"But that was then… Now Michael is the earl and Francesca is free, but still she thinks of him as nothing other than her dear friend and confidant. Michael dares not speak to her of his love… until one dangerous night, when she steps innocently into his arms, and passion proves stronger than even the most wicked of secrets…" 

In an interview with Tatler, actor Victor Alli has opened up about John's devastating character arc. "For fans who have read the book, they will know who this character is and the journey he goes on with Francesca…If you've read the book or you know the story, you know what happens to John and what happens next," he said. 

Victor Alli and Hannah Dodd in Bridgerton© Netflix
Victor Alli has called Francesca and John's love story 'heartbreaking'

"When He Was Wicked is so different and unconventional from the other books. It's something we have spoken about a lot; how unconventional this story is and how heartbreaking it is as well. It really does tackle the harder and darker sides of a relationship and love."

John's time in The Ton will eventually be cut short, but the TV star has loved working on the series regardless, calling Hannah Dodd an "incredible scene partner."

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