Edmund Bridgerton's Death: Julia Quinn's Books vs. the Netflix Show

Here's where all that bee imagery comes into play.

children of edmund bridgerton
(Image credit: Netflix)

The whole Ton was abuzz in the first season of Bridgerton—and not just because of the whirlwind romance between Daphne Bridgerton and Simon Basset, the Duke of Hastings. You may recall a curious number of bees flitting throughout the show's first eight episodes, in both the opening and the closing shots of the season, in waistcoats and bejeweled accessories, and beyond. And while the significance of that apian imagery was mysteriously excluded from the Netflix show's debut, all is finally revealed in the second season (opens in new tab), out March 25.

In a nutshell—as devoted readers of the Julia Quinn-penned romance series (opens in new tab) that inspired the show already know—that constant buzzing actually carries some pretty dark symbolism, since it relates to the fate of Edmund, the late patriarch of the Bridgerton family (opens in new tab). His death had a profound impact on Anthony, his eldest son, so it makes sense that the mystery of the bees would come to a head in both the second season of the show and the second entry in Quinn's series, The Viscount Who Loved Me, both of which revolve around Anthony's search for what he believes to be the perfect viscountess. Here's how Edmund’s tragic demise shakes out in both versions of the story—complete with a few mild spoilers for season two of Bridgerton.

How does Edmund Bridgerton die in the books?

You can read it for yourself here, in this excerpt (opens in new tab) of the prologue to The Viscount Who Loved Me. The TL;DR is that 18-year-old Anthony returns home from a horseback ride with his brother Benedict to learn that his father has died after being stung by a bee, as witnessed by a young Eloise Bridgerton. Edmund dies at the age of 38, just as he and his wife Violet are expecting their eighth and final child, daughter Hyacinth.

Anthony's immediate response is disbelief that a tiny insect could've killed his father: "It was impossible. Utterly mad. Edmund Bridgerton was young, he was strong. He was tall, his shoulders were broad, his muscles were powerful, and by God, no insignificant honey bee could have felled him," he thinks in the book.

When his worst fears are confirmed, though, Anthony is immediately convinced that he could never outlive his father, "the very center of [his] world," and so begins to fear that he, too, will die young. That, coupled with the "overwhelming sense of responsibility to his family" that falls on his shoulders after the late viscount's death, leads Anthony to devise a checklist of criteria for his ideal wife that makes no mention of actual love.

How does Edmund die in the Netflix series?

His onscreen cause of death remains the same as in the books: Edmund, played by Charmed star Rupert Evans in a series of flashbacks, dies almost instantly after being stung in the neck by a bee. Some of the details surrounding his death have been tweaked for dramatic purposes, however—most importantly, that it's Anthony (Jonathan Bailey), rather than Eloise (Claudia Jessie), who has to helplessly watch his father die, as they return to their sprawling country home after a hunt.

The impact of Edmund's death on his eldest child is also slightly different in the show, with novel-Anthony's obsession with his own mortality and apparent destiny to die young never really mentioned in the Netflix adaptation. He is, however, still driven by the tragedy to choose a wife with his head instead of his heart, much to his family's chagrin.

How does Edmund's death impact season two of Bridgerton?

Anthony is shown to be hugely affected by his father's death throughout the season's eight episodes. Not only does he repeatedly zone out in the middle of conversations to reminisce on memories of his father, but the tragedy also sets up the internal battle that drives nearly all of Anthony's actions throughout the show, for better or worse—though it's usually the latter.

For one thing, with his father gone, Anthony is solely responsible for ensuring the long-term prosperity of the Bridgerton household, as well as for guiding his sisters into desirable marriages (as seen in the first season of the show). With that burden on his shoulders, he's single-minded about making a desirable match of his own, ideally to a young lady who is well-educated, well-bred and able to carry on a conversation, whether or not he holds any real affection for her.

As the season goes on, we find out that there's another way that Edmund's death led Anthony to avoid true love like it's the literal plague. When her husband died just a few weeks before Hyacinth's birth, Violet Bridgerton (Ruth Gemmell) was inconsolable for months—something that the still-teenaged Anthony was ill-equipped to deal with or even understand. Later, as he's preparing to enter into a loveless marriage, he tells his mother that he's always avoided falling in love because he would never want to be the cause of the intense grief that Violet experienced after Edmund's death. It's all Violet can do to convince her son that, as Tennyson would write just a few decades later, 'tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

Andrea Park is a Chicago-based writer and reporter with a near-encyclopedic knowledge of the extended Kardashian-Jenner kingdom, early 2000s rom-coms and celebrity book club selections. She graduated from the Columbia School of Journalism in 2017 and has also written for W, Brides, Glamour, Women's Health, People and more.