Earlier this month, in partnership with Netflix, Xavier University of Louisiana hosted a Spring Waltz in New Orleans celebrating the launch of the network’s new show “Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story” and the tradition of royal courts at the nation’s HBCUs.
Reigning queens from several historically Black schools were in attendance on the campus of the nation’s Catholic HBCU for the April 15 event, which featured a performance from the city’s own Big Freedia, whose new “Hey Queen” remix is featured in the show.
XULA’s royal court, as well as the school’s marching band and dance team, were featured in the music video for the track, which was released on April 10 and directed by local filmmaker Edward Buckles.
The waltz itself was largely a women-led affair, emceed by DJ Sheba Songz and including a performance from the Original Pinettes Brass Band, an all-female group made up of former students from St Mary’s Academy, a Black Catholic school in the city.
In perhaps the climax of the night, the recently formed XULA Golden Sound marching band received their first-ever official uniforms, a gift from ‘Queen Charlotte.’
“The gift of a set of band uniforms is nothing short of a blessing! This gift grants us the ability to properly represent our university,” said Darren Rodgers, Jr., director of the Golden Sound.
“Our school colors in such a beautiful design will demand the attention of all. We are very excited to take yet another step towards solidifying our existence and image as an HBCU marching band.”
The new digs were presented by the 87th Miss Xavier University of Louisiana, Nina Giddens, and the 8th Mister Xavier, Zion Rouge. The two were crowned last year, part of an annual tradition at HBCUs that dates back more than a century and is intertwined with the all-important homecoming festivities each fall.
Upperclassmen are usually selected for the royal roles, which involve representing the school at various ceremonial functions and serving as role models for younger students
The new “Queen Charlotte” show follows a fictional version of Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, a European royal who ruled Great Britain and Ireland from 1761 to 1818 as the wife of King George III.
Since the mid-10th century, an urban legend has speculated on her Black ancestry, which became a key theme in her casting as a mixed-race woman in the hit Netflix series “Bridgerton,” which first aired in 2020. Within five months of the premiere, the network ordered a spin-off centering on the Black queen herself, played by Guyanese-British actress Golda Rosheuvel. Shonda Rimes, who produced the original series, created and wrote the new offering.
Featuring a largely Black cast, including fellow Brit India Amarteifio as the young royal, the show is billed as a prequel to the original series and traces Charlotte’s rise to international power from minor German nobility.
The crown she wears in the show served as the model for a 20-foot tall floral circular stage at the XULA waltz, featuring 1,600 beads and 160 metal-cut flowers. On it, Giddens was joined by queens from Tuskegee, Dillard, and Prairie View A&M Universities.
The six-episode “Queen Charlotte” series premiered in Los Angeles on Wednesday, with these and several other HBCU queens attending as special guests, including XULA’s own Giddens.
The new show will stream exclusively on Netflix beginning Thursday, May 4.
Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger and a seminarian with the Josephites.