EXPLAINER: Cressida Cowper Claimed To Be Lady Whistledown For All The Wrong Reasons

By Daniel Hart
Published: June 13, 2024 (Last updated: last month)
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Bridgerton's Cressida Cowper image for Lady Whistledown article
Cressida Cowper (Jessica Madsen) in Bridgerton (Credit - Netflix)


Literally, anyone could have main character energy in Bridgerton, and Season 3 sees Cressida Cowper having the spotlight for a sensationalist reason. In Episode 5, she reveals at a Ball that she is Lady Whistledown. 

Of course, as the viewer, I knew this was not fact. It’s well established that Penelope Featherington is the famous, secret, gossiping journalist. However, there’s a reason Cressida felt the need to come out and claim she is Lady Whistledown, and it turns out to be clever writing for those unaware of the Bridgerton novels (me included). 

Queen Charlotte’s £5,000 Reward

Queen Charlotte in Bridgerton (Credit – Netflix)

First, let’s delve into Queen Charlotte. She has had a psychological battle with Lady Whistledown since Season 1. She hates her and loves her at the same time. The reasons are obvious: Whistledown can easily prop Charlotte’s ego and bring it down two pegs whenever she wants. Marriage Market depends on the Queen picking the Diamond (the most sought-after Lady of the season). 

Queen Charlotte needs Lady Whistledown just as much as Whistledown needs her, and that’s the point. It’s been a game of tennis since the start. 

However, in Episode 5, Charlotte is annoyed at the tameness of the recent Whistledown issues and decides she’s had enough. She sends out a £5,000 reward for anyone who reveals who Lady Whistledown is.

Penelope’s Dilemma

Penelope in Bridgerton

Penelope struggles to tell Colin that she’s Lady Whistledown in Bridgerton Season 3 (Credit – Netflix)

Okay, so let’s move to Penelope Featherington, but only lightly. She’s in love with Colin Bridgerton and, somehow, bagged him. The only problem is her ex-friend, Eloise Bridgerton, knows she’s Lady Whistledown. When her engagement with Colin is announced, Eloise pressures Penelope to tell Colin the truth about her secret journalist lifestyle. The only problem here, of course, is that Colin despises Lady Whistledown and her gossiping ways. With the £5,000 reward, Penelope is under much pressure from Eloise to tell Colin. 

Why does Cressida Cowper say she is Lady Whistledown in Bridgerton Season 3?

Right, back to Cressida Cowper. She’s running out of time to find a love match, so much so that her father has set up an arranged marriage with an older man, Lord Greer. It’s a political marriage, ensuring wealth remains in the family. Of course, Cressida is disgusted by this arrangement and does not want to proceed. 

So that brings back the £5,000 reward for Lady Whistledown. Rumors spread about the Marriage Market. The main consensus is that whoever Lady Whistledown is, once revealed, will not be able to marry due to the controversy. Cressida Cowper does the math: if she claims to be Lady Whistledown, she will not have to marry Lord Greer as he will not want to be associated with her, and she’ll be £5,000 richer to set herself up (apply inflation here; it’s a lot of cash). 

Cressida Cowper claims to be Lady Whistledown to avoid marrying Lord Greer. Because it was all for the wrong reasons, Queen Charlotte senses she’s not being truthful and asks Cressida to prove it. Of course, by Episode 6, Cressida and her mother, Lady Cowper, do their best to try and prove that she is Lady Whistledown, but on the sidelines, Penelope is fuming that she’s not had any credit. Even Eloise does not like Cressida getting fame. 

Cressida Cowper claims to be Lady Whistledown for all the wrong reasons, but it has made for brilliant television. 

Cressida Takes It Further and Blackmails Penelope

By Episode 7, Cressida learns that Penelope is the real Lady Whistledown, and rather than making peace, she blackmails her, asking for £20,000. Colin offers to provide the cash, which would mean lying to his family. However, with pressure from Queen Charlotte, Penelope decides to come clean, and in the finale of Bridgerton Season 3, she comes out as Lady Whistledown once and for all and asks for forgiveness. The Queen forgives her, and the ton is surprisingly calm about it. Pen has managed to get a husband and retains her reputation as a journalist.

Cressida played her hand too much and ruined her reputation. She has a long way to go in the future, but hopefully, she will find redemption.

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