Who is Lady Whistledown in the Bridgerton novels – and is she ever publicly unmasked?

The mysterious Lady Whistledown is central to Bridgerton. Here's all the gossip from the original novels, and what that means for the future of the Netflix drama.

Bridgerton - Daphne reading Lady Whistledown

Who is Lady Whistledown? That is the question which vexes the members of Regency London’s ‘ton’ in Netflix’s Bridgerton, and none more so than Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) and Eloise Bridgerton (Claudia Jessie), who are desperate to know who’s penning and publishing these witty reports.

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This gossip sheet writer, who is voiced by none other than Julie Andrews, knows everything about what’s happening on the Marriage Mart, as we see during season one. Well, almost everything.

But now – having first issued a massive spoiler warning – This Author is going to answer a few important questions. Because This Author has scoured the pages of the Bridgerton novels, and is now ready to share all the gossip.

Who is Lady Whistledown in Bridgerton?

It’s… Penelope Featherington! Nicola Coughlan’s character is revealed as Lady Whistledown right at the end of the season one finale. But she’s only unmasked (or un-caped) to viewers at home; on screen, no one is any the wiser. Yet.

Is Penelope also Lady Whistledown in the novels?

She is indeed – not that we, or indeed any of the other characters, find out until book four of Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton book series.

Penelope Featherington in Bridgerton
Penelope Featherington in Bridgerton (Netflix)

Is Lady Whistledown ever unmasked in the books?

Titled ‘Romancing Mr Bridgerton’, the fourth book in the Bridgerton series focuses on the relationship between Colin Bridgerton (played by Luke Newton in the drama) and Penelope. And it is during the unfolding of this story that we finally discover the true identity of Lady Whistledown.

(We’re going to issue another spoiler warning here, specifically for the plot of book four – which has not been covered in the Netflix drama just yet. Proceed at your own risk.)

Essentially, we (the readers) find out that Penelope is Lady Whistledown at the exact same time as Colin finds out – although the truth does begin to dawn on us (the readers) before it dawns on him.

At this point in the story, crotchety and straight-talking Lady Danbury (Adjoa Andoh’s character) has recently issued a challenge to anyone who can reveal Whistledown’s true identity, as well as a promise of a big cash prize. This is not out of any animosity towards Whistledown, but simply because she lives for the *drama*.

So everyone is after the money and the glory, and Penelope’s had enough.

As Whistledown, she writes: “After eleven years of chronicling the lives and times of the beau monde, This Author is putting down her pen. Although Lady Danbury’s challenge was surely the catalyst for the retirement, in truth the blame cannot be placed (entirely) upon that countess’s shoulders. This column has grown wearisome of late, less fulfilling to write, and perhaps less entertaining to read. This Author needs a change.”

However! The odious Cressida Twombley (formerly Cowper, by now married and widowed) decides to step up and claim to be Whistledown, mainly because she wants Lady Danbury’s money. Penelope can’t bear to see her old bully Cressida take the credit for all her years of work, so she decides to write and publish one short final column informing her readers that Cressida’s a liar.

Penelope dashes off in a hired cab across London to file her final column, but Colin (who’s falling in love with her at this point) catches sight of her by chance and follows her. When she drops off the column for her publisher to pick up, he realises her secret: Penelope is Lady Whistledown!

Luke Newton plays Colin Bridgerton
Luke Newton plays Colin Bridgerton (Netflix)

Colin does not want the truth to come out and he’s quite angry about the whole thing. But then he goes and gets sexy with her on the carriage ride home, and then they get engaged (of course).

But against her new fiancé’s wishes, Penelope does have her final edition of Whistledown printed. This proves to be a misstep, because – from the wording of the column – Cressida correctly guesses that Penelope is the author. So she tries to blackmail Colin and Penelope (who are now married) for £10,000.

Colin then takes matters into his own hands. At his sister Daphne and her husband Simon’s ball, he decides to reclaim the narrative by making a public announcement that his wife Penelope is Whistledown – but framing her 11-year writing career as a triumph of secrecy and wit. He uses his family’s social standing to back him up, stopping Penelope from being cast out from society (despite the people she’s slandered over the years).

Everyone claps. Cressida wails.

When will Lady Whistledown be unmasked in the TV series?

While viewers find out the truth about Lady Whistledown at the end of season one (i.e. much earlier than in the novels), we still don’t know when (or whether) the Netflix drama will also unmask Whistledown to the rest of the characters any time soon.

Could the scandal sheet writer’s identity be revealed within the story in the (confirmed) second season, or will it be held back until the (as yet unconfirmed) fourth season?

One thing to speculate about: in book four, we do find out that Penelope previously used a large chunk of her riches (amassed from selling the gossip sheet) to secretly come to her own family’s financial rescue. In the Netflix drama, with the Featheringtons facing potential ruin after the death of Lord Featherington at the end of season one, it’s possible we’ll see a version of this storyline play out in season two.

But even if this is the case, we think it unlikely that Penelope will be publicly revealed as Whistledown until her and Colin’s story plays out on screen, likely in season four.

Which means that Queen Charlotte and Eloise Bridgerton may be waiting impatiently a long, long time.

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Bridgerton is streaming now on Netflix. Looking for something else to watch? Check out our guide to the best series on Netflix and best movies on Netflix, or visit our TV Guide.