The following story contains spoilers for Red, White & Royal Blue (2023) and Casey McQuiston’s original 2019 novel of the same name.
IT WAS A glorious time, back in 2019, when it was announced that Red, White & Royal Blue would be adapted into an Amazon Studios-produced movie, soon to exist in live-action on small screens everywhere. Those obsessed with the queer romance novel by Casey McQuiston would finally get to see the forbidden love story of FSOTUS Alex Claremont-Diaz and Prince Henry (whose last name we’re omitting because it’s super long and not particularly relevant to the plot) come to life.
Fan casting immediately filled social media feeds, with ideas ranging from realistic and far-fetched to perhaps more relatively obtainable picks. Eventually, relative up and comers Taylor Zakhar Perez and Nicholas Galitzine were cast in 2022, leading to the next logical question when any successful novels is turned into a motion pictures: how faithful will things be?
St. Martin’s Griffin Red, White & Royal Blue: A Novel
St. Martin’s Griffin Red, White & Royal Blue: A Novel
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At about 30 pages shy of 400, Red, White & Royal Blue is rich with detail, jumping back and forth from the United States to the United Kingdom. And with this being a passionate LGBTQ+ rom-com, it doesn’t shy away from a number of—quite hot and heavy—sexual encounters that occur between its two main characters.
In a turn of events even director Matthew Lopez didn’t see coming, the film was later granted a hard R-rating (which provided moviegoers with a sense of hope that the film wouldn’t skimp on the erotic moments that were actually important plot points).
But while more than intense kissing was guaranteed, Red White & Royal Blue had to make some important decisions to squeeze everything they could into its 2-hour runtime.
Below, check out what you’re not going to get from the book-to-film translation.
June Claremont-Diaz, a UT Austin graduate and aspiring journalist—who struggles in the industry because of her clear affiliation with the Democratic party—is Alex’s best friend in the whole entire world. Unfortunately, she’s was left on the cutting room floor and is nowhere to be found in the movie. An odd choice, for sure, but they made it work (sort of) by blending her characteristics in with those of Nora Holleran: granddaughter of the VP and part of the “White House Trio” in the book. She’s strictly a political analyst on Ellen Claremont’s campaign trail in the film who Alex confides in for a lot of things during his sexual awakening.
Where Alex and Henry meet for the first time
The first time Alex technically saw Henry was on the cover of monthly pre-teen J-14 magazine. It ain’t no Seventeen, but it was definitely popular with teenage girls (and apparently closeted bisexual men) during its heyday. The pair’s first meeting in person, however, was in passing at the Rio Olympics in 2016. In the film, Alex’s first encounter with Henry had much more of a detailed impact. To be specific, Alex vividly remembers that upon going up to Henry for an apprehensive handshake, Henry utters to his security detail something along the lines of: “Get me the fuck out of here.” (Paraphrasing, but you get the gist). Little did Alex know that Henry was still struggling with the death of his father and his urgency to depart was due to that, and not the mere presence of Mr. Claremont-Diaz’s face.
Alex’s parents relationship status
In the book, we see POTUS Ellen Claremont and Senator Oscar Diaz divorced (Oscar later says that he’ll always love his ex-wife, but it was an amicable split nonetheless). In the film, there’s no alluding to the two having gone through any type of breakup. Oscar is present in several scenes, even going out and hanging with his son on one of the many White House balconies.
Alex’s involvement in Ellen’s reelection campaign
A big part of Alex’s journey in the book is his desire to campaign throughout his home state—he made a whole memo!—and help turn it blue during his mother’s run to be President for a second term. The movie still has Alex doing some work to amplify momma Claremont’s presence in Texas, but it’s a lot of quick cuts of his political impact without explicit details. Ellen still manages to get the electoral college votes by the film’s end, much like she does towards the end of the novel.
Rafael Luna is an openly gay politician who acted as a mentor to Alex throughout his early years in the political space. He’s a vital part of the book towards the second half, having worked on the campaign of Ellen’s opponent Jeffrey Richards before two things are revealed: he was the mole who revealed that the Republican Senator and his team were the ones who outed Alex and Henry’s relationship in attempt to ruin Ellen’s campaign, and he also discloses that he was sexually assaulted by Richards as a young intern. Despite this being a large plot point in the book, we get none of this on the screen.
The events of Alex’s New Year’s Eve party
Henry jet sets across the pond to D.C. for Alex’s annual NYE party as they start to grow their friendship. The two aren’t romantically involved just yet, although the movie sees them together all night dancing about in very close contact. The book plays out differently, putting Henry at the bar for the most of the soiree as he feels awkward and alone as Alex dances with women. Claremont-Diaz is the host with the most throughout the night—that is until he finds Henry outside, and the two share their very first kiss.
Alex’s first time with a man
We see Alex hanging out in a coffee shop—an attempt to have a seemingly normal life outside of being the President’s son—where he encounters a former flame named Miguel Ramos. It’s made clear that their sexual encounter is something that never left the bedroom, and Alex would prefer it stays that way. In what seems to be a decision that stems from jealousy, Ramos is the one who outs Alex and Henry in the film, a very different take compared to the book’s version). In the book, Alex mentions his first sexual encounter with a man was with his former roommate Liam. The two kissed and masturbated together (as buddies do), and never really spoke of it again.
Princess Beatrice (Bea for short) is Henry’s sister, and is someone Henry confides in/sympathizes with his struggle around coming out as it would tarnish his royal reputation and the duties he’s expected to complete as he moves closer to the throne. In the book, we see her struggling with her father’s death just as much as Henry, going as far to develop a cocaine addiction and be labeled as “The Powder Princess” in the tabloids. In the movie, she’s just a regular gal like you and me (but with a castle and servants and no need to work, cook, or clean for herself if so desired).
Alex coming out to his mom
Once things get serious with Henry, Alex comes to his mother with the plan to tell reveal he’s bisexual. Ellen doesn’t sugarcoat things in the book, and it’s a bit more of a serious talk than what we see in the movie (there’s pamphlets involved). The movie has more of a soft landing, with Ellen delivering more of a soothing monologue that’s clearly meant to connect more with the LGBTQ+ audience watching sitting on their couch watching. Uma Thurman (who plays Ellen) even goes as far to say “bottoming”—probably the most iconic moment of the entire movie. We love Pulp Fiction, and she’s incredible in Kill Bill, but she just put the stamp on “ally” status for life.
Alex’s parents are a big part of his life (and the overall plot of the story because hello, President), but there’s not too much to be said about Henry’s. We know his dad passed away, and that his mom was more of an absentee figure than anything else. However, we finally encounter the Queen’s daughter towards the final act. Which leads to…
Meeting with the Royal Family
Henry deciding he wants to live his life apologetically leads to a discussion with the top of the hierarchy. In the movie, we see him sit down with the King, with his brother Philip, Bea, and Alex. The book changes it up, swapping out the King for the Queen (his mother’s mother), and his mother herself, who is quick to come to his defense in support of his sexuality and relationship with Alex. She regrets not being there for him as he grew up, and she’s taking this opportunity to make a change and be more present in her children’s lives.
Who leaked Alex and Henry’s romance
The aforementioned Miguel Ramos is involved in the leak to the press about Alex and Henry, seemingly because Alex won’t give him an interview, and because he’s envious of the journey he’s taking with the Prince. The book has a much more dramatic scenario involving Rafael, who tells Nora via a secret anonymous email that the Richards campaign hired people to not only trail the couple, but to hack their emails—which were then sold and leaked to tabloids.
A final chapter from Henry’s POV
The special collector’s edition follows the original’s last chapter with a special extension from Henry’s point of view. It jumps ahead a few years, following the couple as they move in together and continue growing their personal and professional relationships. We won’t give too much away—any true fan should own the collector’s edition anyway—but it’s a great tease if/when a sequel to the wildly popular piece of literature comes to fruition.
Sean Abrams is the Senior Editor, Growth and Engagement at Men’s Health. He’s a former hip hop dancer who likes long walks on the beach and large glasses of tequila. You can find his previous work at Maxim, Elite Daily, and AskMen.