At the beginning of lockdown, Paul Mescal and his gold chain on Hulu’s Normal People felt like a gift sent directly from the heavens to let us know everything was going to be okay. Then, as 2020 dragged on and our spirits waned, it was the arrival of one Regé-Jean Page in Bridgerton—a show which aptly debuted on Christmas Day—that saw us through the new year. Page, a present any one of us would be happy to see wrapped under the tree. 

But despite the Netflix hit period drama being the most successful show on the platform to date, catapulting its stars to fame with a second season already in the works, unfortunately, that season will take place without Page’s character, Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings.   

On Friday, Bridgerton’s social media channels released a statement announcing Page’s departure written in the form of a letter from Lady Whistledown. While it confirmed Page’s decision to leave his role, it simultaneously confirmed Phoebe Dynevor, who plays Page’s love interest Daphne Bridgerton, will return for the show’s sophomore season.

“While all eyes turn to Lord Anthony Bridgerton’s quest to find a Viscountess, we bid adieu to Regé-Jean Page, who so triumphantly played the Duke of Hastings,” the letter reads. “We’ll miss Simon’s presence onscreen, but he will always be a part of the Bridgerton family. Daphne will remain a devoted wife and sister, helping her brother navigate the upcoming social season and what it has to offer—more intrigue and romance than my readers may be able to bear.”

Following the announcement, Page took to Instagram to share a gallery of images from his time on the show, writing, “The ride of a life time. It’s been an absolute pleasure and a privilege to be your Duke. Joining this family—not just on screen, but off screen too. Our incredibly creative and generous cast, crew, outstanding fans—it’s all been beyond anything I could have imagined. The love is real and will just keep growing.”

Though fans were shocked about the news, in an interview with Variety, Page explained his short tenure on the series was always the plan.

“It’s a one-season arc. It’s going to have a beginning, middle, end—give us a year,” Page said. “[I thought] ‘That’s interesting,’ because then it felt like a limited series. I get to come in, I get to contribute my bit and then the Bridgerton family rolls on.”

He continued, “I have nothing but excitement for Bridgerton continuing to steam train off and conquer the globe,” he told Variety. “But there is also value in completing these arcs and sticking the landing.”

Though Page’s reason for leaving the show was quite vague, according to anonymous DMs sent to the celebrity gossip account @DeuxMoi—which, of course, aren’t guaranteed to be true—Page was offered a lot of money to stay on for season two, even just to make the odd cameo. 

However, with Hollywood knocking—there are even rumours he could be in the running to be the next James Bond—Page decided to turn Bridgerton’s producers down. For further seasons, it’s reported contracts will be changed to avoid this happening in future.

Is Lady Whistledown’s real identity @DeuxMoi? Could be…