Hello, Lovelies! Welcome to this week’s blog post featuring Tiffany’s hero, Catherine the Great. Sit back in a comfortable chair and enjoy the (many) links Tiffany so thoughtfully left for us this week.
Do either of you know who Sophie Friederike Auguste is?
History: Catherine II, also known as Catherine the Great, was born in Prussia (modern day Poland) on May 2, 1729 to Prince Christian Auguste and Princess Johanna Elisabeth. They ruled over a small principality called Anhalt-Zebst. Growing up, her mother had little interest in her daughter. Possibly because of the traumatic birth but I’m not sure. She focused all of her attention on Sophie’s little brother, Wilhelm Christian, until his death at the age of 12. Sophie was merely a means to climbing the social ladder in her mother’s eyes. She brought Sophie to court merely in hopes of finding a suitor. Sophie was not apposed to this as marriage was an ideal escape from her controlling mother.
Now Princess Johanna had a connection to Empress Elizabeth and arranged a visit to St. Petersburg to meet with the Empress. Sophie was related to the dukes of Holstein through her mother.
Elizabeth’s nephew, Peter, was heir to the throne and in need of a wife to produce heirs himself.
Thus, at age 14, she was chosen to be the wife of Karl Peter Ulrich, duke of Holsein-Gottorp, heir to the throne of Russia (her second cousin).
At some point after meeting the Empress, Sophie became ill. Her mother requested a Lutheran priest to come bless her child but Sophie, already using her political prowess that we will come to know, was appalled! “I don’t want any Lutheran; I want my Orthodox father” because the official religion of the day, the Empresses religion, was Russian Orthodox. This pissed off her parents but pleased Elizabeth. The Empress was a fan of bloodletting, so Sophie did multiple sessions of bloodletting to win favor with Elizabeth. To help ensure the relationship with Grand Duke Peter, Sophie converted to Russian Orthodox and changed her name to Catherine.
August 21, 1745, at the age of 16, Catherine married Russia’s Grand Duke Peter, age 17. Let me start by saying that Catherine was an educated lass. She enjoyed reading, art, music, culture, etc. She spoke German, French, and Russian. She was ready to have a relationship that engaged the mind as well as the heart. Unfortunately, she had none of that with the Grand Duke. He was said to be immature and juvenile. He would rather play with toy soldiers than spend time with his wife. He is remembered as neurotic, rebellious, obstinate, an alcoholic, and a fanatical worshipper of Frederick II of Prussia (the foe of Empress Elizabeth). I don’t think Catherine minded though. Neither one of them was attracted to the other. In fact, they both had lovers on the side (as did a lot of royals in the past).
There was still the issue of an heir though. 9 years after their marriage, Catherine gave birth to the first of four children: their son, Paul. Empress Elizabeth took over raising the child shortly after his birth. It is not known if Paul was Peter’s son or if he was Sergei Saltykov’s child (her lover). Peter claimed the child as his own and portraits show a likeness to him. Catherine claimed Peter was impotent so it’s very plausible that Sergei sired the child. We’ll likely never know. In fact, Catherine claimed all three children born while married to Peter were illegitimate.
Elizabeth of Russia passed away on December 25, 1761 leaving Peter III as Emperor and Catherine II as Empress Consort. Peter was not fit to rule, and Catherine was determined to do something about it. As Peter made no attempts to hide his hatred or Russia and his love of his native Prussia, assembling support to overthrow her husband was an easy task. It is rumored that Peter was also looking to end this relationship. He had plans to divorce Catherine, move her to a convent, and marry his lover.
Catherine, on the other hand, had a better plan. Her lover, Grigory Orlov, one of three while married to Peter, was a Russian lieutenant, which meant she had the support or the army. She had support from court and public opinion (since Peter was basically the epitome of what not to do as a leader). She also had support from aristocratic society because of her liberal opinions and cultivated mind.
On June 28, 1762, while working with her supporters, she was able to have Peter arrested and forced his abdication after only six months on the throne. This bitch just said, “No. I am the sole ruler of Russia.” And everyone said, “Cool”. #Goals
Now, eight days after his arrest, Alexei Orlov, her lovers’ brother, killed Peter. This was not part of the plan Catherine had put together but it happened and now we are moving on.
Her relationship with her children was almost non-existent. She took no part in raising them and did everything in her power to keep her son, Paul, from taking the throne. She raised his sons (as Elizabeth did with her first two children) and had plans to make her grandson, Alexander, the next ruling Emperor.
Much to what would have been her disdain, Paul I became the Emperor upon her death.
Impact on Russia: Catherine is the longest ruling female leader in Russian history. She ruled from 1762 until her death in 1796. In that time, she made significant contributions to Russia including bringing forth educational reform and championing the arts. She extended the country’s borders through military might and diplomatic prowess. She pushed for the removal of capital punishment and torture and called for every man to be declared equal. Unfortunately, she didn’t get too far with this due to protest from the Senate. Catherine opposed the institution of serfdom but tolerated it. Russia grew from a “backwards” country to one of Europe’s greatest powers. Under her direction St. Petersburg was turned into one of the world’s most dazzling capitals. Theater, music, and painting flourished with her encouragement. She championed vaccination, uplifted female artists, exchanged letters with leading philosophers like Voltaire, wrote memoirs, and penned the first works of children’s literature published in Russia.
Lovers: It is rumored that Catherine took anywhere from 12-22 lovers. Some less creditable sources say 300 but not even I believe those. Historians describe Catherine as “taking many lovers.” However, from 1752-1796, a span of 44 years, Catherine was involved in 12 romantic relationships, with most lasting for more than two years each. These are hardly the sort of numbers one might expect from a raging sex maniac. Like England’s Queen Elizabeth I, Catherine recognized that to marry meant to relinquish her power, and so instead chose partners with whom she usually enjoyed a good working relationship. When Catherine left Alexander, Catherine wrote to a friend: “Why do you reproach me because I dismiss a well-meaning but extremely boring bourgeois in favor of one of the greatest, the most comical and amusing, characters of this iron century?” Even after their relationship ended around 1776, Potemkin remained her favorite minister, earning the title “Prince of the Holy Roman Empire.” see internet (see extra internet for Potemkin) My notes are so thorough, right? 😊
Rumors: So, given the fact that she was a strong, independent woman in the 1700s, there are more rumors than can be counted. Obviously 300 lovers… Nymphomania, bestiality, voyeurism, even a love of (insert what I really wanted to cover) —there were few themes of sexual deviance that were not invented about the Empress of Russia. The most common rumor was that she died having sex with a horse. Supposedly, the harness holding the horse up broke during intercourse and she was crushed to death. Less dramatically, she died of what historians believe was a stroke while in the bath. She was stabilized until the following day when she finally passed away.
What we are all here for: And now…for the piece de resistance: the sex dungeon! Please see the references below. (Please! It’s so worth it!)
Why Catherine the Great’s Enemies Turned Her into a Sex Fiend
Catherine the Great – Britannica
Catherine the Great: The True Story Behind Her Real and Rumored Love Affairs
Catherine the Great Biography
8 Things You Didn’t Know About Catherine the Great
Catherine the Great – Wiki
Catherine the Great: Biography, Accomplishments, and Death
Catherine the Great Marriage – Love
The Real Story Behind Catherine the Great’s Mythologized Sex Life
This is Catherine the Great’s incredible collection of sexual furniture