Catherine II The Great was Russia?s longest-ruling female leader. Learn about her accomplishments, children, husband, and yes ? lovers.
Portrait of young Catherine the Great (left) and still image of Elle Fanning portraying empress in Hulu?s miniseries The Great (Source: Getty Images and Hulu)
Did you know?
- Catherine the Great?s name wasn?t Catherine, and she wasn?t Russian
- Before Putin did it, it was Catherine the Great who annexed Crimea
- She had numerous affairs and all her children were supposedly illegitimate
- Catherine the Great helped her lover Stanis?aw Poniatowski became King of Poland.
- Alaska was colonized by Russians during her reign.
Catherine the Great and her lovers
Catherine the Great had a great love of men and sex. She had 22 confirmed lovers. Each of them benefited greatly from her affection. Catherine would give them big estates and large sums of money.
Young Grigory Potemkin (Source:Achetron.com)
Grigory Potemkin was one of the most influential lovers of Catherine the Great. Catherine and Grigory were most likely married in secret and remained friends even after their passion cooled off.
Potemkin is known for Potemkin?s villages. A ruse involving the construction of painted faades to mimic real villages, full of happy people for visiting empress to see.
As the story goes Potempkin proposed to Catherine which lover to take. If Catherine agreed with the candidate, he was examined by a doctor. Afterward, his prowess in bed was tested by Catherine?s lady in waiting. Only then Catherine took him as a lover.
Catherine?s lady in waiting, her right hand in love affairs, was countess Praskovya Aleksandrovna Bruce. After countess got caught having sex with the latest Catherine?s lover, she was exiled and replaced by a lady-in-waiting.
Always in search of intimacy, Catherine confessed:
?The trouble is that my heart is loath to remain even one hour without love.?
An urban legend says Catherine the Great had a secret erotic cabinet with the eccentric furniture. Tables had large penises for legs. Penises and vulvae were carved out on the furniture. Walls were painted in erotic art. Cabinet was full of statues of naked men.
To this date existence of such cabinet was not confirmed.
Catherine the Great and a horse
A myth fabricated and purported by her enemies she had sex with horses. The myth says Catherine the Great died because of being crushed to death when servants lost their grip on ropes supporting a horse that was being lowered on her for sex.
The boring truth is: Catherine the Great died of a stroke while sitting on the toilet in her palace.
Myth spread by Catherine the Great enemies involved her having sex with a horse (Source:Alamy)
Accomplishments of Catherine the Great
Catherine the Great consolidated Russia?s power and expanded empire. In a series of Russo-Turkish wars with the Ottoman empire, Russia managed to obtain western Ukraine, including Crimea and ports on the Black Sea coast.
She added 200,000 square miles (518,000 square kilometers) to Russian territory including a large part of Poland and Alaska. Russia under Catherine II the Great became one of the great powers of Europe.
Catherine the Great?s expansion of the Russian empire shown in brown color (Source: Pinterestemail@example.com)
She founded the Hermitage museum, which is the second-largest art museum in the world, only behind French Louvre. Hermitage is home to the world’s largest collection of paintings.
As the Empress in Age of Enlightenment, she supported the formation of famous Bolshoi theater. She corresponded with leading philosophers of her time including Voltaire.
Catherine the Great introduced vaccination into Russia. Since her people were dying in millions from smallpox, she invited an English physician Thomas Dimsdale to her court to perform vaccinations.
She encouraged education by establishing schools and enforcing education reform. She established a system of primary and high schools that were free of charge.
The University of Moscow became an internationally recognized learning center due to her support.
Catherine the Great founded Smolny Institute in St. Petersburg. Institute was the first state-financed institution for higher education for women in Europe!
Due to the lack of silver and a huge amount of copper coins, money transactions became difficult. Therefore she issued the first paper money in Russia. Banknotes of 100, 75, 50, and 25 rubles were exchanged for similar sums in copper money.
Husband and children of Catherine the Great
Catherine the Great and her husband Peter III (Source:Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)
Catherine, whose real name was Sophie, was born in 1729 as a rather poor Prussian princess. Marriage to an heir of Russian throne Peter III of Russia in 1754 meant for her a chance to escape a mundane life.
However, the marriage proved unsuccessful. Peter III, eccentric and primitive, was abusive towards her, and Catherine took many lovers. After empress Elisabeth died, Peter III became Emperor of Russia.
Only 6 months into his reign, in 1762, Catherine with the help of her lover Grigory Orlov organized coup d?tat, which resulted in Peter III being overthrown and killed.
Catherine the Great ruled for 34 years till her death in 1796.
She had 4 children:
- Paul I Of Russia, born in 1754. He succeeded Catherine as emperor of Russia.
- Anna Petrovna, born in 1757, possibly fathered by Stanis?aw Poniatowski, she died soon after her birth.
- Alexei Grigorievich Bobrinsky, born in 1762, his father was Grigory Orlov
- Elizabeth Grigorevna Temkina, born in 1775, daughter of Grigory Potemkin. She was never acknowledged by Catherine.
Catherine the Great and popular culture
Due to her unorthodox lifestyle and accomplishment, Catherine?s life was and is attracting the attention of people all around the world.
From poems to books and from miniseries to movies Catherine the Great keep reminding us about her amazing story. Although some details in movies are spiced up, one thing is clear ? Catherine the Great was no ordinary woman.
Afterall one of her first lovers Count Grigory Orlow bought her amazing diamond in order to win her affection again. Count paid 400.000 Dutch florins (roughly 4 million USD) for the diamond.
Orlov diamond in Imperial Sceptre(Source: Wikimedia.org)