By John T. Alexander
The most colourful characters in sleek historical past, Catherine II of Russia all started her existence as a minor German princess, till the childless Empress Elizabeth and Catherine's personal scheming mom married her off to the Grand Duke Peter of Russia at age 16. through thirty-three, she had overthrown her husband in a cold coup and tested herself as Empress of the multinational Russian Empire, the most important territorial political unit in glossy background.
Portrayed either as a political genius who restored to Russia the consideration it had recognized within the days of Peter the good and as a despotic overseas adventuress who usurped the Russian throne, murdered her competitors, and tyrannized her matters, she used to be, by way of all bills, a rare girl. Catherine the Great, the 1st renowned biography of the empress in response to modern scholarship, presents a shiny portrait of Catherine as a mom, a lover, and, peculiarly, a really savvy ruler. focusing on her lengthy reign (1762-96), John Alexander examines all elements of Catherine's lifestyles and profession: the bright political options during which she gained the attractiveness of a nationalistic elite; her expansive international coverage; the family reforms with which she remodeled the Russian army, political constitution, and economic climate; and, in fact, her notorious love life.
starting with an account of the dramatic palace rebel in which Catherine unseated her husband and a historical past bankruptcy describing the situations of her early youth and marriage, Alexander then proceeds chronologically throughout the thirty-four years of her reign. proposing Catherine in additional human phrases than past biographers have, Alexander comprises various quotations from her recollections and notes. We study, for example, not just the names and variety of her enthusiasts, yet her figuring out of what many thought of a stunning licentiousness. "The difficulty is," she wrote, "that my middle wouldn't willingly stay one hour with no love."
the results of two decades' study by way of one in every of America's major narrative historians of recent Russia, this actually outstanding paintings deals a much-needed, balanced reappraisal of 1 of history's such a lot scandal-ridden figures.
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Extra resources for Catherine the Great: Life and Legend
Briimmer an d Lestoc q me t th e guests i n the entrywa y and ushere d them int o thei r rooms , wher e Gran d Duk e Pete r tenderl y greeted them . Soo n they wer e take n t o th e mai n receptio n hal l t o mee t th e Empress , wh o em braced an d kisse d mother an d daughte r in the warmly vigorous Russian man ner. A s instructe d beforehand, Princess Johann a kisse d Elizabeth' s han d an d effusively acknowledge d her favor , generosity , an d hospitality. 21 Elizabeth cu t a n impressiv e figure before he r would-b e relatives .
A t on e o f their firs t meeting s he confesse d hi s lov e 26 Catherine th e Great for a lady-in-waitin g who ha d bee n banishe d fro m cour t th e previou s yea r when he r mother , Madam e Lopukhina, suffere d tortur e an d exil e fo r involve ment i n a plo t agains t the Empress . Sinc e th e lad y i n questio n coul d no t b e his brid e now , h e wa s resigne d t o pleasin g hi s aun t b y marryin g Princes s Sophia, wh o blushe d a t thi s "prematur e confidence. " Nevertheless , sh e ac knowledged Peter' s assiduou s attention s an d hi s concer n t o hel p he r gai n her bearing s i n th e unfamilia r environment .
But sh e als o soon learned to hide her feelings an d cultivate others—to please an d be pleasing. He r relationshi p wit h he r mothe r seem s t o hav e bee n coo l an d sporadic . She felt unwanted , unattractive , unloved. Serious illnes s a t ag e seve n resulte d in a curvatur e o f th e spin e tha t eventuall y straightene d ou t i n a fe w years , thanks i n part t o fol k remedies—rubdown s wit h a maid' s spittl e an d wearin g a correctiv e harness . Supervise d b y the loca l hangman , these treatment s ma y have contribute d t o Catherine' s lifelon g suspicio n o f medica l practitioners , whether professional s o r quacks .