Catherine the Great: Life and Legend by John T. Alexander

By John T. Alexander

Probably the most colourful characters in sleek historical past, Catherine II of Russia begun 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. by way of 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 smooth background.
Portrayed either as a political genius who restored to Russia the distinction it had recognized within the days of Peter the nice and as a despotic international adventuress who usurped the Russian throne, murdered her competitors, and tyrannized her matters, she used to be, by means of all bills, a rare lady. Catherine the Great, the 1st well known biography of the empress in keeping with modern scholarship, presents a vibrant portrait of Catherine as a mom, a lover, and, especially, an incredibly savvy ruler. focusing on her lengthy reign (1762-96), John Alexander examines all features of Catherine's existence and profession: the bright political innovations through which she gained the recognition of a nationalistic elite; her expansive international coverage; the household reforms with which she made over the Russian army, political constitution, and financial system; and, in fact, her notorious love life.
starting with an account of the dramatic palace insurrection wherein Catherine unseated her husband and a historical past bankruptcy describing the situations of her early formative years and marriage, Alexander then proceeds chronologically throughout the thirty-four years of her reign. featuring Catherine in additional human phrases than past biographers have, Alexander contains a number of quotations from her memories and notes. We study, for example, not just the names and variety of her enthusiasts, yet her realizing of what many thought of a surprising licentiousness. "The difficulty is," she wrote, "that my middle wouldn't willingly stay one hour with out love."
the results of two decades' examine by way of certainly one of America's prime narrative historians of contemporary Russia, this actually remarkable paintings bargains a much-needed, balanced reappraisal of 1 of history's so much scandal-ridden figures.

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33 Sh e als o mad e gift s t o th e man y ne w person s sh e me t almos t dail y in th e whir l o f receptions , parties , balls , an d celebration s o f th e peac e wit h Sweden. Thi s gift-givin g soo n pu t he r i n deb t a t th e sam e tim e i t raise d he r personal an d politica l credit . Sinc e Russia n aristocrat s di d no t worr y abou t repaying thei r debts , neithe r di d she . A gran d duches s wa s expecte d t o liv e opulently. Th e personne l o f he r court , handpicke d b y th e Empres s withou t consulting Catherine' s mother , consiste d o f thre e gentleme n o f th e chambe r and thre e youn g officer s o f th e chamber : Coun t Zakha r Chernyshev , Coun t Peter Bestuzhev-Riumin , an d Princ e Alexande r Golitsyn—al l Russian s wh o knew Frenc h an d German—i n additio n t o Countes s Mari a Rumiantseva , a lady-in-waiting and hea d mistres s of the new court , an d thre e maid s of honor: two princesse s Golitsyn a an d a mademoisell e Kosheleva .

S o the traveller s too k "only " four coache s whe n the y lef t Berli n o n 1 6 Januar y 1744 . Thei r convo y lum bered acros s th e froze n plain s o f Pomerania an d Eas t Prussi a i n thre e weeks , dodging highwaymen , enduring provincia l inns , an d swillin g beer. 18 At Riga , o n 6 Februar y 1744 , th e worl d majesticall y brightene d fo r th e two German princesses . The y entere d th e Russia n Empir e i n a specia l coach , conducted int o th e cit y b y troop s an d official s ami d canno n salutes , trum pets, an d kettledrums .

23 Princess Sophi a please d th e Gran d Duk e mos t o f all , h e confide d t o he r right away , becaus e sh e wa s hi s relativ e an d someon e wit h who m h e coul d freely converse—i n French , apparently , fo r h e kne w little mor e Russia n tha n she did , whic h was none. 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 .

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