- Term Papers, Book Reports, Research Papers and College Essays

Catherine the Great

Essay by   •  September 14, 2010  •  Essay  •  3,562 Words (15 Pages)  •  1,944 Views

Essay Preview: Catherine the Great

Report this essay
Page 1 of 15

Catherine the Great: Empress of Russia, (1762-1796) History 120, Section 4 Russell Smith Dr. Homer December 2, 1999 One of the most interesting, hard-working and powerful people to grace the pages of history during the eighteenth century was Catherine II, Empress of Russia. Historians have not always been so kind to her memory, and all too often one reads accounts of her private life, ignoring her many achievements. The stories of her love affairs have been overly misinterpreted and can be traced to a handful of French writers in the years immediately after Catherine's death, when Republican France was fighting for its life against a coalition that included Russia. Catherine was born Sophia Augusta Frederika of Anhalt-Zerbst on April 21, 1729 in Stettin, then Germany, now Poland. Her father, Prince Christian Augustus of Anhalt-Zerbst, was a high-ranking officer in the Prussian Army and a minor prince among the principalities in Germany. He married the much younger Princess Johanna of Holstein-Gottorp. Years before, Johanna's brother Karl August of Holstein-Gottorp had gone to Russia to marry the Princess Elizabeth Petrovna. However the Prince died of small pox, leaving Elizabeth heart-broken. Elizabeth's sister, Anna gave birth to a son named Peter Ulrich, however tragedy once again struck as Anna's died of tuberculosis three months after giving birth to Peter. Peter, who eventually became Tsar Peter III, was the only surviving male descendent and the potentially heir to the throne of Russia after his father died. In November 1741, Elizabeth seized the throne with the help of the Imperial Guards, and formally declared her nephew Peter heir to the throne. Peter was now 14 years old, and it was time for him to find a bride. Elizabeth had always remembered the family of her dead fiancйe with fondness, and chose Sophie as the bride to be. The Empress Elizabeth seemed to have taken an instant liking to Sophie at an early age. Sophie began to learn the Russian language and studied the Orthodox religion, which of course pleased the Empress. On June 28, Sophie was received into the Church in a great ceremony, and as a result changed her name to Catherine. Catherine was now the second highest-ranking lady in the country. Shortly after, Peter obtained measles, which started to show all the symptoms of small pox. Catherine found him to be a most pitiful creature, and it was with dismay that she looked towards her wedding day. The royal court was back in St. Petersburg, and after several postponements, the wedding took place on August 21, 1745 in the Cathedral of Kazan. It was at this time that Catherine, who had never felt more isolated, wrote: "I should have loved my new husband, if only he had been willing or able to be in the least lovable. But in the first days of my marriage, I made some cruel reflections about him. I said to myself: If you love this man, you will be the most wretched creature on Earth. Watch your step, so far as affection for this gentleman is concerned, think of yourself, Madame." The young couple settled down, but the marriage was a miserable failure. Catherine was disappointed with her marriage, but decided to stick it out and concentrate on building herself a powerful group of allies. Catherine occupied herself with reading everything she could lay her hands on. She discovered satisfaction in the works of Plato and Voltaire. Her interest in the intellect caused an even greater distance between Peter and herself. The years passed and there was still no heir in sight. This of course irritated the Empress who wanted to secure a powerful dynasty, and could not do so without the presence of a male heir. She thought it must be Catherine's fault because she was not attracted to her husband. However, it was Peter that was not able to produce a male son, so Elizabeth permitted an affair between Catherine and a Russian military officer named Serge Saltykov. Catherine finally gave birth to a son, whom the Empress named Paul, on September 20, 1754. Peter accepted it as his own. Elizabeth took the baby off to her apartments, where he would remain, as long as the Empress lived. This helped to tear Peter and Catherine's relationship even further apart. A change came over Catherine after confronting the Empress about this, and she now trusted no one. She did help Peter with his Holstein Affairs and, at the same time, befriended the British Ambassador, Sir Charles Hanbury-Williams. Sir Charles arranged secret loans for her from England, as she was always short of funds. The Seven Years War began in 1756, and Russia and Prussia were on opposing sides. The Seven Years War put an end to the friendship with the English Ambassador. England was on Prussia's side against Russia, and the English Ambassador was called home to London. Catherine fell in love with an officer in the Imperial Guard, named Gregory Orlov, whose four other brothers were also guards. They were not of high birth, but to Catherine they were the embodiment of the Russian Army. Peter had formed a close relationship with Elizabeth Vorontsova, the niece of the vice-chancellor. On Christmas day 1761, the Empress Elizabeth Petrovna died and the reign of Peter III had begun. Catherine mourned the Empress sincerely. Peter's first official action was to end any hostile relations between Prussia and his Russia. On April 24, 1762 the new Tsar signed a treaty with the King of Prussia which restored all occupied territories to Prussia. Peter began to adopt many aspects of the Prussian military, such as changing imposing new brutal rules. The Russian Army started to suffer great losses during the Seven Years' War, thanks in part to Peter. The army started to turn against Peter, and all classes in Russia began to grow hatred to Peter. Catherine heard rumors that Peter intended to dispose of her and make Elizabeth Vorontsova his wife. With all that Peter had done to alienate the Army, Catherine felt herself in great danger. So some of Catherine's friends plotted to overthrow the new Tsar. The main influences behind this plan were Princess Dashkova, the sister of Peter's mistress, and all five Orlov brothers. Catherine was waiting to be summoned by Peter to attend the feast he had planned for his name day, when Alexis Orlov slipped past the Holstein Guards and told Catherine of their plan for a coup d'etat. Catherine went to the Ismailovsky regiment looking for their support saying "I have come to you for protection. The Emperor has given orders to arrest me. I fear he intends to kill me." The soldiers believed her and had her support. The procession of carriages reached the Cathedral of Kazan, where they found the church filled with clergy, awaiting Catherine's inauguration. Catherine took the oath as Empress and Sole Autocrat. Peter was with his mistress Elizabeth Vorontsova, the Prussian Ambassador Baron von Goltz, and the Chancellor



Download as:   txt (21.1 Kb)   pdf (212.8 Kb)   docx (17.1 Kb)  
Continue for 14 more pages »
Only available on
Citation Generator

(2010, 09). Catherine the Great. Retrieved 09, 2010, from

"Catherine the Great" 09 2010. 2010. 09 2010 <>.

"Catherine the Great.", 09 2010. Web. 09 2010. <>.

"Catherine the Great." 09, 2010. Accessed 09, 2010.