Biographies & Memoirs

Catherine the Great

Catherine the Great

When Catherine II died in St Petersburg in 1796 the world sensed the loss of the most celebrated monarch of Europe - something no one would have predicted at the birth sixty-seven years before of an obscure German princess, Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst, later married off to the pathetic heir to the Russian throne. There were few greater transformations of fortunes in history.

Sophie/Catherine had come to rule in her own right over the largest state in existence since the fall of the Roman Empire. She was branded both a usurper and an assassin when she seized power from her wretched husband in 1762. Yet she survived the initial succession crisis, and went on to occupy the Russian throne for thirty-four years. In the process, she turned her new empire from peripheral pariah to European great power.

Prologue: The coronation of a usurper 1762

Chapter 1: From Pomerania to St Petersburg 1729–1744

Chapter 2: Betrothal and marriage 1744–1745

Chapter 3: Living and loving at the Court of Empress Elizabeth 1746–1753

Chapter 4: Ambition 1754–1759

Chapter 5: Assassination 1759–1762

Chapter 6: ‘Our Lady of St Petersburg’ 1763–1766

Chapter 7: Philosopher on the throne 1767–1768

Chapter 8: Imperial ambitions 1768–1772

Chapter 9: Paul, Pugachëv and Potëmkin 1772–1775

Chapter 10: The search for emotional stability 1776–1784

Chapter 11: Zenith 1785–1790

Chapter 12: End of an era 1790–1796

Epilogue: The afterlife of an empress

Notes