Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman

Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman

Robert K. Massie

Language: English

Pages: 672

ISBN: 0345408772

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


“[A] tale of power, perseverance and passion . . . a great story in the hands of a master storyteller.”—The Wall Street Journal
 
The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Peter the Great, Nicholas and Alexandra, and The Romanovs returns with another masterpiece of narrative biography, the extraordinary story of an obscure German princess who became one of the most remarkable, powerful, and captivating women in history. Born into a minor noble family, Catherine transformed herself into empress of Russia by sheer determination. For thirty-four years, the government, foreign policy, cultural development, and welfare of the Russian people were in her hands. She dealt with domestic rebellion, foreign wars, and the tidal wave of political change and violence churned up by the French Revolution. Catherine’s family, friends, ministers, generals, lovers, and enemies—all are here, vividly brought to life. History offers few stories richer than that of Catherine the Great. In this book, an eternally fascinating woman is returned to life.
 
“[A] compelling portrait not just of a Russian titan, but also of a flesh-and-blood woman.”—Newsweek
 
“An absorbing, satisfying biography.”—Los Angeles Times
 
“Juicy and suspenseful.”—The New York Times Book Review
 
“A great life, indeed, and irresistibly told.”—Salon
 
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The New York Times • The Washington Post • USA Today • The Boston Globe • San Francisco Chronicle • Chicago Tribune • Newsweek/The Daily Beast • Salon • VogueSt. Louis Post-Dispatch • The Providence Journal • Washington Examiner • South Florida Sun-Sentinel • BookPage • Bookreporter • Publishers Weekly

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incompetence opened wide the door to foreign interference; indeed, no system could have been better devised to enable powerful neighbors to intervene in internal Polish affairs. Meddling was never more likely than in 1762, when the king of Poland was on his deathbed. It was generally assumed that his son would succeed him both as Saxon elector and Polish king; he was the candidate favored by Austria and France and by many Poles. He was not favored by Catherine. Without waiting for Augustus to

appeared. Then twenty-two, he came from an impecunious family of the provincial nobility and had served as an officer in the Horse Guards. When he found that he lacked sufficient funds to keep pace with his brother officers, he asked for reassignment to a provincial garrison, where his expenses would be lower. His application was rejected at the College of War by Potemkin himself, who then, surprisingly, appointed the young man his personal aide-de-camp and introduced him to Catherine. Lanskoy

a French comedy was being performed. At the end of the evening, following a ball and an extravagant supper, Catherine and Potemkin withdrew alone to the winter garden to walk between the fountains and marble statues. When they spoke, he mentioned Zubov; she did not reply. Catherine stayed until two in the morning, later than she had ever remained at a party. Escorted to the door by Potemkin, she stopped to thank him. They said goodbye. Overwhelmed, he threw himself at her feet; when he looked

court was still in Moscow, Peter came down with measles and, since Catherine had never had the disease, all contact between the two was forbidden. During his illness, Catherine was told, Peter “was uncontrollable in his whims and passions.” Confined to his room and neglected by his tutors, he spent his time ordering his servants, dwarfs, and gentlemen-in-waiting to march and countermarch in parade ground drill around his bed. When, after six weeks of convalescence, Catherine saw him again, “he

unwell, she left the church, descended a short flight of steps, staggered, and collapsed unconscious on the grass. The empress’s attendants, following behind, found her surrounded by a crowd of people who had come from nearby villages to hear Mass. At first, no one knew what was wrong. The attendants covered her with a white cloth, and members of the court went to look for a doctor and a surgeon. The first to arrive was a surgeon, a French refugee, who bled her while she lay unconscious on the

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