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
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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year as slaves to the West Indies. The American colonies—and soon the new American republic, whose leaders often used the language of the Enlightenment—offered flagrant examples of hypocrisy. The Virginia gentlemen and landowners who advocated American independence were mostly slaveholders. George Washington still owned slaves at Mount Vernon when he died in 1799. Thomas Jefferson, who wrote in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal” and have the right to “life, liberty,

languages, history, geography, mathematics, science, astronomy, religion, drawing, and music. He learned to dance, ride, and fence. He was intelligent, impatient, and highly strung. “His Highness has the bad habit of rushing things; he rushes to get up, to eat, to go to bed,” said one of his tutors. “At dinner-time, how many ruses will he think of to gain a few minutes and sit down sooner.… He eats too fast, doesn’t chew properly, and so charges his stomach with an impossible task.” At ten, Paul

January in northern Russia, everything vanishes beneath a deep blanket of whiteness. Rivers, fields, trees, roads, and houses disappear, and the landscape becomes a white sea of mounds and hollows. On days when the sky is gray, it is hard to see where earth merges with air. On brilliant days when the sky is a rich blue, the sunlight is blinding, as if millions of diamonds were scattered on the snow, refracting light. In Catherine’s time, the log roads of summer were covered with a smooth coating

that Johanna was afraid of bloodletting and had violently opposed it as treatment for her own pneumonia; she did not understand why her mother had wanted it done now to herself—or as treatment for what illness. Johanna, becoming hysterical, refused to answer further questions and began to scream. She accused her daughter of caring nothing about her and then “she ordered me to go.” Here, Catherine ends her account, hinting at what had happened. Johanna offered a flimsy excuse that she had

new wife, was dismissed. The restrictions tightened again. An order from the Choglokovs prohibited anyone, on pain of dismissal, from entering either Peter’s or Catherine’s private rooms without the express permission of Monsieur or Madame Choglokov. The ladies and gentleman of the young court were to remain in the antechamber, where they were never to speak to Peter or Catherine except in a loud voice that everyone in the room could hear. “The grand duke and I,” Catherine noted, “were now

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