Yes, Catherine loved to ride horses. Yes, she liked riding horses enough to contrive split skirts and a trick sidesaddle, so that she could ride out "like a lady," and once away from the palace grounds, swing her leg over and ride like a regular human being instead of a circus rider with a death wish. She even used to "ride" for sexual stimulation at 13-14, according to her Memoirs, by mounting a hard pillow between her legs, whereupon she "galloped until I was quite worn out."
Yes, she actually wrote about masturbation in her memoirs.
But she didn't die trying to have sex with a horse.
She did, however, like to maintain a favorite stallion in the form of a usually young, hot, attentive Guardsman, even as an old woman. RHIP (Rank Hath Its Privileges.)
Geek Girl Makes Good
|Grand Duchess Ekaterina Alexeyevna|
about age 16
via Wikimedia Commons
Sophia was, however, of the right age, a high enough bloodline, and possessed genitals of the correct shape, to make her a prime match for any number of royal men.
One of these was her second cousin once removed, Karl Peter Ulrich, Duke of Holstein. A year older than Sophia, they met briefly when she was ten and he was eleven. In her Memoirs, she says he was "agreeable and well-bred, although his liking for drink was already noticeable."
Others would describe him as:
small, delicate, and sickly, with protuberant eyes, no jaw, and thin, blond hair falling to his shoulders... he read nothing and was greedy at meals.
What Peter had in his favor was that he was the only living grandson of Peter the Great. And to Elizabeth, Empress of Russia, he was the son of her beloved dead sister.
Elizabeth decided to name Peter as her heir, and marry him to Sophia, who with her mother had been brought to Russia with this express purpose in mind. Sophia became Ekaterina, or Catherine, upon her official conversion to the Orthodox Church. Once married to Peter in August 1745, she became a Grand Duchess.
Transvestite Balls, Anyone?
Elizabeth, the possibly illegitimate daughter of Peter the Great and a peasant woman, was a fascinating woman in her own right. She deposed the infant Ivan VI, a cousin, got rid of the pro-German advisors, and rebuilt the Russian senate as it had been under her father's rule. She did not marry, but openly took lovers as it pleased her, and regularly held balls where attendees were ordered to cross-dress, the better to wear pants and show off her shapely legs.
As was custom, Elizabeth placed the Imperial crown on her own head in April 1742.
As Empress, she alternately petted and scolded Catherine and Peter. Although Peter was named her heir, he was... disappointing. Add to his already unimpressive appearance, massive scarring from smallpox. While Catherine contracted pneumonia from staying up late, working to become fluent in the language of her adopted country, Peter was barely able to learn Russian at all, and carried a huge man-crush on Frederick II of Prussia, Russian's enemy in the Seven Years War. Peter loved to wear Prussian military uniforms, had little interest in consummating his marriage, instead (according to Catherine) he would play with his toy soldiers in the marital bed.
Peter, for whatever reason, took a dislike to his pretty, personable wife. When he eventually took a mistress, by all accounts Elizaveta Vorontsova was a hunchbacked slob who "swore like a soldier, squinted her eyes, smelled bad, and spit while talking."
With Empress Elizabeth's knowledge and possibly even encouragement, Catherine allowed Serge Saltykov, a handsome young nobleman with a reputation as a lover of women, to become hers. He may have been the father of Paul, born in 1754, although in later years Paul showed a strong resemblance in appearance and personality to Grand Duke Peter. Elizabeth all but kidnapped the baby, having him taken directly from Catherine's bed after childbirth. She was allowed to see her baby once when he was a month old, and again briefly when he was two months old, while Elizabeth raised Paul almost as if she was his mother.
Later Catherine took another lover, Count Stanislaus Poniatowski, the Polish secretary to the English Ambassador. Their daughter, Anna, would also be taken away by the Empress, and would not live to her second birthday.
|Русский: В. Эриксен. "Поход на Петергоф" (Конный портрет Екатерины Великой). 1762 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Ménage à Quartre
Strange as it would seem for the next in line to the throne to openly take lovers, it gets weirder. According to Poniatowski's memoirs, he was confronted by Grand Duke Peter. After denying that he had slept with the Grand Duke's wife (awkward!), he was invited to the Grand Duke's villa by Vorontsova, the mistress. Upon his arrival, the Grand Duke left to fetch Catherine, and the four of them "sat down, laughing and chattering and frolicking..." From Robert K. Massie's Catherine the Great:
"The grand duke made me repeat my visit to Oranienbaum four times," Poniatowksi said. "I arrived in the evening, walked up an unused staircase to the grand duchess's room, where I found the grand duchess, the grand duke and his mistress. We had supper together, after which he took his mistress away, saying to us, 'Well, children, you do not need me any more, I think.' And I was able to stay as long as I liked."
Not long after, Poniatowski returned to Poland. Catherine secretly took a new lover, a handsome young officer of the Guard named Gregory Orlov. During this time, Elizabeth's health began failing. Peter spoke openly of wanting to divorce or put aside Catherine and marry his mistress, Vorontsova. The Grand Duchess was isolated in her apartments, though a handful of important nobles still supported her in secret, other openly. Oddly enough, one of Catherine's strongest partisans was also named Catherine. The wife of Prince Dashkov, she was the sister of Peter's mistress, and as the divide between Peter and Catherine grew, Princess Dashkova chose the side of her friend and idol, rather than her own sister.
Grand Duchess Catherine was hiding a six months' pregnancy (Orlov's child) when Empress Elizabeth died in December 1761.
Peter III - Don't Blink, or You'll Miss His Reign
Peter took charge as Emperor, following his aunt Elizabeth's death, and if he had deliberately set out to alienate every powerful person he hadn't already ticked off, he couldn't have done a better job. He refused to follow the customs of the Russian Orthodox Church and stand vigil beside Elizabeth's coffin. He played childish pranks when her body was moved from the Cathedral to the mausoleum. He made a decree secularizing all church property, and announced that the veneration of idols, except for those of Jesus Christ, were to be removed from churches.
At the time of Elizabeth's death, Russia, in conjunction with her allies Austria and France, had Prussia backed into a corner. Russian troops occupied Berlin. But, remember, man-crush on Frederick II. Peter unilaterally called off the Seven Years War (without consulting his allies), and called the Russian army home - so they could prepare for a campaign against Denmark, which had everything to do with his interests as Duke of Holstein, and zero to do with Russia's interest.
Meanwhile, Catherine kept a low profile. Why work to turn people against Peter, when he was doing such a smashing job of it on his own? She secretly gave birth to Alexis Gregorovich in April, and when she began taking a more public profile, people began coming to her. The Church, the Army, Russian nobles, diplomatic allies...
After only six months as ruler - and never taking the time to bother with a Coronation - Peter was forced to abdicate. By July, he had been strangled by several soldiers, including Alexis Orlov, one of the brothers of Gregory Orlov, Catherine's lover. By some accounts, it was as a result of a quarrel, rather than a coldly planned assassination, but however it happened, was quite convenient for Catherine.
Catherine ordered an autopsy - but only to look for poison. The doctors duly reported that, surprise! there was no evidence of poison and that Peter must therefore have died of natural causes, a "colic."
On September 22, 1762, Empress Catherine placed the crown on her own head - as was Russian custom - in the Assumption Cathedral in Moscow. She was 33 years old.
Idealism, Meet Political Reality
Russia was a vast, landlocked country with over twenty million subjects, and the last European country with a feudal system that included serfs. Catherine was highly intelligent, extremely well-read, a good judge of character, and despite the probably unintended murder of her husband, a rather generous and forgiving person. She sent Peter's ugly mistress to Moscow and bought the woman a house, and when Vorontsova married and had a child, became its godmother. She kept in place around her many of Peter's high-standing officials.
Catherine was a big fan of the European Enlightenment. During her time as Grand Duchess, she had studied many of their works. She adored Voltaire, especially, and began a correspondence with him after becoming Empress that would last 15 years. When philosopher Denis Diderot fell upon hard times and decided to sell his only remaining asset, his library, Catherine offered a thousand pounds more than his asking price, with one condition - the books should remain in Diderot's possession for his lifetime.
She embarked on an ambitious project - to completely rewrite the Russian legal code, which was a sorry mess. There was no complete sets of statutes; new laws often appeared with no reference to previous laws, imperial decrees made a hash out of previous imperial decrees. Catherine wanted to clean up the statutes, and institute new laws based on Enlightenment principles. From Massie's Catherine the Great:
Her plan was to summon a national assembly elected from all of the free social classes and ethnic groups of the empire. She would listen to their complaints and invite them to propose new laws to correct these flaws.She spent two years creating a set of guiding principles, upon which the new laws were to be founded, called the Nakaz. Catherine was against capital punishment, except in cases involving politcal murder, sedition, treason, or civil war. She condemned torture. She tried to put into place the idea that serfdom should be gradually abolished, but was met with such strong opposition from her own nobles, that those passages in the Nakaz allowing serfs to accumulate property and buy their own freedom were omitted from the final version.
The Legislative Commission, when finally assembled, had 564 delegates. Noblemen, towns, peasants, tribes (Cossacks, Volga), even religions (Christian, Muslim, Buddhist) sent representatives.
These varied peoples, some of whom were illiterate, got along almost as well as the current United States Congress. Each of them had his own agenda, which he felt should be the priority of the Commission. After more than 200 sittings and subcommittees meetings, the Commission dissolved, without creating a single new law or cleaning up and old one.
Multi-Tasking, You Say?
In the absence of a reliable Russian legislative body, Catherine herself worked to gradually reform the laws. She also began collecting works of art (The Hermitage Museum, one of the finest in the world, began as her private collection). She built palaces and villages. She bore another child, a daughter, with Orlov. She placed her former lover, Poniatowski, as King of Poland. When smallpox raged across Europe and Asia, and the controversial idea of vaccination was in its infancy, she read up on the research, and had herself vaccinated, though the consensus in all Europe except Britain was that it was much too dangerous. Three weeks later, after very mild smallpox symptoms and minor discomfort, she had Paul inoculated. Inoculation clinics were established across Russia and thousands followed in her footsteps; later, millions, within and outside of Russia.
She quashed rebellions (like a zombie, her husband Peter was periodically declared to be alive). To the distress of the new King of Poland, Russia, along with Prussia and Austria, each helped themselves to a third of what had once belonged to Poland. Russia would end up taking two more large slices, like a binge eater going back for chocolate cake. Then there were the wars with Turkey, which would result in yet more Russian territory gained, this time in the Crimea along the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea.
After breaking off with an unfaithful Orlov, Catherine had a brief fling with a young man who bored her to tears. Then came Gregory Potemkin. He would be her adviser, military commander in chief, her lover, and possibly her secret husband, for seventeen years.
She Did Suck at Being A Mother
|Portrait Of Grand Duke Pavel Petrovich Romanov|
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Following in Empress Elizabeth's footsteps, Catherine found a bride for Paul when he was quite young. Unfortunately, Natalia was in love with Paul's best friend, and worse, she died after five excruciating days of labor with her unborn son, who died with her. Another German princess, Sophia of Wutettemburg, was selected to become Maria and marry Paul. Their first two (out of nine) children were sons, Alexander and Constantine. As Elizabeth had done, Empress Catherine selected the names and at least partially took over raising them. It is thought she intended to name Alexander her heir, completely bypassing Paul, but died before she could change her will. (Or was it stolen and destroyed?)
About Those Young Guardsmen
|Catherine the Great - the most famous Russian Empress of German descent (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
She never apologized for her favorites or indicated that she considered these arrangements unseemly. All of her favorites were openly acknowledged; indeed, nothing seemed more normal than the matter-of-fact attitude with which these men were regarded by the court and society. Their presence at court was a constant. She was the heavily burdened ruler of a great empire as well as a proud and passionate woman, and she had neither time nor inclination to explain or quibble. She was lonely and she needed a partner, someone with whom to share not power but conversation, laughter, and human warmth. Therein lay one of the problems confronting her: the love of power and the power to attract love were not easy to reconcile.
What Would Catherine Say of Herself?
We don't have to guess, because after the death of her lover/partner Potemkin, Catherine wrote her own epitaph:
Here Lies Catherine the SecondShe died on November 6, 1796, at age 67, after being Empress for 34 years. She was buried at the Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg.
- Born in Stettin on April 21, 1729
- In the year 1744, she went to Russia to marry Peter III. At the age of fourteen, she made the threefold resolution to please her husband, Elizabeth, and the nation. She neglected nothing in trying to achieve this. Eighteen years of boredom and loneliness gave her the opportunity to read many books.
- When she came to the throne of Russia she wished to do what was good for her country and tried to bring happiness, liberty, and prosperity to her subjects.
- She forgave easily and hated no one. She was good-natured, easy-going, tolerant, understanding, and of a happy disposition. She had a republican spirit and a kind heart.
- She made many friends.
- She took pleasure in her work.
- She loved the arts.
- Anaïs Nin
- Anne Boleyn
- Ava Gardner
- Hwang Jini
- Dr. Joycelyn Elders
- The "Unsinkable Molly Brown"
- Peggy Lee
- Rita Moreno
Upcoming Sluts of the Month:
- Mae West
- Joan of Kent
- Sandra Fluke
- Morgan le Fey
- Liz Taylor
- Dorothy Parker
- Kassandra of Troy
- Tullia d'Aragona
- Josephine Baker
- Marie Antoinette
- Lillie Langtry
- Eleanor Roosevelt
- Shelley Winters
- Mary, Queen of Scots
- "Klondike Kate" Rockwell
- Catherine de Medici
- Lucrezia Borgia
- Umrao Jaan
- Sarah Bernhardt
- Matilda of Tuscany
- Eleanor of Aquitaine
- Theodora (wife of Emperor Justinian)
- Angelina Jolie
- Jeanne d'Arc
- Margaret Sanger
- Coco Chanel
- Isadora Duncan
- Joan of Kent
- Dorothy Dandridge
- Eva Perón
- Susan B. Anthony
- Natalie Wood
- Diana, Princess of Wales
- Hillary Rodham Clinton
- Mata Hari
- Lady Gaga
- Malala Yousafzai
Did you know anything about Catherine the Great - beside the horse myth?
Was she a "good slut," or a "bad slut"?
Was she a "good slut," or a "bad slut"?