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The Resource Catherine the Great : portrait of a woman, Robert K. Massie

Catherine the Great : portrait of a woman, Robert K. Massie

Catherine the Great : portrait of a woman
Catherine the Great
Title remainder
portrait of a woman
Statement of responsibility
Robert K. Massie
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 young German princess who traveled to Russia at fourteen and rose to become 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. Possessing a brilliant mind and an insatiable curiosity as a young woman, she devoured the works of Enlightenment philosophers and, when she reached the throne, attempted to use their principles to guide her rule of the vast and backward Russian empire. She knew or corresponded with the preeminent historical figures of her time: Voltaire, Diderot, Frederick the Great, Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, Marie Antoinette, and, surprisingly, the American naval hero, John Paul Jones. Reaching the throne fired by Enlightenment philosophy and determined to become the embodiment of the "benevolent despot" idealized by Montesquieu, she found herself always contending with the deeply ingrained realities of Russian life, including serfdom. She persevered, and 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 that swept across Europe. Her reputation depended entirely on the perspective of the speaker. She was praised by Voltaire as the equal of the greatest of classical philosophers; she was condemned by her enemies, mostly foreign, as "the Messalina of the north." Catherine's family, friends, ministers, generals, lovers, and enemies -- all are here, vividly described. These included her ambitious, perpetually scheming mother; her weak, bullying husband, Peter (who left her lying untouched beside him for nine years after their marriage); her unhappy son and heir, Paul; her beloved grandchildren; and her "favorites" -- the parade of young men from whom she sought companionship and the recapture of youth as well as sex. Here, too, is the giant figure of Gregory Potemkin, her most significant lover and possible husband, with whom she shared a passionate correspondence of love and separation, followed by seventeen years of unparalleled mutual achievement. The story is superbly told. All the special qualities that Robert K. Massie brought to Nicholas and Alexandra and Peter the Great are present here: historical accuracy, depth of understanding, felicity of style, mastery of detail, ability to shatter myth, and a rare genius for finding and expressing the human drama in extraordinary lives. History offers few stories richer in drama than that of Catherine the Great. In this book, this eternally fascinating woman is returned to life. -- Publisher
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Catherine the Great
Presents a reconstruction of the eighteenth-century empress's life that covers her efforts to engage Russia in the cultural life of Europe, her creation of the Hermitage, and her numerous scandal-free romantic affairs
Writing style
  • Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Non-Fiction, 2012.
  • Booklist Editors' Choice, 2011.
  • New York Times Notable Book, 2011.
Biography type
individual biography
Cataloging source
Dewey number
  • 947/.063092
  • B
  • illustrations
  • maps
index present
LC call number
LC item number
.M34 2011
Literary form
non fiction
Nature of contents
  • -HTdmzNDZHo
Target audience
portrait of a woman
portrait of a woman
by Robert K. Massie
Catherine the Great : portrait of a woman, Robert K. Massie
Catherine the Great : portrait of a woman, Robert K. Massie
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Related Location
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Bibliography note
Includes bibliographical references (p. [577]-579) and index
Part 1 : A German princess. Sophia's childhood -- Summoned to Russia -- Frederick II and the journey to Russia -- Empress Elizabeth -- The making of a grand duke -- Meeting Elizabeth and Peter -- Pneumonia -- Intercepted letters -- Conversion and betrothal -- A pilgrimage to Kiev and transvestite balls -- Smallpox -- Marriage -- Johanna goes home -- Part 2 : A painful marriage. The Zhukova affair -- Peepholes -- A watchdog -- He was not a king -- In the bedroom -- A house collapses -- Summer pleasures -- Dismissals at court -- Moscow and the country -- Choglokov makes an enemy and Peter survives a plot -- A bath before Easter and a coachman's whip -- Oysters and an actor -- Reading, dancing, and a betrayal -- Part 3 : Seduction, motherhood, and confrontation. Saltykov -- The birth of the heir -- Retaliation -- The English ambassador -- A diplomatic earthquake -- Poniatowski -- A dead rat, an absent lover, and a risky proposal -- Catherine challenges Brockdorff; she gives a party -- Apraskin's retreat -- Catherine's daughter -- The fall of Bestuzhev -- A gamble -- Confrontation -- A menage a quatre -- Part 4 : The time has come! Panin, Orlov, and Elizabeth's death -- The brief reign of Peter III -- Dura! -- We ourselves know not what we did -- Part 5 : Empress of Russia. Coronation -- The government and the church -- Serfdom -- Madame Orlov could never be Empress of Russia -- The death of Ivan VI -- Catherine and the Enlightenment -- The Nakaz -- All free estates of the realm -- The king we have made -- The first partition of Poland and the first Turkish War -- Doctors, smallpox, and plague -- The return of Peter the Third -- The last days of the Marquis de Pugachev -- Part 6 : Potemkin and favoritism. Vasilchikov -- Catherine and Potemkin : Passion -- Potemkin ascending -- Catherine and Potemkin : separation -- New relationships -- Favorites -- Part 7 : My name is Catherine the Second. Catherine, Paul, and Natalia -- Paul, Maria, and the succession -- Potemkin : builder and diplomat -- Crimean journey and Potemkin villages -- The Second Turkish War and the death of Potemkin -- Art, architecture, and the bronze horseman -- They are capable of hanging their king from a lamppost! -- Dissent in Russia, final partition of Poland -- Twilight -- The death of Catherine the Great
Control code
25 cm.
{'DOVER': ''}
1st ed.
xiii, 625 p.
Isbn Type
(acidfree hc)
Other physical details
ill. (some col.), maps

Library Locations

    • Main LibraryBorrow it
      73 Locust St, Dover, NH, 03820, USA
      43.19289 -70.876331
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