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The Enlightened Empress

The Way to the Throne
In severe winter 1744 the sleigh, covered with sables and trimmed with silver lace brought Princess Sophia Fredericka Augusta Anhalt-Zerbst - the future wife of the heir on the Russian throne - to Moscow where she was introduced to the Russian Empress Elizaveta Petrovna." Nice and noble stature, magestic pace, fine face and posture, imperative gaze - everything told about her future great character. Pride is a distinguishable feature of her face. Her particularly agreable and kind manners for a keen observer only reveal her desire to be admired, and her charming speech clearly demonstrates her dangerous intentions" wrote later in the early 1760-s the secretary of the French ambassador in Russia de Ruliere. In seventeen years spent at the court of Elizaveta Petrovna the Princess learnt to keep herself under control and to orientate herself in the subtleties of politics. Though Catherine sincerely wanted to be admired by the Grand Duke, the Empress and the people, her pride, intellect and self-esteem made it impossible for her to take the supervision of the spies appointed by the Empress to look after her and her eternal fault-findings and to stand dumb all the oddities of her unfaithful husband Peter III who rudely humiliated her before the courtiers."Think about yourself, madame!" - once said to herself this outstanding lady who was brought up with the idea that it is only herself who could work out her way. Having won the respect of the most powerful noblemen and love of the ladies of the court, following the advice of her friends ready to follow her witout hesitation and knowing that the Guards will support her, she made up her maind to dethrone her mediocre husband who showed neglect to everything Russian and thus aroused hostility almost in everybody. On June 28, 1762 brothers Orlovs brought Catherine from Peterhof to the capital.The Guards met her with loud "Viva!", the streets of Saint Petersburg were full of exultant public, the Senat and Synod as well as the statesmen took the oath readily. The 34-years long reign of Catherine the Great started.


Portrait of the Grand Duchess Ekaterina Alekseevna
Georg Christophor Groot
Larger view

Catherine II on the balcony above the Kommendantsky (Commandant ) Entrance on the Day of the Palace Revolution on June 28, 1762
Unknown artist
Larger view

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