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Catherine the Great

Love, Sex, and Power

Virginia Rounding

St. Martin's Press

Dutiful daughter, frustrated wife, passionate lover, domineering mother, doting grandmother, devoted friend, tireless legislator, generous patron of artists and philosophers--the Empress Catherine II, the Great, was all these things, and more. Her reign, the longest in Russian Imperial history, lasted from 1762 until her death in 1796; during those years she built on the work begun by her most famous predecessor, Peter the Great, to establish Russia as a major European power and to transform its new capital, St Petersburg, into a city to rival Paris and London in the beauty of its architecture, the glittering splendor of its Court and the magnificence of its art collections. Yet the great Catherine was not even Russian by birth and had no legitimate claim to the Russian throne; she seized it and held on to it, through wars, rebellions and plagues, by the force of her personality, by her charm and determination, and by an unshakable belief in her own destiny.
 
This is the story of Catherine the woman, whom power alone could never satisfy, for she also wanted love, affection, friendship and humor. She found these in letter-writing, in grandchildren, in gardens, architecture and greyhounds--as well as in a succession of lovers which gave rise to salacious rumors throughout Europe. The real Catherine, however, was more interesting than any rumor.
 
Using many of Catherine's own words from her voluminous correspondence and other documents, as well as contemporary accounts by courtiers, ambassadors and foreign visitors, Virginia Rounding penetrates the character of this most powerful, fascinating and surprisingly sympathetic of eighteenth-century women.

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CATHERINE THE GREAT (1: From Feudal Anthill to the Court of Russia (1729–44))

Her demeanour was marked by such nobility and grace, that I would have admired her even if she hadn’t been to me what she is.

Princess Johanna of Holstein-Gottorp on her daughter,
the future Catherine II

The woman who became Catherine II, the Great, Empress of All the Russias, was born Sophie Frederica Auguste of Anhalt-Zerbst on 21 April Old Style, 2 May New Style, 1729, in the Baltic port of Stettin in Pomerania (now Szczecin in northwest Poland). She was the first child of her 39-year-old

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REVIEWS

Praise for Catherine the Great

“An engrossing bio . . . Is it possible Sofia Coppola picked the wrong historical heroine?” ---Entertainment Weekly (Grade: A)

“The book is so readable because it brings Catherine alive, and not least in her relations with the men she drew to her side.” ---Foreign Affairs

“An attractive account of the reign of a most remarkable woman . . . Strongly recommended.” ---Library Journal

“A great thumping triumph of a book.” ---London Telegraph (UK)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Virginia Rounding

  • Virginia Rounding is a translator and writer who lives in London. Author of the critically acclaimed Grandes Horizontales, she studied Russian at the University of London and visits St. Petersburg regularly.

  • Virginia Rounding
    Virginia Rounding
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    Catherine the Great

    Love, Sex, and Power

    Virginia Rounding

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    St. Martin's Press

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