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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Catherine the Great and Peter III - An Ill Fated Marriage

In honor of Notorious Royal Marriages week at the Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table - I selected the marriage of Catherine the Great and Peter III of Russia to highlight here.

As was common practice for the majority of royal marriages, the union of Catherine and Peter was an arranged marriage for political purposes. Peter was the heir to the Russian throne and because she would one day be queen, Catherine had to face a great many tests before she was ultimately chosen for his wife. Shortly after her sixteenth birthday, Catherine and Peter married. But newlywed life would not be blissful – Peter was constantly ill and he enjoyed playing games like a boy half his age. It was only though the encouragement of other members of the court that their marriage was consummated. They would have one son, Paul, who would one day rule Russia.

In 1762, Peter became Emperor of Russia. Due to political failings and his immature attitude – Peter was deposed and killed within 6 months of taking the throne. This left Catherine husbandless and in complete control of Russia.

Catherine had taken on a string of lovers, even during her marriage to Peter, but would not marry again. Her most notable lovers were Sergei Saltykov Grigory Potemkin, Stanislaw Poniatowski, and Grigory Orlov. Catherine treated her lovers very well, rewarding them with lands, money, and titles during and after their affair ended. Catherine had a son with Orlov, named Aleksey Bobrinsky, and a daughter with Poniatowski, named Anna Petrovna. Catherine secretly claimed that Paul was the son of Saltykov, but he so much resembled Peter that it is most likely untrue.

Catherine died in 1796 at the age of 67 from a stroke. The crown would pass on to her son, Paul.

Catherine is another one of those women whose husband really wasn’t interested in playing the role of a husband. But she lucked out and got the upper hand after his death – ruling Russia without a husband and taking on a string of lovers – how much better could it get after what she had in her marriage!
Be sure to stop by the other Round Table events today:
Interview with Leslie Carroll at The Burton Review
Book Review at Historical-Fiction.com
Guest Post by Leslie Carroll at All Things Royal

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  1. Great post, very interesting.


  2. I'm getting so enthralled by Russian history that I just can't get enough. I too have become so curious about this mega queen! Heather your post is delicious- and after reading about her in Leslie's book, she's another one I'll have to stock up on. Loved the post:)

  3. Thanks for this post -- I am surprised to learn that for once it was a woman who dabbled in affairs. It's normally the other way around.
    Great informative post!

  4. I knew there were good reasons why I liked Catherine. She was one tenacious lady.

  5. They are such an intriguing couple, aren't they, Heather! I'm glad you chose to write about them. Not only was Peter not interested in being a husband, but even into adulthood (he and Catherine were wed when they were in their mid-teens!) he just loved to play with his toy soldiers. He even brought them to bed with him and had them march across the quilts while he and Catherine were supposed to be trying to beget an heir!

  6. Catherine the Great is another person that I am very fascinated with. I really liked the television film with Catherine Zeta Jones as Catherine although the real Catherine was not nearly as attractive as Zeta Jones. I'm sure the program took much historical license, but it really sparked my interest in this strong woman. Great post!

    I am giving away a copy of Catherine the Great: Love, Sex, And Power by Virginia Rounding over at my blog. If you would like to enter, here's the link: http://thetruebookaddict.blogspot.com/2009/12/ch-ch-ch-ch-changes-announcement-and.html

  7. It is always a surprise to me that there isn't much historical fiction about Catherine the Great. I have always wanted to read more about her.


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