'Catherine the Great' Fans Want to Know: Did the Empress Really Kill Her Husband?
"Do you think she even likes men? She eats them and spits them out," Minister Panin (Rory Kinnear) poses the flippant question in a crucial scene of the new HBO miniseries, Catherine the Great.
Panin's character description doesn't hit that far from the truth. Reputed for her opulent lifestyle and good taste in men, the empress left a lasting impact on Russian history, and 18th-century aristocrats.
But are the history buffs to be believed in? Did Catherine the Great kill her husband?
Catherine the Great conquered some 200,000 square miles of land – and many hearts.
The Empress annexed Crimea, the Northern Caucasus, Belarus, parts of Ukraine, Lithuania, the Courland, and more. She also caused a real stir among the Russian aristocracy, counting dozens of men as her lovers.
Catherine the Great initiated relationships with the most reputed members of the Russian court, including Alexander Vasilchikov, an ensign of the Chevalier Guard Regiment, and Prince Grigory Aleksandrovich Potemkin-Tauricheski, a military leader, statesman, and nobleman. However, the Empress also had conquests from abroad, all over Europe, and has engaged in a long, heated exchange with French philosopher and writer, François-Marie Arouet Voltaire, reveals The Slate's Rebecca Onion.
Who was Catherine the Great's husband... and did she kill him?
As Esquired's Adrienne Westenfeld explains, Catherine the Great entered into an arranged marriage with prospective tsar Peter of Holstein-Gottorp at the age of 16, in 1745. As the journalist points out, neither of the two felt satisfied with the relationship. The young woman made manifest her deep-seated disappointment on numerous occasions, and when the first opportunity came about, she jumped on it.
Catherine the Great arranged a coup with the leaders of the Russian military, who felt alienated after Peter III introduced a set of particularly badly-thought-out, disadvantageous policies. In no time, they took over the country, sent the king to the countryside and assassinated him.
Would this be Catherine the Great's making? According to a few, the answer is a firm yes. However, as the majority of historians would argue, the would-be Empress couldn't have been held responsible for the assassination, as that would have come as the result of much more complex socio-political issues, a growing sense of public dissatisfaction and the military leaders' desire to exercise more control and say in the governance of the country.
The new HBO miniseries captures the juiciest aspects of the Empress' luxurious lifestyle.
The first-ever miniseries to tilt the focus towards the later stages of Catherine the Great's life, the miniseries doesn't concern with her adolescence nor her failed marriage.
Written by Nigel Williams and directed by Philip Martin, the show revolves around an elder, mightily powerful woman (played by Helen Mirren) who demonstrates unparalleled strengths when it comes to realizing her will in a climate fraught with petty conflicts, superfluous gossips, and day-to-day squabbles.
In conclusion, Catherine the Great might have been a man-eater, but she was no black widow (probably).