Catherine II

"Women fell under her spell as well as men, for
underlying her engaging femininity was a masculine strength
which gave her the courage to present a bland and smiling
mask in the face of the greatest tribulations." Sophia Augusta
Frederica was born into a small Prussian kingdom in 1729.
Her hometown was in Stettin, Germany. Her birth was a
great disappointment to her parents, her father, Prince
Christian August of Anhalt- Zerbst and her mother, Johanna
Elizabeth, daughter of the prince of Holstein Ė Gottorp. Both
parents had hoped for a son. After they did finally have a
son, she was neglected even more. Although, when her
parents discovered that she had a good memory, they
encouraged her to study religion, history and geography.
Besides learning, Sophia also became more interested in
hunting and riding horses rather than what were considered
more feminine past times and was somewhat of a tomboy.
Throughout her life, her mother only spoke to her to criticize
her. Her father cared very much for her, but was too
engrossed with his military work to show her much affection.
She spent much time with her governess who taught her to
question everything and everybody and to trust her own
common sense. Her guidance from her governess and her
ability to be independent at a young age helped her to later
become a strong leader.

At a very young age, she wished to marry her second
cousin, Peter Ulrich, who later changed his name to Peter
Fyodorvich. Elizabeth I of Russia chose her to marry her
son, Peter Fyodorvich. Catherine prepared for the role of
czarina by studying the Russian language intently. Love
played no role in her thoughts to marry Peter; Catherine was
only interested in the throne. As a strict Lutheran,
Catherineís father was very unhappy about Catherine
marrying a Russian Orthodox. Her father wrote her letters
begging her not to abandon Lutheranism. Catherine was
determined to gain the respect of the Russian orthodox, so
when she became deathly ill, she called for a Russian
orthodox priest instead of a Lutheran. She won the trust and
sympathy of Russia. On June 28, 1744, Catherine was
baptized into the Russian orthodox faith. The next day she
and peter Fyodovich had an elaborate betrothal at the
Cathedral of St. Sophia. She married Peter in August
of1745, and their marriage was a disaster from the
beginning. Peter was very immature and spent most of his
time playing with toy soldiers. 2/1/952 "The marriage was a
complete failure. The following eighteen years were filled
with deception and humiliation for her." Peter hurt Catherine
deeply when he told her of women in the court that he loved
and thought were beautiful. Catherine became very lonely
and resorted to reading, by the time Catherine was 23, she
was even more intelligent. After many years, Catherine still
had not born a child with Peter. Elizabeth, determined to
have an heir, arranged for Catherine to bear a child with
another man. Catherine then chose her own lover, an
imperial guard officer and war hero, to have a child with.
Catherine had many lovers throughout her marriage to Peter
III. Soon after the birth of Catherineís second child,
Elizabeth grew very sick. As Elizabeth deteriorated, so did
Catherine and Peterís relationship. Catherine soon found a
new lover Grigory Orlov, a lieutenant in the palace guard, he
ended up being one of Catherineís most important allies.
After the death of Empress Elizabeth on December 25,
1761, peter no longer felt that he had to disguise his hatred
toward his wife. Catherine became powerless and could not
fight back because she was pregnant with Orioleís child.
Because Peter could use this evidence of infidelity against
her, she wore loose, heavy mourning clothes with long veils.
This clothing was appropriate to wear when Elizabethís
body was displayed in the palace. For ten days after
Elizabethís death, Catherine knelt in prayer, while Peter was
out laughing, drinking and having a good time at parties.
Catherine was clearly the model ruler.

After the death of his mother, Peter III began an even more
disastrous reign. He offended officials of the court and of the
church, while Catherine was busy gaining supporters through
her lover, Orlov and his brothers. One night, while drunk,
Peter announced that he planned to divorce Catherine.
14/2/69 News spread of the Tsarís scandalsous attack on
Cahterine. Instead, she and Orlov planned to overthrow him.
On the night of June 27, 1762, Orlov took Catherine away
to an army barracks where the solderis proclaimed her their
savior, and she took the throne. Peter was imprisoned and
was later put to death. Catherine was now the rightful
Empress of Russia, Catherine II.

Catherineís efforts to self educate herself paid