Empress Catherine Ii "The Great" Essay

1186 words - 5 pages

She had been born Princess Sophia August Frederika on May 2, 1729 in the Baltic seaport town of Stettin, then a part of German Pomerania. Her father was an obscure German military princeling named Christian August, and her mother was Princess Joanna Elizabeth of Holstein-Gottorp. Her father was nominal ruler of the tiny principality of Anhalt-Zerbst, but the greater part of his life was spent as an officer in the service of Prussia. Little Sophia was nicknamed Feke or Figchen. Little is known about her early life, except that which Catherine related in her unfinished autobiography years later.Figchen's mother, Joanna, was the sister of Karl August, who had been engaged to Elizabeth I of Russia before she took the throne. Karl August died suddenly and unexpectantly in Petersburg in 1727. Elizabeth kept a fondness for him and his family long after his death. In the early 1740's Elizabeth was searching for a wife for her nephew and heir, Peter. Fidgen was the right age and a sentimental choice for the romantic Empress of Russia. Figchen and her mother were summoned by Elizabeth to Russia late in 1743. The potential match of the young German princess and the heir to the Russian throne was actively promoted by her mother and the Prussian King, Frederick, who saw the alliance as a way to further Prussian interests at the court of St. Petersburg. He eyed Figchen carefully at a banquet in her honor in Berlin before she left for Russia. He always claimed he saw greatness in her, even when Sophia was a child.Crossing the border into Russia she went from Riga to St. Petersburg and on to Moscow, finally meeting Elizabeth on February 9, 1744. Elizabeth was enchanted with her. Figchen immediately began to study Russian and Orthodoxy, with the end result of abandoning Lutheranism for the Russian Church, being re-christened Yekaterina - Catherine.Her husband-to-be was a great disappointment to everyone. He was sickly, mean spirited and ill-equipped mentally or physically to rule a vast empire like Russia. He was also unable to consummate his marriage to Catherine. Elizabeth didn't understand the fault was Peter's and pressured the couple to produce a son - thus securing the dynasty. When it was clear this wasn't going to happen, Elizabeth permitted an affair between Catherine and a handsome Russian officer, Serge Saltykov. Catherine conceived and bore a son, Paul, who was accepted by Peter as his own. Immediately after his birth, little Paul was carried off to Elizabeth's quarters and the Empress raised him as her own.Catherine and Peter hated one another. On the death of Elizabeth on December 25, 1761, Peter ascended the throne as Peter III. He quickly showed his mania for all things Prussian by forming an alliance with Prussia that was to Russia's detriment. Peter ordered the proud Imperial guard regiments to dispose of their uniforms from the days of Peter the Great in exchange for tight-fitting uniforms in the Prussian style. He followed this with the...

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