Catherine the Great by Virginia Rounding
Love, Sex, and Power

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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.


About Virginia Rounding

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Virginia Rounding is a translator and writer living in London.
Published February 6, 2007 by St. Martin's Press. 592 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Travel. Non-fiction

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“Instead of being able to be a wise consort to his young wife-to-be,” Rounding writes, “Peter found it was the other way round, and he did not, on the whole, welcome this.” Catherine was, after all, well-read, fluent in several languages and given to philosophy and literature, though in later lif...

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The Guardian

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Certainly, Catherine wrote to Potemkin in her "Sincere Confession of 21 February 1774", "My heart is loath to remain even one hour without love", but "love" - particularly in her last years - involved a strong impulse to manage those selected as recipients of emotion by her, whether this meant nu...

Apr 01 2006 | Read Full Review of Catherine the Great: Love, Se...

Book Reporter

It is doubtful, however, that it was ever practiced more openly or with more decisive results than during the reign of Catherine II (Catherine the Great) over the Russian empire.

Dec 26 2010 | Read Full Review of Catherine the Great: Love, Se...

Entertainment Weekly

Like Marie Antoinette, 18th-century empress Catherine the Great has been tarred by rumors, many of them salacious.

Feb 02 2007 | Read Full Review of Catherine the Great: Love, Se...

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