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Catherine the Great (in bed)

The Civilization games have always been wonderfully addictive, so when Civilization V came out early this month, I snatched it up and have been playing it daily. In the course of the game, you interact with other leaders. Catherine the Great of Russia is portrayed quite flirtatiously.

You can see all her dialogue in this video, beginning at 4:02

Now, for starters, I knew that her appearance in game isn't the most historically accurate.

Here's her portrait

and here's how she looks in Civilization V.

A bit off, but I suppose it's better than the tavern wench look given to her in the console & iPhone version of the franchise "Civilization Revolution."

Still, I wondered how much truth there was behind her coquettish manner. After all, I did recall hearing something about her dying while making love to her horse. Sadly, Catherine did not expire in such an exciting manner, rather, she was taken by a stroke while squatting on the commode. That she was shagged to death by her stallion is a rumor whose beginnings probably lie among the Polish, who were none too thrilled with the whole "being massacred and then divided up between Prussia and Russia" business. (As seen in Kate Beaton's comic about Taddeusz Kosciuszko)

Despite the lack of bestiality, Catherine was quite an interesting figure. Born Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg, nicknamed Figchen, she ultimately took the name Yekaterina (Catherine) upon converting to Eastern Orthodoxy at age 15. This followed her family's move to Russia where, despite her Prussian heritage, she was committed to learning and doing whatever was necessary to be an effective Russian aristocrat, and would pace her bedroom at night, reciting her language lessons.

On 21 August 1745, Catherine, age 16, married Peter von Holstein-Gottorp, who was about as effective and exciting a man as his name suggests. Catherine immediately began integrating herself, politically and sexually, with Russian aristocracy, liaising with over a dozen powerful men. Princess Ekaterina Vorontsova-Dashkova, the sister of her husband's mistress (the poor sap only had one to her basketball team) helped, introducing Catherine to a number of her husband's political enemies.

Catherine at age 16.

Holstein-Gottorp succeeded the Russian throne in 1762 and didn't even last a year. He fawned over Prussian King Ferdinand II, offered some of his Polish holdings to him, and just in case any doubt remained where his loyalties lay, moved out of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg to Oranianbaum, a royal mansion that happened to be closer to his beloved Prussia. The fool may as well have pinned a target to his back. His own guard aided in his deposement, and Catherine ascended the throne. Though she too was of Prussian birth, her cultivation of the minds and loins of Russia's elite secured her new position as Empress.

Catherine oversaw the conquest of much of Ukraine and Crimea, created a national bank to help pay for it, set herself up as a successful mediator between antagonistic nations, and during the American War for Independence, formed the League of Armed Nutrality, which protected neutral nations wishing to trade with warring parties. This was a brilliantly cautious yet effective move against England, whose sea power of the time was as great as all other nations of Western Europe combined.

Religiously tolerant, she allowed the Muslims of her newly conquered lands to practice their faith and build Mosques in spite of the Orthodox Church's objections. "I am Soverign of the Russian lands" she replied to a bishop's complaint that a new Mosque's Minarettes were taller than the church steeples of a certain town, "I have no jurisdiction over the sky."

Russia's single greatest patron of the arts, she founded the famous Hermitage art museum, wrote a book on the education of young children, loved opera, possibly bedded the father of Russian composer Rimsky-Korsikoff, and corresponded with philosophers such as Deidrot and Voltaire, and gave protection to Enlightenment thinkers who were persecuted in their homelands...

...until the French Revolution, which prompted suggestions from some that similar violence might arise within Russia unless major reforms took place. Such persons were exiled to Siberia. Oh and she also slaughtered a lot of Poles, Ukranians, and Crimeans, took their land, and though having a fondness for Enlightenment thinkers, certainly had no intention of emancipating the serfs.

And through all this, her libido kept churning along. She made no attempt to conceal her many affairs and burned through a bevy of boy-toys. She even had a lady-in-waiting whose job it was to bed potential lovers and report back to Catherine whether their sexual prowess was worth the Empress's time. How sweet a gig is that? She was gracious to her lovers, paying them large pensions when tiring of them, and they always left her court in stronger political position than when they arrived, even if they walked a bit funny for the rest of their lives.

The point in all this is, you already beat me to The Great Library, Catherine, and if you finish The Forbidden Palace before me, I am taking you down. I'm only five turns away from Rifling, and once I get it your ass is toast!


Nov. 4th, 2010 03:06 pm (UTC)
Friend away, though I might not friend back for a while. No offence meant, I just have some privateish posts (and a flist that needs culling anyway).

Yay Discworld!


It Is Time For History

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