Monday, September 3, 2007

When did she find the time?

No one knows for sure how many lovers Catherine II of Russia had but all agree it was more than a few. Serge Saltuikov, a Russian noble, became her first lover when Catherine the Great was just twenty-three. She had already been abandoned by her husband, the Grand Duke Peter, who took twelve years to consummate his marriage vows but who had once planned to divorce Catherine and marry his mistress. Peter went on to become Peter III but he was deposed in 1762 and replaced by Catherine.

Catherine went on to have several more affairs, including with Gregory Orlov who helped her to seize the throne. Gregory Potemkin, another of her lovers who assisted with the coup, went on to become her procurer after his own time in her bed had ended. (That means he identified willing, able and suitable young men who could offer her the pleasure he once had.)

She took her last lover, Plato Subov, at the age of sixty and he remained with her until her death in 1796.

During her reign, Catherine extended Russia's borders by thousands of miles and made the country the dominant force in south-eastern Europe. A great lover of the arts, she did much to support writers and painters. The Hermitage Museum now houses most of her personal collection.

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