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Catherine the Great Portrait of a Woman

N titan but also of a flesh and blood woman Newsweek An absorbing satisfying biography Los Angeles TimesJuicy and suspenseful The New York Times Book Review A great life indeed and irresistibly told Salon NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times The Washington Post USA Today The Boston Globe San Francisco Chronicle Chicago Tribune NewsweekThe Daily Beast Salon Vogue St Louis Post Dispatch The Providence Journal Washington Examiner South Florida Sun Sentinel BookPage Bookreporter Publishers Week. I am impressed Catherine the Great lived from 1729 1796 She was 14 when she first came to Russia This book covers this entire time period meticulously I understand how her childhood experiences came to shape her as an adult I understand her need for love and why she came to have twelve lovers At the same time she was motivated to seek power She played a huge role in European history All of this history is detailed in the book You meet her as a person and as a leader Everything one could possibly wish to know about her life is in this bookexcept gossip that is unsubstantiated Do yourself a favor read the book You will learn a lot and enjoy yourself most of the time I think every time you reread the book you would enjoy it The parts most difficult for me were those where my knowledge is lacking Through 45% The NYT Sunday Book Review has an article on the book this week Here is the link I must warn you that there are spoilers One reason alone to read this book is to laugh at crazy Peter I mean this guy is so juvenile it is mind boggling In to his 20s he plays with toy soldiers in histheir bed He even has real people marching up and down his room Marching drills tight uniforms whips Is he real Unfortunately yes At 35% the beginning of Part IV I believe this book will appeal to a different group of people than those who appreciated Nicholas and Alexandra Catherine the Great is a strong politically minded person The book does not focus upon a child with hemophilia Although you do learn details of Catherine s childhood and it certainly is essential to know these details to understand who she became as an adult politics must be the central theme of this book Empress Elizabeth is reaching the end of her life Catherine who has never been allowed contact with her children is now considering her next step toward power It is power that she seeks Panin believing that Peter was unfit to rule and should somehow be removed wished Paul Catherine s first child to be placed on the throne as a boy emperor with Catherine as regent Catherine pretended to agree with Panin I had rather be the mother than the wife of the emperor she told him In reality she had no desire to be subordinated to her own child her ambition was to occupy the throne herself 35%If you are not interested in a woman seeking power and a place on the political stage perhaps one should look elsewhere I am curious to know how many stars I will finally give this book on completion I have now read 30% of the book I am somewhere in Part III The difficult job of keeping track of who is who is not a problem any For me I get most enjoyment from the book when I am left undisturbed What I want to mention here is that perhaps you think that the life of the nobility is a piece of cake Forget that There is no way you will envy their lives I do not want to tell you why I say this because that would be a spoiler I will give you one example though Moscow in the 1750s was a city constructed primarily of wooden houses Sometimes the fancy houses were painted to look like stone Even the nobility lived in houses of wood Houses that were cold and infested with vermin Even the palaces burned Yes I think it was in 1753 that the palace where Elizabeth and Peter and Catherine were residing burned Then they moved to the governess and governor s house the house of their arch enemies the Choglokovas Only these two were no longer arch enemies at this point The description of their residence that one would assume would be of high uality is utterly deplorable During the fire what is most interesting to observe is what valuables are lostsaved by each Elizabeth lost the most thousands and thousands of dresses Peter he was embarrassed when a cabinet was hauled out of his room and it opened with liuor and wine bottles spilling out over the mud And Catherine Her pile of books by Voltaire and other such authors they were saved The articles most important to each says volumes The author provides direct uotes from existing diaries Catherine s birthing experience and the way her child is kept from her are heart wrenching even considering usual customs of the time Contact between mother and child was made impossible Elizabeth had brought Peter and Catherine to Russia It took years for an heir to be produced After that Catherine and Peter had little significance to Elizabeth They role was finished as far as Elizabeth was concerned I find the book fascinating Massie s choice of the specific details to include are balanced descriptive and engaging I have begun part two and am at 15% At first I liked Empress Elizabeth but now I despise her Sophia now called Catherine after her official conversion to the Orthodox faith has married Grand Duke Peter Ulrich Neither she nor her husband were told anything about sex This is rather ironic given all the hullabaloo and planning behind the wedding Rather essential bits were skipped What is shocking is Elizabeth s volatile personality Fortunately Catherine is intelligent and is learning uickly She is only seventeen and completely on her own In a sense she has always been on her own with so one tor rely on since her birth Lives are destroyed on the whims of Empress ElizabethLet me take this opportunity to give you an excerpt concerning Empress Elizabeth Elizabeth whose concerns and fears were personal she feared for the security of her person her throne and the future of her branch of the dynasty In her plans of course Catherine Peter and their future child were of supreme importance For this reason over the years ahead Elizabeth s attitudes toward both the young husband and the young wife oscillated dramatically between affection concern disappointment impatience frustration and rage Not only in appearance but also in character Elizabeth was her parents child She was the daughter of Russia s greatest tsar and his peasant wife who became Empress Catherine I Elizabeth was tall like her father and she resembled him in her energy ardent temper and sudden impulsive behavior Like her mother she was uickly moved to sympathy and to lavish spontaneous generosity But her gratitude like her other ualities lacked moderation and permanence 15%I appreciate how the author summarizes the descriptive incidents previously depicted The reader is first part of the whirlwind events and then stands back and looks at what these events say about the individualsI do not think I have properly shown you Elizabeth s character Listen to this To maintain her dazzling preeminence at court Elizabeth made certain that no other woman present could shine as brightly Sometimes this reuired draconian coercive measures During the winter of 1747 the empress decreed that all of her ladies in waiting must shave their heads and wear black wigs until their hair grew in again The women wept but obeyed Catherine assumed that her own turn would come but to her surprise she was spared Elizabeth explained that Catherine s hair was just growing back after an illness Soon the reason for the general pruning became known after a previous festive occasion Elizabeth and her maids had been unable to brush a heavy powder out of her hair which became gray coagulated and gummy The only remedy was to have her head shaved And because she refused to be the only bald woman at court bushels of hair were croppedWhat do you think of her now I have seen tender moments too I have read 12% of the book I am somewhere in chapter 11 I have noted that several say that although they enjoy the book they put it aside and read other lighter books occasionally I take the opposite approach I came to a point where the future husband of Sophia who will later come to be called Catherine died What I obviously had something confused The truth is that if you bother to try and understand the different family members and how they are all related you do need to pay attention If I had chosen to put the book aside for a while I would have had to start over from the beginning My head leaks Instead I backtracked to the beginning of the chapter and determined that I would sit and pay close attention for at least one hour No breaks nothing just reading And this did the trick That was a different Peter who died I would not recommend reading this book on a noisy metro or in a noisy room while the kids are looking at TV No read it when you can pay attention at least in those parts where the complicated family relations are discussed You run into such sections and then you do need to pay attention Other sections are not at all as difficult Or maybe you don t have to pay close attention What I most enjoy in this book so far is the way the author describes the people in a nuanced manner Take Empress Elizabeth She was the daughter of Peter the Great She did not seek power She was vivacious and fun loving and had several affairs But no kids However there comes a point where either the regent Anna Leopoldovna is going to stick her in a nunnery or she had to fight for the reign She had no intention of sitting in a nunnery When she fights to become Empress you are rooting for her As all people she had kind wonderful characteristics and others ualities less admirable You see all the different sides of her personality It is the author s ability to show us who the characters really are that I most enjoy So maybe you can just forget the difficult sections that are hard to follow That is another approach You will come to understand Elizabeth and Sophia and her future husband Grand Duke Peter Ulrich It is important to know of what happened to them in their childhood They both had very difficult family situations Wait till you hear of how Sophia s mother Johanna treats her daughter When they leave on a secret trip in the winter to travel to St Petersburg absolutely no clothes are bought for Sophia Johanna spent the money on clothes for herself Sophia was off to meet her future betrothed with the fewest of garments imaginable This is just one indication of the horrible mother daughter relationship And Peter put under the supervision of Br mmer You will be shocked Peter is not particularly handsome or stable but you will understand why He was practically starved to death as punishment for slight misdemeanors Both Sophia and Peter are starving for kindness I will not say but their lives are very interesting I have only come to the point where they are betrothed Peter is still sexually immature so marriage must be delayed But the clock is ticking for Elizabeth There are scenes that will make you laugh men dressed as women and women as men and dancers falling over each other All so that Elizabeth can display her shapely legs Well read the book and you will understand So I like the book Either you see that you are left in peace to understand the sections that are a bit complicated or you don t worry too much and just enjoy that which is easily engaging Your choice depends on your own personality But don t skip the book So far I think it is fascinating BEFORE READING This WILL be available in Kindle format on November 8 2011 YAY Does fussing help I have also reuested his Peter the Great book on Kindle

review Catherine the Great Portrait of a Woman

R years the government foreign policy cultural development and welfare of the Russian people were in her hands She dealt with domestic rebellion foreign wars and the tidal wave of political change and violence churned up by the French Revolution Catherine's family friends ministers generals lovers and enemies all are here vividly brought to life History offers few stories richer than that of Catherine the Great In this book an eternally fascinating woman is returned to lifeA compelling portrait not just of a Russia. My ongoing exploration of biographies has pushed into yet another realm women of power What better way to begin than with a woman who held much power in her time and about whom I know very little Bring on Catherine the Great of Russia Robert K Massie does a sensational job of pulling out a strong and well rounded story of this most interesting Empress of Russia She faced hurdles and impediments throughout her life but always found a way to succeed While Massie offers the reader numerous parts to the biography for the purposes of review the reader can see her upbringing marriage and eventual reign as three key areas worthy of discussion below all of which interconnect to make her the woman remembered by many in history Massie s effective arguments and thorough research are a treat for the curious reader even if little is known about this woman before beginning the journeyBorn into a somewhat noble though by no means powerful family Sophia Augusta Fredericka of Anhalt Zerbst was the first born and yet shunned by her parents In an era when male heirs were prized Sophia was forced to live in the shadow of her younger brother whose health was precarious at the best of times Sophia was deemed plain and on the verge of ugly by her mother something that Massie does not refute strongly in his narrative As was the norm in the era she would have to be married off in order to bring some wealth and prominence to her family as Anhalt Zerbst was by no means significant Answering a call from Empress Elizabeth in Russia Sophia and her mother traveled to court There negotiations began to join Sophia to the Grand Duke Peter himself a teenager While at court Sophia tried her best to fit in and studied Russian as well as commencing a conversion from the Lutheran Church to Orthodoxy the state religion of Russia and long practiced by the Romanovs While this would surely dilute her ancestral roots Sophia was willing to do all she could to earn favour with the Empress and Grand Duke After her conversion Sophia became Catherine and her future as Empress Consort beganMarrying Peter a man whom she did not love or even particularly care about was the least of her worries Catherine s husband had little interest in bringing forth is own heir as Massie explores choosing instead to have little Prussian toy soldiers brought to the bed after he and Catherine retired I cannot refrain from saying that it brings a whole new meaning to toys in the bedroom Catherine suffered both physical and emotional pains at this flagrant insult to her person a matrimonial virginity that lasted upwards of nine years Such rejection took its toll as well as a number of miscarriages after Peter did consummate the marriage Both the Grand Duke and Duchess turned elsewhere for their physical needs with Catherine having at least three men in her life who proved to be significant lovers Massie goes so far as to stress the depth of these affairs by presenting the reader with the fact that Catherine eventually had children with all three When Catherine finally bore Peter an heir they named him Paul and the little one received all the protection due someone in the line of succession An interesting fact in Russia the Throne was not passed along by a firm family tree the tradition of primogeniture The reigning sovereign was able to choose their successor as Peter the Great had established when he negated past rules of succession Elizabeth had chosen her nephew though she did deeply admire Catherine as well When Elizabeth died Peter ascended to the Throne though he was little known and even less liked by the people Massie describes Peter III as being belligerent and highly pompous poor traits for an emperor He would not engage in conversations and sought to overturn all the major decisions within the state that had been established by Elizabeth Catherine saw this and knew that she could not remain subservient to a man who treated her so poorly Massie lays the groundwork for the proverbial last straw when Peter tried to shame his wife at a public banuet Thereafter Catherine took matters into her own handsCatherine s formal ascension to the Russian Throne proved interesting and is in line with her hold on power for the length of her reign Catherine still stinging from the rebuke in front of so many organized a coup that overthrew Peter III and saw her take his place Massie offers a strong narrative for the reader to understand the nuances of this and how Catherine was able to sway the support of the military to her favour before assuming power Peter III was banished and lost his fight to regain his position leaving Catherine to begin her lengthy reign Peter III had only reigned a few months which made the coup all the surprising to the outside world Catherine wasted no time in solidifying her strength both within Russia and on an international scale Moves to secularise the Church and make priests bureaucrats of the state proved to be a means of lessening the control and deflating competition over the population without banishing religion entirely Some speculate this was Catherine seeking to give Protestantism a new strength in the country though this is not entirely supported She revisited the idea of serfs and the nobility in an era when slavery remained rampant around the world especially in the soon to be created United States though these were not subjugated people of a different culture or ethnicity On a grander scale Massie speaks of Catherine s desire to continue ruling as an autocrat but still have the input of the people who so loved her Catherine formed a loose advisory board where representatives could meet and debate various issues of importance to Russia However when representatives got caught up in the minutiae nothing was forthcoming and the collective dissolved with little to show for itself It was at this gathering that Catherine was given the title The Great which might indicate that they did something that pleased the Empress Surely concerned with her subjects Massie explores how Catherine handled many health crises within Russia from smallpox to the plague and many other situations in between She was by no means wanting to ignore those under her but did remain isolated so as not to catch what was in the air On the international front Catherine returned to her roots and solidified an alliance with Prussia and its monarchy as Massie seems to insinuate that Anhalt Zerbst falls under or close to the Prussian lands Europe was still teetering between a number of alliances which could turn a single fallen domino into a full blown war Russia kept things peaceable and forged ahead with Prussia turning to small Poland and carving out chunks to strengthen their respective empires Catherine remained ruler in all but name of Poland choosing its kings and keeping a close eye on the situation there While she kept Russian land interests in mind and the military strong Catherine made sure her people did not forget other Romanov rulers who had helped make Mother Russia strong erecting monuments and statues of those who came before her The waning years of Catherine s reign seemed to be a time to remember others and prepare for the end of her own life It had surely been a full and remarkable reign which Massie asserts was by no means bland As I entered this biography I could not have told you much about Catherine or what she did for Russia Massie helps with his attention to detail and significant research on both the region and its ruler While I remain flummoxed by the number of names geographic regions military campaigns and even historical alliances Massie uses a detailed narrative to navigate through all this and help me see Catherine s place That this Empress was a significant figure in Russian history is not lost on me nor is that she was the last female ruler of the country after her son Paul reinstated primogeniture Much like some of the other strong females I hope to discover in my biography journey Catherine leaves an indelible mark on history Massie is also a biographer to which I will surely return as his interest in Russia is one that will prove very telling in these trying political timesKudos Mr Massie for bringing Sophia Augusta Fredericka of Anhalt Zerbst to life for me You have a wonderful way with words and prove that European history is full of intricate details that can be compared effectively to the modern political scene This book solidifies that Catherine surely earned her moniker while the current autocratic ruler of the country is anything but formidableLikehate the review An ever growing collection of others appears at

read ´ eBook or Kindle ePUB ´ Robert K. Massie

A tale of power perseverance and passion a great story in the hands of a master storyteller The Wall Street Journal The Pulitzer Prize winning author of Peter the Great Nicholas and Alexandra and The Romanovs returns with another masterpiece of narrative biography the extraordinary story of an obscure German princess who became one of the most remarkable powerful and captivating women in history Born into a minor noble family Catherine transformed herself into empress of Russia by sheer determination For thirty fou. Like probably every woman of note in history open about and unashamed of her sexuality Catherine the Great is primarily remembered as a power and man hungry salacious perverted woman Try googling her name and see how high on the list of the results is the ever pressing uestion Did she really sleep with a horse Does anyone care about her accomplishments in politics art and science Not really But her sexual exploits Oh YESThat s why I appreciate Robert K Massie s Catherine the Great Portrait of a Woman so much It is an honest frank compassionate account of this superbly intelligent and deeply dedicated to her adoptive country woman s lifeAs expected from a biography of a monarch this work is pretty heavy on historical details I won t lie I skimmed over a good uarter of the book not desiring to read much about domestic and foreign policies wars legislation and reforms Thankfully the details of Catherine s personal life had me glued to the pages of this hefty work She was brought to Russia at the age of 14 married to a man unable to rid her of her virginity for years just like Marie Antoinette and thus encouraged to take a lover and get pregnant by him to finally produce an heir to the Russian throne which made me think how many kings emperors and princes who were assumed to belong to various royal dynasties had actual bloodDNA claim to them not many methinks deposed her own husband and usurped the power And of course all those lovers oh my 12 in total throughout her life by Massie s count Ironically her husband was not one of the 12It is easy to sensationalize these facts of Catherine s life and use them to condemn her But the reality is most of what she did was motivated by Catherine s desire to serve Russia be that by producing a very necessary heir when her husband was unable to do so due to psychological or physical issues or by removing the same incapable husband from the throne As for the lovers as a woman of high intellect and high power Catherine was never able to find a man emotionally politically and intellectually eual to her Thus can be explained her harem of young favorites she settled for in the later years of her life to uench her loneliness mostly I finished this biography feeling a lot of respect for Catherine a progressive smart responsible woman But I felt sad on her behalf too She might have succeeded as a monarch but her personal desires of being a mother and having a dedicated life partner were never completely fulfilled

About the Author: Robert K. Massie

Robert Kinloch Massie was an American historian writer winner of a Pulitzer Prize and a Rhodes ScholarBorn in Versailles Kentucky Massie spent much of his youth there and in Nashville Tennessee He studied American history at Yale University and modern European history at Oxford University on his Rhodes Scholarship Massie went to work as a journalist for Newsweek from 1959 to 1964 and then

10 thoughts on “Catherine the Great Portrait of a Woman

  1. says:

    FROM THE MEMOIRS OF CATHERINE THE GREATFirst things first that wasn’t my real name The Empress Elizabeth who was Peter the Great’s daughter now that is a man who truly deserves “the Great” after his name changed my name to Ekaterina when she converted me into the Russian Orthodox religion As for that superfluous title that follows my new name it was prematurely bestowed on me by the Legislative Commission that I convened to give Rus

  2. says:

    Firstly to answer your most pressing uestion regarding Catherine the Great the Empress of Russia from 1762 to 1796 No she did not die having sex with a horseMoreover if you have an abiding interest in the origins of this rumor Robert K Massie’s Catherine the Great Portrait of a Woman will not satiate your devia

  3. says:

    Like probably every woman of note in history open about and unashamed of her sexuality Catherine the Great is primarily remembered as a power and man hungry salacious perverted woman Try googling her name and see how high on the list of the results is the ever pressing uestion Did she really sleep with a horse? D

  4. says:

    My ongoing exploration of biographies has pushed into yet another realm; women of power What better way to begin than with a woman who held mu

  5. says:

    Catherine the Great Portrait of a Woman by Robert K Massie is the extraordinary story of an obscure young German princess who travelled to Russia at the tender age of fourteen and rose to become one of the most powerful and captivating women in historyI had previously read Massie's Nicholas and Alexandra which was wonderful and I was really interested in reading about Catherine the GreatMassie did extensive

  6. says:

    This one was clearly a win for me as a biography of Catherine the Great Massie's writing is clear brisk and kept the story moving throughout What I really enjoyed was how he took the time and trouble to show how

  7. says:

    I am impressed Catherine the Great lived from 1729 1796 She was 14 when she first came to Russia This book covers this entire time per

  8. says:

    This book is hard to place on a scale At times it’s a 5 and other times it’s a 2 or even a 1 After some debating in my head I’m going to give it a 35 but it’s not enough to round it up to a 4 This book started off as a 5 and I loved it The story of Catherine then Sophia growing up being picked as the bride for the heir to the Russian Empire and her years spent in Russia was great Massie interspaced entries from her own memoirs int

  9. says:

    She sat on the throne of Peter the Great and ruled an empire the largest on earth Her signature inscribed on a decree was law and if she chose could mean life or death for any one of her twenty million subjects She was intelligent wel

  10. says:

    Whew What a densely loaded book about a fascinating woman If you have an interest in Catherine the Great this is most definitely a biography to add to your repertoire When the audiobook has 19 chapters which are just over an hour in length you know you are getting your book's worth of material My interest is still piued in Russian history and this woman I also appreciated the time devoted to her predecessor Elizabeth her sort of

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