Catherine the Great: And Other Studies

By G. P. Gooch | Go to book overview

I
CATHERINE THE GREAT

I. The Years of Apprenticeship

OF the three celebrated 'Philosophic Despots' of the eightteenth century Catherine the Great could boast of the most astonishing career. The proud title conferred by the Prince de Ligne has been ratified by history. Frederick the Great was a Prussian, building on the granite foundations laid by the Great Elector and Frederick William I. The Emperor Joseph II was an Austrian, carefully groomed for the proudest throne on the Continent. Catherine was a member of one of the most insignificant of the petty German states which peppered the plains of Central Europe between the Baltic and the Alps when Germany was merely a geographical expression. Knowing nothing of Russia nor of the Russian tongue till she was summoned across the frontier in her fifteenth year as a mere pawn on the dynastic chessboard, she turned her back for ever on the country of her birth and identified herself heart and mind with her new home.

The rising Slavonic power which had been put on the map by Peter the Great had fallen from its high estate during the puny generation which followed his death. 'I found the French crown lying in the mud,' declared Napoleon, 'and I placed it on my head.' Catherine might have made a similar claim. It was her achievement to restore the prestige of Russia and the authority of the Crown, to enlarge her dominions, to make her voice heard in the councils of Europe--in a word, to win for her empire the place among the Great Powers which since her day has never been lost. It was not in the material sphere alone that she left the imprint of her arresting personality. Till the hour of her accession

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Catherine the Great: And Other Studies
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • By the Same Author ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents ix
  • Plates xi
  • I - Catherine the Great 1
  • 2 - Four French Salons 109
  • 3 - Voltaire as Historian 199
  • 4 - Bismarck's Legacy 275
  • Index 290
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