Catherine: The Portrait of an Empress

By Gina Kaus; June Head | Go to book overview

III
Elizabeth

IT WAS Sophia's fate to live for seventeen years in the shadow of Elizabeth, and not until she stepped out of it did it become apparent that she had grown head and shoulders above her model. Nevertheless the future Catherine's character bore unmistakable traces of Elizabeth's influence. She resembled Elizabeth far more than she resembled her own mother; she learned more from Elizabeth than she had ever learned from Mademoiselle Cardel, or from all her other teachers put together. She did not realize that she was learning anything; she simply adapted herself unconsciously to everything that pleased and impressed her in Elizabeth's character and, most of all, to that which was Elizabeth's dominant trait--her nationality.

Elizabeth Petrovna was a Russian to her finger-tips. She was the daughter of the greatest of the tsars and of a woman who had been a camp follower. In her veins the blood of the Romanovs mingled with that of the primitive peasantry, and with it flowed all the mingled attributes of the Russian character. On the one hand, she was ambitious, despotic, and cruel--on the other, kind, gay, and simple. She was both wanton and narrow-minded, credulous and suspicious; she was capable of the most spontaneous generosity and the pettiest vanity, was quickly moved to sympathy and as easily roused to cruelty; she had moods of amazing energy which would change in a moment to lazy apathy. She was a woman of violent contradictions, completely at the mercy of her savage and volatile moods, easy to get on with but impossible to reckon on.

-45-

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Catherine: The Portrait of an Empress
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • I - Just an Ordinary Person 3
  • II - The Bridal Journey 25
  • III - Elizabeth 45
  • IV - All Haste 67
  • V - Loneliness 86
  • VI - A Child, Two Mothers, and No Father 113
  • VII - The Grand Duke and the Grand Duchess 128
  • VIII - The Die is Cast 175
  • IX - The Ruler 248
  • X - Ivan 275
  • XI - The Masks of Peter III 290
  • XII - Potemkin, or the Inspired Cyclops 308
  • XIII - Catherine the Invincible 356
  • Index 379
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