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The Many Lovers of Catherine the Great

Updated on May 24, 2010
Catherine the Great
Catherine the Great

Catherine The Great

Catherine II ruled Russia from 1762 until 1798. She assumed the Russian throne after the death of her husband the Grand Duke Peter of Holstein, their marriage was an unhappy and sexless one.

Catherine II is remembered for many things throughout her reign from expanding Russia’s territory to the Black Sea, promoting education amongst the elite, and most infamously her many lovers.

Gregory Orlov

Gregory Orlov was a Russian nobleman who helped Catherine II assume power after her husband’s death. His relationship with the Empress brought him much power, she promoted him to the rank of Count and even considered marrying him.

Sadly for Count Orlov the Empress began to fancy another man and his presence at court was of little importance. Orlov left Russia for years and returned to Moscow only before dying.

Gregory Potemkin

Gregory Potemkin was military man and Catherine II admired his brute strength, it was he who stole her away from Orlov. While many women in Catherine’s court found Potemkin’s crude ways repulsive Catherine was quite taken with him.

While their affair did not last, their friendship did. When the sexual part of their dalliance was over Potemkin helped Catherine find new men.

Ivan Rimsky-Korsakov

Rimsky-Korsakov was Catherine’s lover for a very short time. She enchanted by his “classic beauty”, singing skills, and reputation as a good lover.

His charm with the ladies however cost him a great deal. Catherine discovered that he was also bedding her dear friend Praskovija. She immediately removed the two from their courtly positions.

He lived the rest of his life in Moscow with the already married Countess Stroganova.

Alexander Dmitriev-Mamonov

Count Alexander Dmitriev-Mamonov was a high ranking noble introduced to the Empress by Potemkin. She was taken inb by his command of the French language, which was commonly spoken amongst the westernized Russian elite at the time, as well as his knowledge of literature.

Dmitriev-Mamonov gained quite a bit rom his relationship with Catherine the Great. Her was promoted to the rank of Chamberlain and even given a suite of apartments at the WinterPalace in St. Petersburg.

Alexander was not terribly happy with the Empress’ affections though. Catherine could be quite jealous, and eventually he fell for one of her ladies in waiting.  While hurt the Empress did not bring any harm unto Alexander and his young bride. Perhaps she too had grown bored.

Alexander Lanskoy

While only 21 at the time he met the 50 year old Empress it is said the Lanskoy genuinely loved her. He did not ask for any political favors, bribes, or gifts. He even collaborated with Potemkin to remove Orlov from court.

While their relationship was a happy one by all accounts sadly Alexander Lanskoy died at the age of 25 from diphtheria.

Ivan Shuvalov

Ivan Shuvalov was Russia first Minister of Education, he was also one of Catherine the Great’s many lovers.

Shuvalov was 29 years younger than the Empress when they became romantically involved, much like Lanskoy he did not ask for much. He even refused the title of Count, rather he used his relationship with the Empress for more altruistic pursuits.

Catherine the Great helped Shuvalov establish MoscowUniversity, the first university in all of Russia. He also established the Academy of the Three Noble Arts in St. Petersburg which was open even to the children of peasants.

He remained Catherine’s lover until her death and never married.

Platon Zubov

Platon Zubov was one of the Empress’ last lovers. The 22 year old was able to convince the 60 year old Catherine to promote him not only to count but to the rank of prince. He amassed great wealth during their 7 year relationship and became one of the most powerful men in Russia during her reign.

After Catherine’s death he married a landowner’s daughter, Thekla. He lived the rest of his days in seclusion and worked his serfs mercilessly.


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