The story of one of the truly great female rulers in history by an award winning historian.
The daughter of an impoverished aristocrat, Catherine was married aged 16 to Grand Duke Peter, heir to the throne of all the Russias, a feckless teenager with a weakness for drink. Catherine was only able to give him an heir by passing off her lover's son as his own.
In 1762, Catherine rode out of St Petersburg at the head of an army to arrest her husband. Three months later she became sole empress of the largest empire on earth. She was 33 years old.
She ruled Russia as a benevolent autocrat for 34 years,fighting the Turks abroad and rebellion at home, and shepherding her people through the upheavals of the French Revolution. She took on many lovers but gave her heart to General Potemkin, the foremost statesman of her time.
She died in 1796 aged 67, revered by her people as 'our mother', praised by Voltaire as a philosopher, reviled by her enemies as the Messalina of the North and remembered in history as Catherine the Great.
From this extraordinary life of great events, fabulous splendour and barbaric cruelty, Robert K. Massie has woven a thrilling narrative based on impeccable scholarship and a cinematic eye for detail.