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    May 21, 2020

    Here's The Real Story Of Catherine From "The Great"

    The show's tagline is "an occasionally true story" – but here's the actual truth.

    Spoilers for The Great ahead!

    1. In The Great, Catherine meets Peter III when he is already Emperor, just before their marriage. In real life, the sequence of events was very different.

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    Catherine and Peter actually met when she was 10 and he was 11. They married in 1745, when Peter was 17 and Catherine was 16 – 17 years before Peter would take the throne and Catherine would depose him.

    2. Peter's aunt Elizabeth was actually Empress for most of Catherine and Peter's marriage – although the real Elizabeth was not quite the character she is in the show.

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    The Great messes with the family tree a bit. In real life, Peter III was the grandson of Peter the Great – his mother and Elizabeth were Peter the Great's daughters. In the show, Peter III has been made the son of Peter the Great, and while Elizabeth remains his mother's younger sister, she has no relation to Peter the Great herself. Hence all her talk of banging him (super awkward when you consider she was his daughter in real life).

    3. Elizabeth had become Empress after deposing Ivan IV, who was Emperor at the time – and an actual baby.

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    We see him as a child on The Great – one who is never Emperor, and who is murdered by Elizabeth. But the real Ivan became Emperor at only two months old, was deposed by Elizabeth just over a year later, and was imprisoned until the age of 23, when he was murdered by his guards during the reign of Catherine the Great.

    4. In The Great, Peter III has serious parental issues – especially where his mother is concerned.

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    The show depicts Peter's mother as a cruel person who emotionally abused him. In reality, Peter never knew his mother – she died not long after he was born.

    5. Peter III became Emperor in 1762, upon the death of his aunt Elizabeth.

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    He was a month short of his 34th birthday when he ascended to the throne.

    Most of the information we have about who he was as a person comes straight from Catherine herself, and she had a vested interest in making him look bad, considering she overthrew him and all. She describes him as a hideous, stupid and cruel drunk – a portrayal the show certainly leans into.

    But the show also depicts him as a hopeless ruler who isn't interested in progress, which contradicts some of the real policies he implemented in his short reign. For instance, he proclaimed religious freedom, expanded education, and made it illegal for landowners to murder their serfs. Small steps, but steps forward nevertheless.

    6. In The Great, one of Catherine's problems at court is her Germanness, in opposition to Peter's Russianness, but in reality he was also German and alienated his own Russian court.

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    He surrounded himself with fellow Germans and pursued a pro-Prussian military agenda.

    7. Peter and Catherine's marriage was not a happy one, and both of them had lovers – although not the ones the show depicts.

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    Leo and Georgina are both fictional characters. Peter's real mistress was a woman named Elizaveta Vorontsova, while Catherine had a series of lovers – the first being an officer named Sergei Saltykov.

    8. Towards the end of Season 1 of The Great, Catherine reveals she is pregnant and names her unborn baby Paul.

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    The real Catherine did indeed have a child named Paul, who was eight years old when his mother deposed Peter III and took the crown for herself (more on that in a sec). Catherine also had a daughter named Anna during her marriage to Peter, but she died at just 14 months old.

    The paternity of Catherine's children from her marriage to Peter is uncertain. While Paul was Peter III's official heir, Catherine later claimed that her marriage with Peter was never consummated, and implied that Paul was the child of Sergei Saltykov.

    9. The character of Orlo seems to be partially inspired by Grigory Orlov, who was one of Catherine's lovers and who helped her overthrow her husband.

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    Orlo and Catherine aren't lovers in the show (yet???), but he is her primary ally for her coup. And while the fictional Orlo is depicted as a cowardly politician, the real Orlov was an officer with extensive military experience.

    10. Like in The Great, the real Peter discovered the conspiracy to dethrone him, forcing Catherine to enact her plans immediately. With the support of the military, she had Peter arrested and forced him to abdicate, placing herself on the throne.

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    Peter had been Emperor for just six months. Soon after he was deposed, Peter died. His cause of death remains a mystery, with many believing he was assassinated by Alexei Orlov, the brother of Catherine's lover Grigory Orlov. His official cause of death is listed as hemorrhoidal colic and an apoplexy stroke.

    11. As for Catherine's personality, just as she's depicted in The Great, the real Catherine was passionate about literature, education, and the arts.

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    She started the art collection that made up the foundation of the Hermitage Museum – one of her most lasting legacies. She also dedicated herself to education reform, especially for girls.

    12. Catherine was a huge fan of Voltaire, as she is in The Great – although she never met him in real life.

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    She did, however, keep up a correspondence with him for 15 years.

    13. In the show, Catherine is vehemently against war, but in reality she was quite militaristic once she became Empress.

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    Her wars saw the Russian empire conquer and absorb more than 200,000 square miles of land.

    14. As in The Great, Catherine really did volunteer herself for a smallpox variolation experiment.

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    It happened after she was already in power, and she also had her son Paul innoculated, as well as members of the court. They all survived, and variolation became more widespread.

    15. Finally, the show is correct in stating that Catherine never had sex with a horse – but the rumor that she did still persists to this day.

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    The real rumor was actually tied to her death, and not her younger years. It's unknown where it started, but Catherine had a number of detractors – including her own son, who succeeded her on the throne.

    Soon after her death, there was gossip that Catherine had been killed while attempting to have sex with a horse. In reality, she died of stroke at the age of 67. She had been Empress for 34 years – making her Russia's longest-serving female ruler.

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