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About Young Catherine

Young Catherine is a romantic version of events that elevated the princess of the small German state of Anhalt-Zerbst to the throne of one of the largest empires on earth. As a German princess, she was born Sophie. When she converted to the Russian Orthodox Church, she was given the name Catherine by the current monarch Empress Elizabeth. But as the empress of all of Russia, she became known as Catherine the Great. The movie greatly fictionalizes actual events, but still tells a wonderful story.

Historically...Catherine was brought to Russia to wed Grand Duke Peter for the sole purpose of producing an heir to the throne, one that Empress Elizabeth could possibly designate as her successor instead of her own son Peter. But the task of getting pregnant proved difficult, and it has been asserted that her first lover was forced on her so she could produce a grandson that Elizabeth could use. After having produced a son, Catherine was left to herself, with some doubt as to her future. While Elizabeth lived, she enjoyed some degree of safety; however, when the old Empress died, a dark cloud of peril fell on Catherine. Still, she behaved with far greater intelligence and understanding than did her husband Peter III. Isolated and threatened, Catherine adapted, learning much about the government and the country. She had been popular as the Grand Duchess; the populace adored her. She also found supporters.

On June 28, 1762, backed by her guards and without a legal title to the throne, Catherine had herself crowned the soverign of Russia, ignoring the rightful ruler, her husband Peter, and bypassing her own son Paul. The following day, on her orders, Peter was taken to an estate in Ropsha where he was held under surveillance. Then on June 30, she trimphantly entered St. Petersburg. She had taken the country in a coup that did not shed one drop of blood, until six days later, she received the news that Peter was dead, news that seemed to have distressed her. He was interred in a monastery, but she did not attend his funeral.

Catherine justified her coup, claiming that Russia was in peril of foreign domination; that the orthodox church and Russian culture were at stake, and that the safety of the nation was in danger. Her actions ended the Prussian influence that Peter had welcomed into Russia and strengthened the nation as a sovereign state. Very few challenged her, even her deposed husband who signed an act of abdication, and the coup that had set Catherine on the throne set him into ignominy. He never made an effort to reclaim his throne; he had no supporters.

By her contemporaries, Catherine was described as cold and unable to establish a happy private life. She took on many lovers, twenty-one are known to history. One of her favorites was Gregory Orlov, an officer of the guards that had been so instrumental in raising her to the throne. Orlov himself may have been as cold and restless as his Empress, with his own agenda for power and influence. Historians believe that one of Gregory's brothers -- Alexis -- killed Peter. Others believe that Peter was killed during a drunken argument with his guards.

Photo credits Ursula's History Web

Young Catherine takes liberties with these events, but still gives us a tale of pagentry, pomp, intrigue, and romance. Mark Frankel portrayed Count Gregory Orlov, giving us a character of strength, conviction, and great passion. Julia Ormond played Catherine, showing us a woman whose security is threathened and who takes steps to ensure her place in Russia as well as ensure Russia's place in the world.

This movie is available to the public on video tape. It is through a personal copy of the two-volume set that this site brings a bit of Young Catherine to you.

Young Catherine is 1991 Turner Pictures, Inc.

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Young Catherine
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