Catherine the Great and her husband Peter the Mediocre

Men… Don’t be a Peter!

Catherine II (born Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst; 2 May 1729 – 17 November 1796), most commonly known as Catherine the Great, was empress regnant of All Russia from 1762 until 1796 – the country’s longest-ruling female leader. She came to power following a coup d’état that overthrew her husband and second cousin, Peter III.

Catherine was a poised and powerful woman of the Russian court, born and bread to rule like a queen is supposed to. She only had one problem- she was married to a child! I say child only because her husband Peter III just want to play like a child. Peter was a year older that Catherine but acted like an 8 year old. Peter III was Emperor of Russia and Catherine was his regent queen. Betrothed at an early age as do most royal couples, Peter III seemed to only want to play with toy soldiers and play act military drills in his bedroom.

Russia was experiencing hard times. Threat of War, famine of their people, and so many more hardships of the 18th century. Catherine went to Peter’s room one day and saw the ruler of Russia playing on the floor with paper mache toy soldiers practicing military drills and taking over imaginary lands. It was said that the extent of Peter’s military experience was playing in his room with his toy soldiers.

Catherine also noticed a dead rat hanging by a noose over a makeshift hangman’s scaffold. Catherine was not surprised he was playing with his soldiers but the hung rat was new to his play time. Catherine ask what was up with the rat.

“He has be hanged for murder and treason to the crown” Peter replied as he kept moving his toys in different positions. He then said, “We caught him eating two of my men in the corner of the room. We captured him and hung him for his acts!”

Catherine looked around his room some more and said, “You know, there is real murder and treason happening in your kingdom as we speak and you should come to court and handle it yourself.”

“You handle it!” Peter replied

Catherine also noticed that Peter was again dressed in his favorite military uniform as he played. Peter was the emperor of Russia but loved the blue tight fitting military uniforms of Prussian Germany. He was a Russian in love with everything German. This did not set well with most of the Russian court.

At night Peter would lie with Catherine and when he thought she was asleep, he would get out his toy soldiers and play with them on the bed. Catherine would just lie still and try not to disturb his late night play. Peter would also dress Catherine up as a German soldier and make her stand watch at the door as he made other living courtiers dressup too and play out military maneuvers in his quarters. Catherine just played along to bide her time.

Eventually, the Russian council realized that Peter was too child like to ever be emperor of Russia. Even as an adult when he would come out of his room to handle the business of the court, he would laugh and play around with the jesters and fools of the court rather than take the issues seriously.

Peter was a pallbearer at a funeral for one of Russia’s dignitaries. The casket was covered in a long black material with a long train like a wedding dress. During the precession as they carried the casket to the temple for the service, Peter would grab the long train and hold on to it stopping the precession. When all the other pallbearers had to stop walking because Peter was pulling on the train, Peter would laugh and take off running back up the the casket with the train. It was incredibly embarrassing.

Peter was emperor for only 6 months. In his time he did do some kingly things. During his reign, he withdrew from the Seven Years War and formed an alliance with Prussia to wage war against Denmark, which made him an unpopular leader. Despite his generally poor reputation, Peter made some progressive reforms during his short reign. He proclaimed religious freedom and encouraged education. He sought to modernize the Russian army. He abolished the secret police, which had been infamous for its extreme violence, and made it illegal for landowners to kill their serfs without going to court first.

But ultimately it was Catherine that did all the ruling in the Russian court. Catherine ruled Russia for 34 years, the country’s longest ruling female leader! It was considered the Golden age of Russia or, the Catherinian Era.

Even Though the court was ready to oust Peter, Peter eventually abdicated the throne and Catherine was proclaimed soleruler. In a bloodless coup that turned deadly, Peter was assassinated by Catherine’s lover’s brother Alexei Orlov. While it was clear that Peter was assassinated, the official report to the Russian court said that Peter died of hemorrhoids.

While most noble women of the 17th and 18th century were born to be political pawns to establish alliances and thought to have very little power, I think you will find that most of these women like Catherine were very cunning in getting absolute power. A lot of the princes and Kings of the day were weak childlike men who had there power given to them by heredity. The women had to work for their power… even if they had to kill for it!

Have things changed much in our modern era? I don’t know, I’ll let you decide. But I sure see a lot of Peter III in a lot of men these days. Grown men playing fantasy football, hanging out with the guys, wanting man-caves to get alone time, and neglecting their manly duties as husbands, fathers, and domination in their careers. Men, – don’t be a Peter III! Your queen is attracted to a man of power and man who dominates all the aspects of his life. If you fail at this, you could experience a coup d’état and the Catherinian Era could begin in your own home!

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