May 01, 1998

The Prince and the Empress

For her time – or indeed for any time, Catherine the Great was a remarkable woman, able to juggle statesmanship, diplomacy and 21 known lovers. Among these favorites, Grigory Alexandrovich Potemkin (1739-1791) has a special place, for he went on to make a career as a prominent state figure and military leader after leaving Catherine’s bed. This blue-eyed giant from the Smolensk region, whose name would become synonymous with “window-dressing,” attracted the empress’ attention as early as July 1762, when she came to the throne. From that time on, Catherine followed Potemkin’s career closely.


In 1769, at the height of the Russian-Turkish War, Potemkin sent the Empress a letter requesting to be sent to the war, to spill blood for her “on the field of battle.”  His wish was granted and he spent three years fighting in the war, attaining the rank of lieutenant-general. Then, in December of 1773, he received a long-awaited letter summoning him to court, where he arrived in February of 1774.

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