Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Uppity Women #8

And the $10 Amazon gift certificate goes to the first reader who correctly identifies this very uppity woman:

Who wore this necklace:

and also this dress:

She was splendidly uppity and boy oh boy did she enjoy herself... I'll give you a few hints.

1) Her given first name is Sophie.

2) She was skilled at diplomacy and counted as a very generous lover, even after she was done with you, so to speak.

3) Her grandson was also very famous and successful, if somewhat quixotic.

What a survivor, given the situation she found herself in, for a time. Compare Mary Queen of Scots or Marie Antoinette and you'll see that this Uppity Woman was a living blueprint on how to survive a bad marriage and thrive.

Totally not kidding on the Gift Certificate. if you're too shy to guess in a comment. But if so, I'll post the winner's email comments here on the blog and update the post with further information about who she is and more about why she was fantastic.

Our winner is Michael Mock and he has correctly surmised that this is none other than the legendary Catherine the Great

Born Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg in Stettin, Pomerania (now now Szczecin, Poland)  in 1729,  married at age 15, she was supposedly so desperate to get away from her family circumstances that she was willing to do whatever it took to ingratiate herself to Empress Elizabeth of Russia, the Russian people, even marrying her unpleasant cousin, converting to the Russian Orthodox Church and changing her name to the Russian Ekaterina Alekseyevna. Her husband Peter, the tsarevich, appears to have been developmentally disabled in some fashion (commonly called a simpleton in those not PC times). Since he wasn't able to provide Catherine with her needs, (and he had a mistress already) she proceeded to enjoy several lovers, involve herself with social sets that opposed her husband and his infantile obsession with Prussian Frederik II and yet still retain the great affection of her mother in law, Empress Elizabeth. (Talk about skills....) When Elizabeth died in 1762, in less than six months Peter was deposed in a coup, then assassinated only days later by the brother of one of Catherine's lovers. There was no evidence (that survived, anyway) that Catherine was involved in his assassination. Peter was extremely unpopular. Catherine on the other hand, was well liked and was considered incredibly charismatic and diplomatically skilled. She surrounded herself with intellectually stimulating and culturally sophisticated courtiers and Russia evolved culturally under her reign as it had not previously. It became a major power in Europe, though that power was occasionally expressed in brutal fashion when the monarchy was opposed. Nevertheless, in 1766 Catherine convened what was essentially Russia's first Parliament, an experiment based on principles she had studied in European government. She desired, in spite of her rather autocratic (though usually benevolently so) stance, to have Russia become more ideally democratic, a concept that truly frightened some. Sadly, the attempt at a parliamentary system failed. The correspondent of Voltaire, Diderot and even Leonhard Euler (Catherine loved math, reportedly), she is sadly best remembered for her sexual pursuits.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010


  1. Well, I started with Madame Sophie, and went from there to Sophia Magdalene, but neither of those are right. (Though either might still be considered Uppity Women - I didn't chase down their details.)

    ...But she wasn't called Sophie in her later, better known life, was she? Very impressive woman, despite the rumors about horses. (Yes, I found it, though it took some searching.) Great choice.

  2. Michael you have so totally won! But are you actually suggesting that being too uppity might get you slandered? Oh dear...

  3. Frankly, I'd be surprised if it *didn't* get you slandered. T'ain't easy, bein' uppity!