- Jul 2011
Much more: Helen Mirren discusses new TV role as Empress of Russia Catherine The GreatHistory can be cruel and few leaders have had a harsher press than Russia’s Catherine the Great.
The empress, played by Helen Mirren in a new series, was a woman of great passions and abilities.
She overthrew her drunken husband, Tsar Peter III, but revitalised and enlarged Russia, turning it into a great power of Europe.
Yet she made many enemies, including her son and successor Paul I. Her legacy was in his hands and one notorious myth follows the highly-sexed queen to this day.
They claim she was crushed to death while having sex with a horse.
But if anyone has the pedigree to set the record straight it’s Helen.
She has played Queen Charlotte in 1994’s The Madness of King George, Elizabeth I in 2005 and in 2006 was Elizabeth II in The Queen, which won her an Oscar.
Helen, 74, who herself has Russian heritage, was intrigued by controversial Catherine, who ruled for 34 years, from 1762 to 1796.
Helen said: “She knew how to charm people, but also manipulate and blackmail them. What she did to survive was extraordinary.”
Catherine proved her military might by conquering vast swathes of land. She kept power by killing any rivals and never taking a second husband to replace Peter, who died in 1762.
She continued to have many lovers – as she had during her marriage – most of them far younger.
The heart of Sky Atlantic’s four-part period drama is Catherine’s enduring love of Grigory Pokemkin, played by Jason Clarke, 50.
Potemkin commanded her armies, won wars in her name and, some historians claim, actually married Catherine in secret.
Helen said: “It was love at first sight. It absolutely overwhelmed her physically and mentally and she was besotted with him.
“I think it’s one of the great love stories of our history.
“But they were very much oil and water. They could never settle down comfortably together. He went off to conquer Turkey and the Crimea, so was always off on military expeditions in the name of the empire and expansion.”
The passionate couple would send each other several love letters a day.
You know, in Russia itself, Catherine (or, Ekaterina, actually hehe) is still a much discussed historical figure; there's been numerous recent films and TV dramas and musicals about her; but they all tend to focus on the early years of her reign, on a YOUNG and beautful Catherine, and all the many men in her life then, when she was, all of a sudden, left, in her 20s, on the throne of a huge country, with unimaginable wealth and power in her hands; and, of course, countless suitors threw themselves at her feet, and she very much indulged herself with them hehe
She is historically known as the "Wild Empress" ("Shalnaya Imperatritsa") for all the drunken debauchery and orgies that went on at her palaces in those days lmao
Her latter, older years, however, are not much talked about, if at all, for whatever reason... I suppose, especially to Russian audiences, it is not glamorous and sexy enough lol
Catherine is revered over there, for annexing Crimea in first place, among other things
She also set up the nation's first public school system, among other things...
And she could, too, he ruthless and merciless, when needed. I read of an episode, for example, where she was told that one of the ladies from her court entourage was basically talking crap about her behind her back. On the orders of the Empress, that woman was stripped naked, in public, and flogged and beaten to a bloody pulp. Her tongue was then ripped out from her mouth. And then, she was exiled for life to some God forsaken shithole in Siberia. To be fair, that was actually KIND of Catherine, by the standards of the Romanov Dynasty. Under any other monarch of that line, badmouthing the ruling royal was usually a death penalty offense
I have heard also the rumors about the bestiality, specifically with horses.
Wonder if Madam Mirren will be reenacting that too. Hope not, but, Hollywood is Hollywood hahaha