Page 3 Profile: Catherine the Great, Russian empress


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The Independent Online

David Cameron in drag?

Yes, according to one University of York student. Final year history and politics student Sophie Gadd, who spotted the oil painting of the 18th century Russian Empress in a Berlin museum, tweeted that the autocrat was a dead ringer for the British Prime Minister.

It’s the cheeks, the nose…

Many would agree – the tweet went viral yesterday – although Mr Cameron was presumably unaware as he is visiting Afghanistan.

Anyway, back to the Great one.

Born Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst in Prussia in 1729, Russia’s longest-ruling female leader changed her name to Catherine when she married Grand Duke Peter, heir to the Russian throne. Their marriage was unhappy and soon after Peter’s ascension to the throne in 1762, he was overthrown in a bloodless coup and Catherine declared Empress. Her husband was later assassinated, possibly on the orders of his wife.


That’s not all. Catherine went on to have a string of lovers that she promoted to high office, most notably Grigori Potemkin. Then there’s the rumour that she kicked the bucket while engaging in some sort of interaction with a horse. She didn’t – it was a stroke.

But she must have done something, well, great?

Aside from her rather scandalous personal life, Catherine’s three decade rule is often considered the Golden Age of the Russian Empire. She expanded the country’s border southwards and westwards and was known as a political and social reformer early on in her reign. She modernised Russian life by convening the Legislative Commission in 1767 and was a patron of the arts, literature and education.

Not such a bad comparison for Cameron after all.

And their facial similarities may not be a coincidence either. It turns out that the Prime Minister and the Russian sovereign are in fact related – according to The Spectator, they are second cousins, nine generations removed. And before you ask, that sounds like gobbledygook to me too.