Catherine the Great and Potemkin: The Imperial Love Affair

Catherine the Great and Potemkin: The Imperial Love Affair

Paperback

By (author) Simon Sebag Montefiore

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  • Publisher: Phoenix (an Imprint of The Orion Publishing Group Ltd )
  • Format: Paperback | 640 pages
  • Dimensions: 126mm x 198mm x 42mm | 522g
  • Publication date: 1 February 2010
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0753818345
  • ISBN 13: 9780753818343
  • Illustrations note: 63
  • Sales rank: 140,808

Product description

Shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson, Duff Cooper and Marsh Biography prizes It is one of the great love stories of history, and one of its most successful political partnerships. Catherine the Great was a woman of notorious passion and imperial ambition, perhaps the greatest of the Romanovs. Prince Potemkin - wildly flamboyant and sublimely talented - was the love of her life and her co-ruler. Together they seized Ukraine and Crimea and founded cities such as Sebastopol, defining the Russian empire to this day. Their affair was so tumultuous they negotiated an arrangement to share power, leaving Potemkin free to love his beautiful nieces, Catherine her young male favourites. But these 'twin souls' never stopped loving each other. Drawing on their intimate letters and vast new research from St Petersburg to Odessa, Simon Sebag Montefiore's enthralling, much-acclaimed biography restores these imperial partners to their rightful place as titans of their age.

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Author information

Simon Sebag Montefiore read history at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where he received his Doctorate of Philosophy. His books are published in over forty languages. CATHERINE THE GREAT AND POTEMKIN was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize. STALIN: THE COURT OF THE RED TSAR won the History Book of the Year Prize, British Book Awards. YOUNG STALIN won the Costa Biography Award (UK), the LA Times Book Prize for Biography (USA), Le Grand Prix de la Biographie Politique (France) and the Kreisky Prize for Political Literature (Austria). JERUSALEM: THE BIOGRAPHY won the Jewish Book of the Year Prize (USA). He is also the author of two acclaimed novels, SASHENKA and ONE NIGHT IN WINTER. Dr Montefiore's next major history book will be THE ROMANOVS: 1613-1917. He has presented BBC television series on the Holy Cities of Jerusalem, Rome and Istanbul. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and Visiting Professor at Buckingham University, he lives in London with his wife, the novelist Santa Montefiore, and their two children. www.simonsebagmontefiore.com @simonmontefiore www.facebook.com/pages/Simon-Sebag-Montefiore

Review quote

One of the great love stories of history in a league with Napoleon and Josephine and Antony and Cleopatra ... Excellent, with dazzling mastery of detail and literary flair Economist A rather wonderful book ... -- Mick Jagger Sunday Times If you want a good racy historical read, CATHERINE THE GREAT & POTEMKIN certainly provides it! Book of the Year -- Antonia Fraser It is a wonderful story, and Simon Sebag Montefiore tells it with joyful verve. He evidently warms to Potemkin's overblown personality and relishes the adventurers who swarmed around him. He has a firm grasp of the politics at the Russian court and of the diplomatic context, which is not easy, since the centre of gravity of this story shifts between St Petersburg, Vienna, Berlin and Istanbul. He is very good on the relationship between Potemkin and Catherine. His explanation of the day-to-day mechanics of the unusual menage is light-handed, movingly told and psychologically credible -- Adam Zamoyski The Times This well researched and highly ambitious biography has succeeded triumphantly in re-creating the life of an extraordinary man of mixed moods... Sebag Montefiore also provides a remarkably good panorama of the period -- Antony Beevor Sunday Times Clearly what fascinates Sebag Montefiore is the man himself - his personality, his achievements, his lifelong relationship with his sovereign/lover - and that fascination shines through every page of this book. Although more than 500 pages long, it could easily have been double the length, so enjoyable is it to read -- Anne Applebaum Sunday Telegraph With great industry and huge enthusiasm he has combed the archives to give us a detailed account of a gigantic but, until now, almost forgotten figure. The writing is fluent, the sympathy obvious -- Nigel Jones Sunday Express This exhaustive and beautifully-written biography... Montefiore vividly brings to life his supporting cast of envious conspirators, aristocratic mistresses, dandies, diplomats and adventurers -- Christopher Hudson Daily Mail The contradictions in Potemkin's character are beautifully brought out in this magnificent biography -- Petronella Wyatt Independent Montefiore's reputation so far has been for lively journalism and a couple of novels. With this lavish biography he has announced himself as a historian who deserves to be taken seriously -- Victor Sebestyen Evening Standard This splendid biography, as sprawling, magnificent and exotic as its subject, provides for the first time in English a fully researched, accurate and immensely readable history of this extraordinary man -- Nikolai Tolstoy Literary Review Magnificent ... Montefiore's passionate and committed revisionism on behalf of his hero is just one of a host of excellent things about this book. Massively researched in Russian archives, it is a work of fine scholarship ... This is a superb biography and it is hard to see how it can ever be superseded -- Frank McLynn Financial Times Exhilarating ... In describing Potemkin's career, Sebag Montefiore succeeds admirably in capturing its scale and ambition -- Stella Tillyard Mail on Sunday This gripping and richly researched biography ... CATHERINE THE GREAT & POTEMKIN makes it easy to see why novelists are often seduced away from fiction to write biography - where, just sometimes, implausible reality exceeds plausible fantasy many times over -- Peter Nasmyth TLS An example of how to make a page-turner out of the most profound scholarship New Statesman Impeccably researched, beautifully written and handsomely presented, it takes us at an unslackening pace through the colourful life of one of the most legendary of all Russians, a war hero, consummate politician, visionary and lover of Catherine the Great -- Simon Heffer Daily Mail A triumph of research and a joy to read -- Antony Beevor Books of the Year, Independent Weekend Review This book is a conspicuous achievement. The author's researches have been extensive and his command of his subject exemplary. His writing has the quality of a vivid soap-opera of the highest class, more than equal to his subject. He brings out Potemkin's personality perfectly... Potemkin is depicted in this work as the giant he undoubtedly was, and the biography will secure him a new audience, and a renewed place in history Country Life POTEMKIN opened up a whole world ... to me. Book of the year -- Alain de Botton Independent This irresistible biography is history from above. To write this stupendous, engaging tour de force, the first biography of Potemkin in any language since 1891, Montefiore has devoted many hours in the archives of Moscow and Petersburg and covered thousands of miles of the former Russian empire ... -- Philip Mansel Spectator

Editorial reviews

Simon Sebag Montefiore's book combines readability with erudition, human detail with the grand sweep. Popular knowledge tells us that Potemkin was the lover of Catherine the Great, who ruled Russia from 1762 until 1796, and the 'builder' of the Potemkin Villages, said to have been built as a series of fronts, like a wild west film studio set, along the road to the Black Sea, to fool Catherine into believing the country was more prosperous than it actually was. Jettison all that half-knowledge. Montefiore constructs a detailed picture of Russia: its foreign policy, its long history of serfs and nobles, its ambitions and its culture. Catherine was a German princess, fashionable culture was Francophone, the artistic world still looked into Italy. Potemkin was Russian with a tincture of Polish, born in Smolensk into a reasonably prosperous family. As was to be expected in his society, he went into the Guards. What was not to be expected was his promotion by Catherine to her bed. Even then, his story might have followed the usual progress of royal favourites, when the bedroom door closes leaving them outside. But virility and beauty were not his only assets. He had an unerring grasp of Russian politics. He was all the time aware of 'the art of the possible' in that court of shifting loyalties and dangerous enmities. The profound attachment between Catherine and her lover - some said, husband - is a leit-motif of the book. At first, Potemkin filled every need in her life. But after some years Catherine opted for a succession of young men, but political acumen was not part of their contracts of employment. Her relationship with Potemkin changed. It is difficult, even with the guidance of Simon Sebag Montefiore, to comprehend how the pair negotiated this change, but negotiate it they did. Their letters to each other - hers, outpourings of affection and concern and pleas for his wise political guidance, his necessarily shorter because he was usually in the middle of a war - breathe the serenity of long-established love. Review by: LIZA PICARD (Kirkus UK)