empress-of-russia

Catherine Palace [Tsarskoe Selo] by sftrajan on Flickr.

 Catherine II, also known as Catherine the Great (Russian: Екатерина II Великая, Yekaterina II Velikaya; German: Katharina die Große), Empress of Russia (2 May [O.S. 21 April] 1729 – 17 November [O.S. 6 November] 1796), was the most renowned and the longest-ruling female leader of Russia, reigning from 9 July [O.S. 28 June] 1762 until her death at the age of 67. She was born in Stettin, Pomerania, Prussia as Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg, and came to power following a coup d'état and the assassination of her husband, Peter III, at the end of the Seven Years’ War. Russia was revitalised under her reign, growing larger and stronger than ever and becoming recognised as one of the great powers of Europe. {-Wikipedia}

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Queen Nefertiti was more than the iconic pretty face. She and her husband shook shit up in ancient Egypt when they decided to change the religion, art and culture for the first time in the three thousand year old run of static Egyptian culture. (FOR THREE THOUSAND YEARS ANCIENT EGYPT STAYED THE SAME!!) Nefertiti, while being beautiful, was her husband’s equal and had elevated power. She was one of the only examples of being represented as a strong and loving Queen and Mother in Egyptian art work. Hell yeah.

Empress Wu Zetian was empress of early imperial China. She was, in fact, the FIRST woman to become emperor of China. She started out as the previous emperor’s favorite concubine, then his favorite wife and then a stand-in for her young son after he died…and then she said “fuck y'all i’m running this shit now” and made herself empress of China.

Catherine the Great started out as timid german princess marrying the next emperor of Russia who wouldn’t have sex with her and wanted to play with toy german soldiers all day. Luckily she knew from the start that she just wanted Russia’s crown. After battling for power in Russia’s royal court she managed to flip the table and claimed the Russian throne-even while her husband was still emperor. Of course she managed to murder him, crown herself empress and then proceed to lead Russia into its golden age.  

I did all this research on royal women in history because I was tired of seeing Marie Antoinette and Cleopatra being celebrated again and again and again when there is obviously all these other great sassy and stylish Queen Bees that exist in our history. Then I created three illustrations to celebrate these bad ass ladies and the culture they thrived in. 

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The Catherinian Era: Russia’s Golden Age

The period of Catherine the Great’s rule, the Catherinian Era, is often considered the Golden Age of the Russian Empire and the Russian nobility. Construction of many mansions of the nobility, in the classical style endorsed by the Empress, changed the face of the country. This era spans from the years 1762-1796, the thirty-four years of Catherine’s reign. 

When she took the throne in 1762, Catherine was determined to change the perception of Russia throughout Europe as a culturally lacking empire. Russia was revitalized under her reign, growing larger and stronger than ever and becoming recognized as one of the great powers of Europe. The upper classes’ increased purchasing power caused them to see themselves as equals to the French, British, Swiss, Danish and Swedes.

Catherine had a reputation as a patron of the arts, literature, and education. The Hermitage Museum, which now occupies the whole Winter Palace, began as Catherine’s personal collection. A notable example of an enlightened despot, a correspondent of Voltaire and an amateur opera librettist, Catherine presided over the age of the Russian Enlightenment, when the Smolny Institute, the first state-financed higher education institution for women in Europe, was established. Girls studied not only “dance, music, sewing drawing, and household economy” but also “law, mathematics, languages, geography, history, economy, architecture, science, and ethics.”

Catherine held western European philosophies and culture close to her heart, and she wanted to surround herself with like-minded people within Russia. She believed a ‘new kind of person’ could be created by inoculating Russian children with European education. Catherine believed education could change the hearts and minds of the Russian people and turn them away from backwardness. This meant developing individuals both intellectually and morally, providing them knowledge and skills, and fostering a sense of civic responsibility. By 1796, when Emperor Paul succeeded his mother on the Russian throne, the Russian Enlightenment was very much on the wane.

The Victorian Era: The Beginning of the Modern Times
The Edwardian Era: A Decade of Elegance

Coronation procession of Empress Elizabeth, Moscow 1742
Elizaveta Petrovna (Russian: Елизаве́та (Елисаве́т) Петро́вна) (29 December [O.S. 18 December] 1709 – 5 January 1762 [O.S. 25 December 1761]), also known as Yelisavet and Elizabeth, was the Empress of Russia from 1741 until her death. She led the country into the two major European conflicts of her time: the War of Austrian Succession (1740–8) and the Seven Years’ War (1756–63).