Love & Conquest
Personal Correspondence of Catherine the Great and Prince Grigory Potemkin
Of all the great imperial romances in European history, few can compare with that of Catherine the Great and Prince Grigory Potemkin. Their turbulent and complicated relationship shocked their contemporaries and continues to intrigue observers of Russia centuries later.
Overview of the Book
Of all the great imperial romances in European history, few can compare with that of Catherine the Great and Prince Grigory Potemkin. Their turbulent and complicated relationship shocked their contemporaries and continues to intrigue observers of Russia centuries later. Lovers, companions, and, most likely, husband and wife, Catherine and Potemkin were also close political partners, and for a time Potemkin served as Catherine’s de facto co-ruler of the Russian Empire. Their letters offer an intimate glimpse into the lovers’ unguarded moments, revealing both ecstatic expressions of love and illuminating observations on eighteenth-century politics.
Beginning with Potemkin’s initial letter to Catherine written while off fighting the Turks in 1769 and concluding with his farewell note scribbled the day before his death in 1791, their correspondence spans most of her reign. The letters are at once personal and political, vividly chronicling their authors’ lives and the history of Catherine’s Russia. Love and Conquest contains the most historically significant and personally revealing of these letters, only a few of which have ever before been translated into English.
In February 1774, Catherine took Grigory Potemkin for her lover and, it is now believed, secretly married him a few months later. Particularly in the first two years of their relationship, the empress was consumed by her passion for Potemkin. The hundreds of letters and notes she dashed off to him between assignations in the Winter Palace during this time attest to the giddy exuberance of the new love that so fully embraced her and the great depths of her passionate personality. Potemkin’s letters provide rare insight into his arrogant and mercurial character, while serving to dispel the myth of Potemkin as little more than a corrupt sycophant.
Love and Conquest reveals the complexity of Catherine and Potemkin’s personal relationship as they conducted Russia’s wars and diplomacy. Even after their love cooled, Catherine and Potemkin continued to discuss and debate a wide range of state affairs in their letters, including the annexation of the Crimea, the colonization of southern Russia, court politics, and the wars against the Ottoman Empire and Sweden. Together they carried out the most dramatic territorial expansion in the history of Imperial Russia, transforming Russia into a world power and creating a bond of affection that would never fully fade. Readers will find in the letters new insights into Russia’s most famous empress, her passions, and her world.