vote on everything
Weird History
17.8k readers

11 Things Hollywood Gets Wrong About Catherine The Great’s Life

12 Jun 2020 17.8k views11 items

Catherine the Great is one of history's most storied rulers and one of Hollywood's favorite muses. But classic and recent depictions of her life are riddled with Catherine the Great inaccuracies. Indeed, though Hollywood has changed over time, what movies get wrong about Catherine the Great has remained pretty constant: Rather than present nuanced, complex portraits of a powerful female ruler, most biopics about Catherine the Great focus on her love life.

Born Princess Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst in 1729, the woman who would become Catherine the Great spent her childhood in her native Prussia. In 1744, she traveled to Russia to become the bride of the Russian empress's nephew Peter. Empress Elizabeth of Russia didn't just give Sophie her nephew's hand in marriage, she also gave the young princess a new name: Catherine. Peter became Tsar of Russia in 1762, but his reign didn't last long: Catherine usurped him and ruled over Russia until 1796.

Most films and television shows about Catherine the Great aren't very accurate. Movies - like The Scarlet Empress (1934) and A Royal Scandal (1945) - and television productions - like The Young Catherine (1991), Catherine the Great (1995), Catherine the Great (2019), and The Great (2020) - often misrepresent or outright ignore historical facts. They employ tropes that mythologize Catherine's affairs, sacrificing fact for salacious, sexed-up legend. The historical accuracy of Hulu's The Great and HBO's Catherine the Great has been recently called into question, proving that showbiz still struggles to tell Catherine's story fully and accurately.

Hollywood may spin entertaining stories about the Russian empress, but those stories aren't necessarily good history lessons.

PopularCatherine the GreatRoyaltyWeird HistoryHistorical EntertainmentDebunking