Saturday, October 06, 2012

Catherine Palace

If you are super rich like Empress Catherine I of Russia (1684-1727), then you can use expensive oil paintings as wall paper.  Actually I have no idea whether these paintings in the Catherine Palace in Pushkin, southeast of St. Petersburg, were really famous.  But they did look expensive.  Catherine I was the second wife of Emperor Peter I (The Great, 1672-1725), who fought many wars and transformed Russia into a major European power.

It was said that Catherine was Polish or Lithuanian, and very beautiful.  Her father was a peasant, serf, gravedigger or handyman, depending on whom you believe.  She married a Swedish soldier, then became the mistress, or maid, of the governor of Estonia, then the lover of Prince Alexander Menshikov, who gave her to Peter as a mistress.  Later Peter married her, and she bore him 12 children.  

It was said that she was a great help to her husband in his military campaigns, at one point using her jewels to bribe the Turkish Grand Vizier (prime minister) Baltaci into allowing the Russian army to retreat, thus saving Peter and his empire.  After Peter died, she ruled as empress until she died.  A great story.

Lots of people line up to see the palace named after her, the summer residence of the Tsars, built in the Rococo style.  I was more interested in the many quaint old desks in the palace.


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