Segments in this Video

Major European Power (02:28)


Lucy Worsley travels through Russia, studying the Romanovs, considered the most powerful Russian family of all time. Peter the Great founded St. Petersburg, and his successor Catherine the Great brought Russia glory.

Taste for Splendor (02:40)

Worsley visits Peterhof, the palace founded by Peter the Great in the 17th century and seized by Catherine the Great in 1762. In 1744, Elizabeth was on the throne as Russia enjoyed economic success due to Baltic trade routes.

Grandson of Peter the Great (03:25)

Russia's elite attempted to convey sophistication with gaudy palaces that rivaled those of the French. Elizabeth Petrovna did not marry, so she chose her successor: nephew Peter Ulrich, who married German princess Catherine.

Self-Improvement (02:52)

Catherine the Great distinguished herself by insisting on an education, unusual for women of her time. A coup overturned her husband's ruling and she was given sovereignty.

Holding On to Power (02:53)

Shortly after Ulrich stepped down from the crown, he was dead and Catherine was the sole ruler of Russia. Catherine utilized clothing to portray and portraiture her image to the people and secure power.

Russia's Mediterranean Fleet (03:10)

Worsley and Nina Tarasova examine Catherine's powerful dresses. Military success was vital to Catherine's reputation, and in 1766, Turkey declared war on Russia.

Staggering Victory (02:01)

Russian ships defeated the Turkish fleet at the Battle of Chesma Bay. After the victory, Catherine was able to celebrate the win in a painting that depicted Peter the Great's approval.

Deadly Threat (02:04)

Smallpox terrified Europe so Catherine employed the work of Thomas Dimsdale and his smallpox inoculation methods. This was controversial among her contemporaries, but eventually saved thousands of lives.

Enlightened Monarch (03:09)

Catherine the Great founded the Institute for Noble Maidens in 1764 for the purpose of educating young Russian women. In 1767, she attempted to put into legislature the principles of the Enlightenment.

Reform of Serfs (03:01)

Catherine originally wanted serfdom to end, but her contemporaries convinced her to relinquish the idea. In 1773, a revolt against serfdom broke out in Russia, killing 1500 nobles.

Serf Actors (03:00)

After the rebellion, Catherine worked to educate the people and strengthen government. Plays at Kuskovo Palace exemplified Catherine's injustice to the serfs.

Kuskovo Performance (02:10)

A serf opera singer, Praskovia, sang for Catherine the Great and secretly married a royal man. Her husband owned her and her whole family. Female serfs were sexually exploited.

An Imperial Stride (02:13)

Belarus, Lithuania, and Poland were at Catherine's mercy and she used the countries to found ports that allowed Russia access to the Black Sea. Russia's expansion became feared in Europe.

Catherine's Tiger (02:14)

Catherine the Great had an affair with an officer, Grigory Potemkin. She had many lovers, including a 21 year old when she was 60.

Rare Failures (02:26)

Worsley describes the architecture in the palace Charles Cameron created for Catherine the Great. The gardens of the palace were also carefully designed, a trend of the late 18th century.

Collapse of a Monarchy (02:47)

In 1893, Louie XVI was executed after the French Revolution. Catherine, in old age, still worked tirelessly as a monarch. She did not believe her son would rule well.

Well-Founded Doubts (02:00)

In 1796, Catherine died hours after a stroke at age 67. When her son Paul claimed the throne, he immediately created a law that would bar women from ruling in Russia.

True Heir (03:50)

Despite Paul's paranoia, conspirators forced their way into his bedchambers and killed him. Alexander I of Russia came to the throne and faced Napoleon in battle.

Battle of Borodino (02:13)

Napoleon invaded Russia after Alexander betrayed the Treaty of Tilsit they had signed together. Napoleon attempted to invade Russia. Franz Roubaud painted the battle.

Most Deadly Day (02:04)

Boris Proskurin and Worsley examine the painting of the Battle of Borodino by Roubaud. The battle killed over 20,000 troops on each side, French and Russian, and the victor is debatable.

Unwinnable Campaign (02:53)

After the Battle of Borodino, Russia was too weak to defend Moscow, leaving the city vulnerable to Napoleon’s forces. Looting and fires destroyed over 75 percent of Moscow but a year later, Alexander overtook Paris.

Glorious Romanov Moment (02:36)

Russia teamed with allies to weaken France, and Paris was conquered in the teamwork. Russian troops stayed in France for months where they found themselves in a country free of serfdom.

Credits: Age of Extremes: Empire of the Tsars (00:37)

Credits: Age of Extremes: Empire of the Tsars

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Age of Extremes: Empire of the Tsars

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Lucy Worsley continues her journey through Russia in the footsteps of the Romanovs, the most powerful royal dynasty in modern European history. In this episode she examines the extraordinary reign of Catherine the Great, and the traumatic conflict with Napoleonic France that provides the setting for War and Peace. Lucy begins in the 18th century, when the great palaces of the Romanovs were built. But in Romanov Russia, blood was always intermingled with the gold: these splendid interiors were the backdrop to affairs, coups, and murder. At the magnificent palace of Peterhof near St Petersburg, Lucy charts the meteoric rise of Catherine the Great, who seized the Russian throne from her husband Peter III in 1762 and became the most powerful woman in the world. Catherine was a woman of huge passions—for art, for her adopted country (she was German by birth) and for her many lovers. Lucy visits the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, once the home of Catherine's vast art collection. Here Lucy explores how, once Catherine had taken the throne, she compensated for her foreign origins by taking careful control of her image, using her portraits and clothes to create a brand that looked authentically Russian yet also modern and sophisticated. Lucy tells how Catherine expanded her empire through military victories overseas, while at home she encouraged education and introduced smallpox inoculation to Russia. But Catherine struggled to introduce deeper reforms, and the institution of serfdom remained largely unchanged. Lucy explains how this injustice fueled a violent rebellion. Nevertheless Catherine left Russia more powerful on the world stage than ever. But all Catherine had achieved looked set to be undone when Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812. Lucy re-lives the pivotal battle of Borodino, when the Russian army finally confronted the French forces; the traumatic destruction of Moscow; and, under Catherine's grandson, Alexander, the eventual victory over the French that provided the Romanov dynasty with its most glorious hour.

Length: 59 minutes

Item#: BVL117370

ISBN: 978-1-63521-251-8

Copyright date: ©2015

Closed Captioned

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