From Elizabeth II in The Crown to Blair Waldorf in Gossip Girl, it's pretty clear viewers love a queen. The mixture of fashion and fierceness makes these powerhouses the perfect subjects of shows and films, which is why fans have been eager for the release of Hulu's The Great. Starring and executive produced by your new girl crush Elle Fanning, the dramady kind-of sort-of covers the rise of Catherine The Great. But for a show that claims it's "occasionally true," how real is Hulu’s The Great?
The series starts out with Catherine II (Fanning) — originally named Princess Sophie Auguste of Anhalt-Zerbst before moving to Russia — entering an arranged marriage to Peter III, the emperor of Russia.
What makes The Great so fun is there's enough history in it that viewers can actually learn something, but the creators made plenty of changes to the storyline to keep things understandable and entertaining. Some of the events shown in the series are historically inaccurate and missing key people, and a few of the events are never actually documented to have happened. Plus, there's still much more to the story of Catherine The Great to unfold.
However, the first 10 episodes provide plenty of laughs, sex, and enough real history to live up to its "occasionally true" claim.
1. The Mistresses & Paramours
From the start, Peter III and Catherine's marriage was a dumpster fire. So, they both historically took other lovers throughout their 16-year marriage. Extramarital affairs became a part of their arrangement, and of the four children Catherine gave birth to, none are believed to have been fathered by Peter III.
In fact, there's even a scene in which Catherine used a lemon as contraception when she had sex while Peter while in a relationship with Leo. While it's unclear if this is something she personally did, this actually was an old method used in effort to prevent pregnancy.
2. Catherine's Penchant For Romance
In one of the very first scenes of The Great, Catherine described in full detail how she thought the consummation of her wedding night would go down. This was a nod of the real Catherine's famed love of love. "The trouble is that my heart is loathe to remain even one hour without love,” she once said, according to Esquire.
While she was famous for her affairs, historical timelines show they didn't overlap — she was true to whomever she was dating outside of her marriage. In addition to being monogamous(ish), she also apparently treated her lovers well during and after their relationships, gifting them homes, riches, and titles.
3. The Horse Innuendos
Wondering why the rumor of Catherine having sex with a horse was brought up time and again on the show? That's because there was a longstanding myth an act of bestiality resulted in the real Catherine's death.
4. Catherine's Legacy
What were these accomplishments that gave this ruler the historical nickname of Catherine The Great, and her time in power as the Golden Age of Russia? As the longest-serving female ruler in Russian history, she built over 100 new towns, expanded borders, improved the educational system, called for free schools, supported cultural projects, and was a proponent of the arts.
Just like in the show, Catherine was a huge advocate of science, literature, medical advancements, female artists, and she even wrote the first pieces of children's literature in Russia.
5. Peter III's Personality
Catherine might be The Great, but just like in the show, her husband, Peter III, was not. Peter III was known to be a "cruel, boorish drunk," according to Catherine's memoirs.
And their non-romantic wedding night? That actually kinda happened. Peter III apparently abandoned Catherine after their nuptials to party with friends.
One thing the show got wrong about Peter, though, was that Peter The Great was not his father; IRL Peter The Great was Peter III's grandpa.
6. The Cursing
In complete news to me, the f-word was actually very common for the time. The show takes place starting in 1745, and the first uses of the word are documented in 1528. In fact, the word had become very common by the 18th century.
But while the f-word was used abundantly in that time period, it was not actually used as a swear word like it is these days. Back then, it was just used as a direct and impolite word for intercourse.
7. The Coup
The famous coup d'etat that gave Catherine her power actually was orchestrated by Catherine and a few of her key advisors. After seeing how inept her husband was at ruling and being a total visionary herself, she plotted to take over.
Just six months after Peter III become czar, Catherine convinced him to abdicate, and she was proclaimed the sole ruler and his successor.
Of course, there's much more to be told surrounding Catherine The Great's story, so here's hoping to Hulu original gets picked up for another season to continue the fun history lessons.
The Great is on Hulu now.