Born a little German princess without a drop of Russian blood in her veins she came to embody Russia and as the country moved from war to war and conquest to conquest it was Catherine who became great. Those who served her throne, or her bed, were well rewarded while the serfs were condemned to ever-worsening conditions. Men were instruments of pleasure. The weak had to perish. The future belonged to men - and sometimes a man could have the outward appearance of a woman. She was proof of that. This literary tour de force paints an enthralling picture of Catherine, her seductions, her coaxings and her phenomenal devotion to politics and work, but it also brings the Russian court - with all its intrigues - brilliantly to life.