Catherine the II of Russia was born Sophie Aguasta Fredericka on April 21, 1729. German by birth.
"Catherine the Great" by Henry Troyat starts off with Catherine's birth and skims over her early childhood years by naming events such as Adolphus Frederick of Helstein-Gottop (the future King of Sweden) in 1739 and other important events. The book gets into "the meat of things" so to speak in chapters two or three, when Sophie/Catherine and her mother meet Empress Elizabeth to negotiate Catherine's marriage to Grand Duke Peter.
At first Catherine was sympathetic to Peter, not much of a man by anyone's standards, and very fond of Elizabeth. As time wears on Peter's mental unstableness (such as expression a great love of all things Prussian and German at a time when the Russian empire's feelings towards them were that of distain) and conceit grate on Catherine, and Elizabeth's cruel and excessive temperment also annoy Catherine.
Catherine's military triumphs are recognized, but one also gets to see her naiveness in love and vanity, she preferred younger men and even at the end of her life, in her late sixties, she had a twenty something year old lover (Plato Zubov).
While Catherine is undoubtedly the focus of the biography, Henry Troyat also mentions other nobility and keeps the reader informed of the relations between her and her son Grand Duke Paul and her impact on her grandchildren's lives.
This report prepared by Ashley Abbott