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Catherine the Great & Potemkin: The Imperial Love Affair

It was history’s most successful political partnership – as sensual and fiery as it was creative and visionary. Catherine the Great was a woman of notorious passion and imperial ambition. Prince Potemkin – wildly flamboyant and sublimely talented – was the love of her life and her co-ruler.

Together they seized Ukraine and Crimea, defining the Russian empire to this day. Their affair was so tumultuous that they negotiated an arrangement to share power, leaving Potemkin free to love his beautiful nieces, and Catherine her young male favourites. But these ‘twin souls’ never stopped loving each other.

Drawing on their intimate letters and vast research, Simon Sebag Montefiore’s enthralling, widely acclaimed biography restores these imperial partners to their rightful place as titans of their age.

Sources and notes for CATHERINE THE GREAT AND POTEMKIN are available to download here.


‘One of the great love stories of history in a league with Napoleon and Josephine and Antony and Cleopatra… Excellent with dazzling mastery of detail and literary flair’ THE ECONOMIST

‘This is a wonderful book’ Amanda Foreman, author of GEORGIANA

‘A rather wonderful book’ Mick Jagger, SUNDAY TIMES

‘If you want a good racy historical read, CATHERINE THE GREAT & POTEMKIN certainly provides it! Book of the Year’ Antonia Fraser

‘It is a wonderful story, and Simon Sebag Montefiore tells it with joyful verve. He evidently warms to Potemkin’s overblown personality and relishes the adventurers who swarmed around him. He has a firm grasp of the politics at the Russian court and of the diplomatic context, which is not easy, since the centre of gravity of this story shifts between St Petersburg, Vienna, Berlin and Istanbul. He is very good on the relationship between Potemkin and Catherine. His explanation of the day-to-day mechanics of the unusual ménage is light-handed, movingly told and psychologically credible’ Adam Zamoyski, THE TIMES

‘This well researched and highly ambitious biography has succeeded triumphantly in re-creating the life of an extraordinary man of mixed moods… Sebag Montefiore also provides a remarkably good panorama of the period’ Antony Beevor, SUNDAY TIMES

‘Clearly what fascinates Sebag Montefiore is the man himself – his personality, his achievements, his lifelong relationship with his sovereign/lover – and that fascination shines through every page of this book. Although more than 500 pages long, it could easily have been double the length, so enjoyable is it to read. Obviously, it was enjoyable to write as well’ Anne Applebaum, SUNDAY TELEGRAPH

‘A single word describes the production and illustration of this volume, especially the colour prints: sumptuous’ Andrew Roberts, DAILY TELEGRAPH

‘With great industry and huge enthusiasm he has combed the archives to give us a detailed account of a gigantic but, until now, almost forgotten figure. The writing is fluent, the sympathy obvious’ Nigel Jones, SUNDAY EXPRESS

‘This exhaustive and beautifully-written biography… Montefiore vividly brings to life his supporting cast of envious conspirators, aristocratic mistresses, dandies, diplomats and adventurers’ Christopher Hudson, DAILY MAIL

‘The contradictions in Potemkin’s character are beautifully brought out in this magnificent biography’ Petronella Wyatt, INDEPENDENT

‘Montefiore’s reputation so far has been for lively journalism and a couple of novels. With this lavish biography he has announced himself as a historian who deserves to be taken seriously’ Victor Sebestyen, EVENING STANDARD

‘This splendid biography, as sprawling, magnificent and exotic as its subject, provides for the first time in English a fully researched, accurate and immensely readable history of this extraordinary man’ Nikolai Tolstoy, LITERARY REVIEW

‘Magnificent…Montefiore’s passionate and committed revisionism on behalf of his hero is just one of a host of excellent things about this book. Massively researched in Russian archives, it is a work of fine scholarship… This is a superb biography and it is hard to see how it can ever be superseded’ Frank McLynn, FINANCIAL TIMES

‘Exhilarating… In describing Potemkin’s career, Sebag Montefiore succeeds admirably in capturing its scale and ambition’ Stella Tillyard, MAIL ON SUNDAY

‘This gripping and richly researched biography…Catherine the Great & Potemkin makes it easy to see why novelists are often seduced away from fiction to write biography – where, just sometimes, implausible reality exceeds plausible fantasy many times over’ Peter Nasmyth, TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT

‘A racy biography that mixes thorough scholarship with an easy style’ ECONOMIST

‘An example of how to make a page-turner out of the most profound scholarship’ NEW STATESMAN

‘Impeccably researched, beautifully written and handsomely presented, it takes us at an unslackening pace through the colourful life of one of the most legendary of all Russians, a war hero, consummate politician, visionary and lover of Catherine the Great’ Simon Heffer, DAILY MAIL

‘A triumph of research and a joy to read’ Antony Beevor, Books of the Year, INDEPENDENT WEEKEND REVIEW

‘This book is a conspicuous achievement. The author’s researches have been extensive and his command of his subject exemplary. His writing has the quality of a vivid soap-opera of the highest class, more than equal to his subject. He brings out Potemkin’s personality perfectly… Potemkin is depicted in this work as the giant he undoubtedly was, and the biography will secure him a new audience, and a renewed place in history’ COUNTRY LIFE