2 3 live&learn&rejoice: 18th century pr

May 10, 2011

18th century pr

catherine the great started life as a rather impoverished and inconsequential prussian named sophia. she had neither great looks as a child nor great promise. her intuitive pr skills -- long before the term public relations was coined -- would leave her known as "catherine the great."

while in her mid-teens, circumstances led to sophia being the chosen one to marry an imbecilic nephew of peter the great. catherine's instincts convinced her to immediately forgo her lutheranism and to forsake her prussian ways even before her marriage.

& long before her vicious mother-in-law would succumb, young sophia -- rechristened catherine, not yet "the great" -- knew how to maneuver in the highly political courts of a foreign country without getting tripped up by the intrigues.

she bided her time. she learned. she cultivated everything russian.

she had some indiscretions -- words that never should have been put on paper, ill advised affairs, that sort of thing -- but overall she pursued presenting herself as a devoted russian. she remained quiet and [outwardly] humble. she says in her journals that she endured what would have driven other people mad. even as a lonely young wife ignored by an idiotic husband and bullied by a powerful empress, she stayed on point and on message.

and she read all the time. voltaire, montesquieu, and whatever russian literature she could find.

when the moment was right, she banished her insipid husband, the rightful heir to the throne, seized the title of Empress for herself, and insisted on a coronation beyond extravagance. she knew she had to make a strong impression on the peasants, on her rivals, and on foreign dignitaries.

catherine went on to earn the moniker "the great," a study of her life is a study of the transformative power of good public relations.

recommended read: Catherine the Great by Henri Troyat

to the victor goes the crown

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