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Though the young Prussian princess had been imported to produce an heir, eight years passed without a child.Some historians believe Peter was unable to consummate the marriage, while others think he was infertile.On July 9, just six months after becoming czar, Peter abdicated, and Catherine was proclaimed sole ruler.However, what had began as a bloodless coup soon turned deadly.As tensions mounted, a plan to overthrow Peter took root.
In 1744, 15-year-old Sophie was invited to Russia by Czarina Elizabeth, a daughter of Peter the Great who had assumed the Russian throne in a coup just three years earlier.The achievements of her reign, which lasted for 34 years, have often been overshadowed by her personal life, one of the most scandalous of her—or any—era.However, behind the rumor and gossip lay one of the most astute and skillful rulers in Russia's long, turbulent history.Catherine herself gave credence to this rumor in her memoirs, going so far as to say that Empress Elizabeth had been complicit in permitting Catherine and Saltykov’s relationship.While historians today believe that Catherine’s claims were simply an attempt to discredit Peter and that he was indeed Paul’s father, there is little debate over the paternity of Catherine’s three additional children: It’s believed that none of them were fathered by Peter. Catherine came to power in a bloodless coup that later turned deadly.
Catherine II of Russia (1729-1796) was one of history's most unlikely rulers.