Friday, January 18, 2013

The Girl Who Would Be Queen

  When Princess Sophie Augusta Fredericka of Anhalt-Zerbst was born on April 21, 1729, there were no miraculous occurrences that announced that this girl would one day rule an empire covering one-sixth of the world's land mass. In fact, if you had been there at the birth and told anybody that, they probably would have laughed in your face. Sophie, they would have told you, was a daughter of a minor German princess and an army officer. She would be lucky to marry a lord, and ruling? That was out of the question.
  However, Sophie was a born leader who envisioned herself as a Queen from a very young age, because she was smart, capable, and a natural thinker. When she was fourteen, Sophie and her parents received a letter from the Empress of Russia, Elizabeth, offering a marriage between Sophie and Elizabeth's nephew, Grand Duke Peter, the heir to her throne. The family agreed, and Sophie and her mother went to Russia to marry Sophie to Peter. Sophie had to change her religion, her life, and even her name was changed to Catherine.
    After her marriage, life at the Russian court became a prison for Catherine. Her every move was watched and criticised, and everyone she grew close to the Empress reassigned. She was not even allowed to write home without copying "form letters" word for word. Peter wasn't any better; he was rude, childish, and their marriage was a disaster.
    When Elizabeth died and Peter ascended the throne, life became even worse for Catherine. Even though she had given Peter a son, she was terrified Peter would murder her and marry his mistress. However, most people recognised Catherine would make a better ruler than Peter and six months into his reign, Catherine and her supporters organised a bloodless coup and put her on the throne. Peter died in custody six days later.
   Many thought her reign would also be short. After all, she was German with no Russian blood and was merely the daughter of a minor Army officer. However, Catherine proved all her critics wrong and ruled for thirty four years as sole autocrat of the Russian Empire. She turned the economy around, encouraged the arts, and was the first inoculated against the smallpox in Russia. She created schools for everyone around the country and even granted freedom of worship in Russia. During her life, she was offered the title of "The Great", but declined. "I leave it to the posterity to judge impartially what I have done", she said.
   So why am I telling you about her? First, even in the face of hardship, Catherine never gave up her dream, even when she was alone with no friends at all. She rose above her circumstances and was patient and in the end rewarded for following her dream and patiently waiting for it. Second, many historians guess that Catherine herself had Asperger's. She is a great example to look to for guidance, because she is a wonderful example of an Aspie who, against all odds, overcame to become one of the most famous women in all of history.

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