Catherine the Great may have been one of the most powerful women in history, but she was also one of the most scandalous. While her rise to power and legacy of progressive reforms earned her a reputation as an intelligent and liberal leader, she also had an appetite for sex and debauchery unmatched by any other monarch in history, including rumors that she had orgies with dozens of lovers and engaged in bestiality with farm animals. In fact, she even spent millions of rubles on furniture decorated with erotic scenes, earning her another nickname: the Prussian Whore among her subjects.
Background on Catherine the Great
Catherine II (born Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst; 2 May 1729 – 17 November 1796) was a German princess and Empress of Russia who reigned from 9 July 1762 until her death. Her reign lasted 34 years, longer than any other Russian monarch. Her extensive accession reforms were associated with changes in Russia’s political and economic systems, leading to profound changes in its cultural orientation.
The Story Behind Her Proclivity for Sex Furniture
Catherine II of Russia—commonly known as Catherine the Great—was a German princess who rose to become empress of Russia. Along with her power, though, came what could only be described as a fondness for sex furniture. It wasn’t unusual for people in centuries past to have fetish furniture for their bedrooms—for example, iron maidens were once common. But Catherine was famous for her own bedroom proclivities and amassed an enormous collection of erotic art, including many pieces depicting fantasies involving animals. There are also reports that she commissioned designer Andrei Chokhonov to make sex furniture for her palace at Tsarskoye Selo that included leather swings and a leather horse (probably with stirrups).
What Was the Dildo Fad About?
Around 1760, there was a real dildo craze. Dildos were suddenly popular throughout Europe—some people used them for pleasure and as sex toys, but others believed that wooden phalluses were good for your health. They called these dildos truncheons and would often soak them in vinegar or bitter ale to improve their smell. You could buy one from an apothecary (a pharmacy) with doctors’ prescriptions (though some of these might have been just laid on by a doctor). The craze died down after two decades.
Why Catherine the Great’s X-Rated Furniture Is This So Taboo Today?
This is a rare case where historical and cultural context might be more interesting than one’s imagination. Before you snicker, think about how much we don’t know about Catherine II—she even spelled her name two different ways throughout her life! Why might she have been drawn to such taboo pieces? What was going on in Russia at that time that would cause people to hoard belongings from before their time? We may never know—but it is fun to speculate. Some say she had access to an 18th-century Ottoman erotic book called The Sublime Pleasures of Love that made its way to Russia around 1740. In this book, there are descriptions of sex with animals as well as depictions of women being penetrated by large objects like horses and furniture (think giant dildos). When presented with this text during her formative years, perhaps the young future Empress Catherine II felt inclined to live out these fantasies when nobody else would allow her to do so.
A Snapshot Into Interior Design in 1776
Catherine II, most commonly known as Catherine the Great, is widely celebrated for her progressive thinking and administrative skills that helped modernize Russia. She often designed elaborate gardens and clothing, but she wasn’t afraid to dabble in interior design. Even before she was crowned empress of Russia, Catherine lived at a time when furniture was meant to be seen rather than touched or used.
Very Dirty Sex, Indeed!
Catherine II of Russia was a bit of a sex maniac. Yes, that Catherine. She lived in an age when porn was not exactly plentiful, but she used her power to track down what little filthy material there was and collect it for herself. One collection is known as the Serebriakoff Treasure, which includes various artworks depicting phallic symbols, sexual acts, and naked men on horseback. And this isn’t even counting the statues of erotic subjects she commissioned specifically for her bedroom at Tsarskoye Selo! It’s all so very scandalous. Yet another reason why we’re celebrating Queen Cat with our 12 Days of Christmas series.