The Official History Chicks Podcast Book Club discussion

Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman
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August Book Choice > Childbirth

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message 1: by Amber (last edited Aug 05, 2018 07:05AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Amber (mommytucker) | 157 comments Mod
As a mother, my heart was pained by Catherine's experience during and after childbirth. It saddened me to think that Catherine had no opportunity to bond with her children, especially Paul. How cruel of Elizabeth for taking Paul away from Catherine the moment he was born and then just leaving her there on the delivery mat to heal alone.

I cried when I read about this treatment and could not believe that even when she had her daughter, she was not even able to name her Elizabeth but instead the baby was named Anna. I cannot even imagine how she felt during those moments.

During this period, women, typically of higher rank, had little to do with their children's upbringing but do you think this treatment affected Catherine like it would affect us today? In the book, it did mention that Catherine went through a period of mourning after Paul's birth but was not as affected after her next pregnancies which leads me to believe that it did greatly affect her.


Mary | 22 comments I think the author really nailed it when he said Empress Elizabeth took Paul as her own out of many reasons, one reason being jealousy. I have witnessed present day mothers who can not give love to their children, either they don't know how, or they aren't capable of it at the moment, yet fiercely guard their child so no one else can give it love either. Kind of a protective jealousy...
I can imagine the pain and disregard Catherine went through was severe, and also that she was not able to bond with her child.

I haven't examined paintings of Paul, but do you think he was Peter's child, or that of her lover's? Interesting!!!


Maryann Hopping | 6 comments I’m over 1/3 way in and the scene of Paul’s birth has definitely been the most shocking & sad part of the story. I just can’t imagine the trauma. I don’t think she was prepared for that at all. The level of selfishness of Elizabeth’s part I find staggering. I have to say I was loving Empress Elizabeth until that and I can’t get past it.

I get the sense they knew the second baby would not live from birth. I think that’s the reason for the small baptism & Catherine not mentioning her death in her memoirs.

I see no reason for Catherine to lie about her marriage not having been consummated. I can’t see the advantage in it. And it seems backed up by the governess. I would love to hear thoughts on how it would have benefited Catherine to lie about that.


Mary | 22 comments I believe the author wrote that the marriage was not consummated for seven years, and that Catherine had taken her first lover shortly beforehand. There was the theory about Peter having the medical condition and/or he was unpracticed, so they set him up with the widow, and shortly after that, their marriage was consummated. But both had lovers first.


Amber (mommytucker) | 157 comments Mod
Mary wrote: "I think the author really nailed it when he said Empress Elizabeth took Paul as her own out of many reasons, one reason being jealousy. I have witnessed present day mothers who can not give love to..."

I honestly do not know! Makes me want to go compare paintings now. :)


message 6: by Amber (last edited Aug 08, 2018 04:05AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Amber (mommytucker) | 157 comments Mod
Maryann wrote: "I’m over 1/3 way in and the scene of Paul’s birth has definitely been the most shocking & sad part of the story. I just can’t imagine the trauma. I don’t think she was prepared for that at all. The..."

From all of the circumstances, I honestly cannot say whether I believe that Catherine's marriage was consummated or not. I think there are several speculations regarding the manner but of course, no confirmation.


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