Catherine II. Empress of Russia. Born in 1729, the Princess Sophia Augusta, daughter of the Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst. On her marriage in 1745 with Peter, nephew and heir of the Empress Elizabeth, assumed the name of Catherine Alexievna. Her refinement and love of study contrasted with her husband's vulgarity and intemperance; neglected by him, she ingratiated herself with some of the nobles. Her intrigues were discovered by Peter and, on ascending the throne in 1762, he threatened to repudiate her, whereupon she imprisoned him and had him strangled. The subsequent murder of Ivan, the next heir, left Catherine in undisputed possession of the throne. As empress, she seized the Crimea, and took part in the dismemberment of Poland. She promoted the welfare of Russia by encouraging literature and commerce, but her reign was sullied by disgraceful amours. Died 1796.