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Is The Great based on a true story? The Queen who inspired the show

Here's what we know on if The Great is based on a true story. With season 3 of the drama series now here, we're digging into the real inspiration for the show.

Elle Fanning in The Great

Is The Great based on a true story? Right from the start, The Great frames itself as both ‘An Occasionally True Story’ and later ‘An Almost Entirely Untrue Story’.

Put simply, The Great is an ahistorical reimagining of real historical events and figures. It adds in plenty of flavour, creating its own details and dynamics to add in all the excitement and drama we demand from the best TV series around. In fact, we wouldn’t want it any other way, and this flexibility allows for endless comedy and thrills.

However, behind the curtain of fiction lies an equally fascinating true story of the Russian Queen who inspired the series. With The Great season 3 release date here and the return of The Great cast to our screens, there’s no better time to explore that tale in-depth. Here’s what you need to know about Queen Catherine the Great’s true story, which is what makes The Great quite so… well: great.

The true story of Queen Catherine the Great

The real Queen Catherine the Great was born in what is modern-day central Germany, in the year 1729, with the name Sophie. She was born within a poor-but-noble Prussian family, and it was through these noble familial links that Sophie found her engagement to the heir to the Russian throne, Peter.

In her mid-teens she arrived in 1744 Russia and changed her name to Catherine, and started learn the language before marrying Peter the following year.

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As seen in The Great, this marriage was imperfect, to say the least, leading to deep unhappiness. This conflict within their relationship let to both parties engaging in illicit affairs.

Thankfully for Catherine, she was therefore allowed to fill this space with her own interests. She fed her intellectual appetite, improving her knowledge of Russian and absorbing herself in books and philosophy.

Elle Fanning in The Great

While Catherine worked towards bettering herself, Peter alienated factions around him, making strings of bad decisions. As this continued, Peter’s position and security started to come under threat as those around him began to plan to overthrow him. This also threatened Catherine’s position too: so she acted.

On July 9, 1762, while Peter was away, Catherine the Great arrived at Winter Palace and announced herself as the new ruler of Russia. Peter was forced to sign a letter stating his abdication, and just over a week later he was dead. The cause of his death is unconfirmed, however, the consensus from historians was that he was assassinated.

Nicholas Hoult in The Great

With Peter now dead, Catherine was able to build up her power and strength without worrying about her most significant threat.

Catherine the Great would go on to rule for over three decades. As the country’s new leader, Catherine was extremely successful. Under her watch her empire’s borders were expanded, she introduced reforms and laws, argued for a new nation-wide system of education, and she created Russia’s only school for women provided by the state. Quite the legacy.

Elle Fanning in The Great

Her rule ended when Catherine suffered from a stroke and died a day later.

Catherine the Great’s true story is wildly different from what we see depicted in the TV series. But it’s no less interesting, and her rule stands as one of the most impressive in history.

That’s all we have on the true story of Catherine the Great. For more historical drama take a look at our Queen Charlotte A Bridgerton Story review before checking out our picks for the best drama series of all time. Or, read more about The Great with our guide to how many episodes are in The Great and learn how to watch The Great season 3.