Grigory Potemkin Biography

(Russian Statesman, Army Officer and Lover of Empress Catherine the Great)

Birthday: October 11, 1739 (Libra)

Born In: Chizhevo, Russia

Grigory Potemkin was a Russian statesman, military leader and nobleman best known for being a lover of the Russian Empress Catherine the Great. Born and raised in a noble Russian family, his future was already decided, as was the case with most children born in the noble families that he had to serve the Russian royalty. He was good in academics and turned out to be a sharp young man. Towards his late teen years, he joined the Horse Guards Regiment in 1755 and was involved in a coup that instated Catherine II as the Empress of Russia. Overtime, due to his wit and charms, he became Empress’ favourite and also began a roaring love affair with her. The Empress appointed him in high positions in the court and gifted lots of money and lands to him. He also earned the title of Prince of the Holy Roman Empire owing to Catherine. He was given high positions in the military during both Russo-Turkish Wars. In 1775, he was made the governor general of Russia’s newly formed southern provinces and he performed the tasks given to him impeccably. He passed away in 1791, due to complications arising from malaria.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Prince Grigory Aleksandrovich Potemkin-Taurichesk

Died At Age: 52


Spouse/Ex-: Catherine II of Russia

father: Alexander Potemkin

mother: Daria Skuratowa

children: Yelizaveta Grigoryevna Tyomkina

Born Country: Russia

Noblemen Military Leaders

Died on: October 16, 1791

place of death: Moldavia

Cause of Death: Fever

Childhood & Early Life

Grigory Potemkin was born Grigory Aleksandrovich Potemkin-Tauricheski, on October 11, 1739, to Daria and Alexander Potemkin, into a middle class landowner family, in a village named Chizhovo, located near Smolensk. His father Alexander was a nobleman who was also a decorated war veteran, while his mother was also considered an upper class, intelligent and beautiful woman.

However, it was rumoured that Grigory’s parents did not have a happy marriage, and it was also speculated that Grigory’s biological father was Alexander’s cousin, also named Grigory, and that he was christened after his father’s cousin. Grigory also had his uncle Grigory as his godfather.

Following his father’s death, Grigory Potemkin was raised by his mother Daria, who took the charge of raising her family. Born in a noble Russian family, it was expected that Grigory would serve the Russian royalty in the future. For that to happen, he needed to receive the best quality education. The family moved to Moscow, where Grigory received his education from a gymnasium school, which was a part of the University of Moscow.

With his key focus on the Russian Orthodox Church, Grigory learned languages and adhering to the noble families’ traditions, he was enlisted into the Russian army when he was just 11 years old.

At the university, Grigory Potemkin was an excellent student and scored university’s gold medal in 1757, and became a part of the delegation of twelve-students that were sent to Saint Petersburg. He had also joined Horse Guards Regiment during his teen years.

The trip to Saint Petersburg affected him gravely and he came back a changed person, with very little interest in academics. He was soon expelled from the University and due to this reason, he also faced discontent from his family and he further dug himself deep into gambling and drinking. He was leading the life of a poor Russian man and did not exhibit any noble behaviour. He further moved to St. Petersburg to join the Horse Guards Regiment when nothing else seemed to work.

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In June 1762, a coup took place to the Russian throne and as a result, Emperor Peter III was dethroned and Catherine II was instated on the throne. Grigory was a part of the coup and with his charm and wit he impressed the new Empress of Russia rather quickly. He was promoted to the position of a second lieutenant. In July, Peter III was found murdered and even though Grigory was one of his guards, he was deemed to be completely innocent.

Apart from being a member of the guards, Grigory Potemkin was appointed by the Empress as a Kammerjunker, gentleman of the bedchamber. The Empress somehow also took a personal liking to Grigory, owing to his funny mimicry of famous personalities, even the Empress herself.

The Empress further included him in her circle of very close friends and rewarded him with ample of money and lands. Grigory took advantage of the Empress’ goodwill and amassed a great fortune for himself. He flirted with the Empress openly and many courtiers were surprised that Catherine did not mind the flirtatious behaviour.

He was sent on a foreign mission to Sweden in 1762 and upon his return, he met with an accident which caused him to lose one eye. He fell into deep depression and stripped himself of all the positions he held in the court and began living the life of a hermit. However, the Empress was emotionally attached to him by then and ordered him to appear in the court 18 months later. He was made the army paymaster and the in-charge of uniform production.

In 1768, the Russo-Turkish War broke out and Grigory Potemkin fought in the war, writing a letter to the Empress claiming that he would be honoured to shed blood for her. Towards the end of the war in 1774, he was appointed as the lieutenant general.

Overtime, he earned love and respect of the Empress and began a love affair with her. Catherine was known to shower her lovers with enough money and lands and Grigory was no exception. He was given ample money, lands, and high ranks in the court. She also persuaded Joseph II of Austria, to make Grigory a prince of the Holy Roman Empire.

However, Grigory Potemkin did not abuse his powers and turned out to be a highly efficientl statesman, who performed his tasks diligently. And hence, he further earned more trust of the Empress and soon he was getting entrusted with important royal matters and hence, he became one of the most powerful men in the Russian Empire. He had grown exponentially rich by the late 1770s, but due to his lavish lifestyle, he was often in debt and he kept asking the Empress for more money.

His love affair with the Empress did not last long, and it ended in 1776, but that did not stop Catherine from trusting Grigory on important matters pertaining to the court. Hence, he remained a key part of the Russian court and served the Empress in the diplomatic, general and administrative matters.

He was further made the military general of all Russia, including the New Russia region. He was given a major task of militarizing the southern states and to strengthen its economy, and for this purpose, he initiated several policies that attracted trades and settlers from all over Russia and abroad. Due to his impeccable works in the service of the nation, he was further promoted to the position of field marshal and was endowed with the title of the prince of Taurida.

Amidst all this administrative work, he still found the time to visit St. Petersburg where he served on the state council, advised Catherine on political matters and helped organizing the imperial army. However, the tasks he was asked to do in the southern Russia remained his priorities and he never lost his dominance in the area.

In 1787, the Turks declared a war on Russia and Empress Catherine gave Grigory the task of leading the army with the rank of the chief of the army. The war was fought for four long years and Grigory himself knew that he was no expert in military strategies, but owing to his efficient generals, he managed to bring Turks on the talking table to discuss peace terms.

He was selected to represent Russia during the peace talks, which were held in Jassy.

Personal Life & Death

Grigory Potemkin never married and spent his entire life in service of his country and his Empress, Catherine II, who is also known to be his lover. He had no legitimate heir, but he was rumoured to have many illegitimate children from his many love affairs.

Grigory has been described as an arrogant but kind-hearted man, who exuded a certain charm, making him popular among women.

He also had manic depressive episodes, giving rise to speculations that he was most likely suffering from bipolar disorder.

He passed away on October 16, 1791, in Jassy, in the middle of ongoing peace talks with the Turkish delegates. The reason for his death is said to be the complications caused by malaria infection.

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