How was Catherine the Great able to rule when she was only related to the Tsars by marriage?


Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
Peter III was deposed and killed after being Tsar for less than a year. His wife Catherine became Tsar and ruled for 30+ years. Their son Paul didn't become Tsar until he was 42, and he was also assassinated a few years later.

I don't know how this worked in different countries. In Russia, they didn't seem to have Regents. I know a little about England. There, Edward II was overthrown and killed. His wife and her lover ruled informally for a few years, and then a coup gave the 21 year old Edward III real power. Richard III, the younger brother of the king, usurped the throne from his nephew Edward V. He was killed in battle and the rebel leader Henry VII with a dubious claim to the throne became king and married Edward V's sister. So similar things happened, but no one claimed to be king or queen without some kind of hereditary claim to the throne.


Forum Staff
Aug 2016
When Peter III died under mysterious circumstances, logically the throne passed to his son, Prince Paul. Paul being a minor, needed a regent, and who better than his mother, Catherine. The real question is, Why did Catherine not step aside upon Paul attaining his majority? I suspect the answer is that Catherine retained the power of the throne through some extra-legal process, probably involving her aligning all of the powerful men and institutions of the empire behind her while Paul had no support. You're absolutely right that she had no legal right to the throne, but she managed to rule through extra-legal (outside of the law) means. She was a popular leader who did great things for Russia. No one wanted to see her go.


Ad Honorem
Jul 2017
Crows nest
The similarity between Catherine and Hatshepsut is also remarkable, it's almost the same story re-run 3,000 years later. Though Hatshepsut's survival was more remarkable as she was keeping arguably the greatest, or at least one of the greatest, kings of Egypt from the throne until she died. Catherine had only to keep down a spoilt brat who may have been a bit mad, and was a "fan" of Prussia, not good.