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The achievements of her reign, which lasted for 34 years, have often been overshadowed by her personal life, one of the most scandalous of her—or any—era.

However, behind the rumor and gossip lay one of the most astute and skillful rulers in Russia's long, turbulent history.

But perhaps nobody reaped the bounties of her favor more than Stanislaw Poniatowski, one of her earliest lovers and the father of one of her children.

Of the various uprisings that threatened Catherine’s rule, the most dangerous came in 1773, when a group of armed Cossacks and peasants led by Emelyan Pugachev rebelled against the harsh socioeconomic conditions of Russia’s lowest class, the serfs.

As with many of the uprisings Catherine faced, Pugachev’s Rebellion called into question the validity of her reign.

On July 17 Peter was murdered by Alexei Orlov, the brother of Catherine’s current lover Gregory.

Though there is no proof that Catherine knew of the murder before it happened, it cast a pall over her reign from the start. Catherine faced down more than a dozen uprisings during her reign.

Though the young Prussian princess had been imported to produce an heir, eight years passed without a child.