The Princess Dashkova, Part I

A. Lentin introduces Princess Dashkova. During the reigns of Peter III and Catherine II, the Russian Princess was a tireless intellectual and a seasoned western traveller.

‘Well, I have seen Princess Daschkaw and she is well worth seeing,’ declared Horace Walpole, echoing the sentiments of many of his contemporaries about the Russian adventuress whose career was once the talk of Europe. To the historian, her chequered existence seems a miracle of survival in the troubled ocean of eighteenth-century Russian politics. She survived the reign of Peter III, whose downfall she plotted; of Catherine II, whom she helped to seize power and by whom she was ever after held in suspicion; and of Paul I, who sent her into exile. Her political plans suffered continual setbacks; for though she was clever, energetic and, in the words of a British observer, ‘bold beyond the most manly courage’, her notorious arrogance and tactlessness were obstacles that kept her permanently from the power for which she strove so indefatigably.

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