Empress Elisabeth of Russia (with Allison Epstein)

This week we’re talking about the six-foot-tall fashion and party-loving queen who had a loving male companion she discovered singing in a choir… no, not Mary QofS, it’s Empress Elisabeth!!! With a thrilling cameo of a past VH fav but I’ll wait for you to hear until I reveal who it is!!

We’re joined by Allison Epstein, whose new book Let The Dead Bury the Dead takes place in olde timey Russia. Buy a copy of it at bookshop.org or anywhere you get books, and join the Vulgar History Book Club discussion at vulgarhistory.com/bookclub from Oct 18-Nov 15!!

Want to know what Allison has to say about the TV series The Great?  Check out the Patreon-only Aftershow where she airs her grievances.

Other Allison Epstein links:

Dirtbags Through the Ages (newsletter)

Allison’s website


Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie (there is a great chapter in this about Elisabeth)


Article from the Moscow Kremlin Museum on Elisabeth’s coronation

This section of the Presidential Library of Russia website

Blog post on La Chevaliere in Russia

New sponsor! Get 15% off all the gorgeous jewellery and accessories, including the Difficult Women collection, at common.era.com/vulgar or go to commonera.com and use code VULGAR at checkout

Get Vulgar History merch at vulgarhistory.com/store (best for US shipping) and vulgarhistory.redbubble.com (better for international shipping)

Support Vulgar History on Patreon 

Vulgar History is an affiliate of Bookshop.org, which means that a small percentage of any books you click through and purchase will come back to Vulgar History as a commission. Use this link to shop there and support Vulgar History.

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices






Total Score:



Vulgar History Podcast

Empress Elisabeth of Russia (with Allison Epstein)

October 18, 2023

Ann: Hello and welcome to Vulgar History, a feminist women’s history comedy podcast. I have some things to say before we get going on this episode, but I don’t want my guest to have to sit there quietly. Allison Epstein is here with me. Welcome, Allison.

Allison: Hello tits-out brigade, I’m very excited to hear all of Ann’s announcements.

Ann: The first one, I’m glad that you’re here for this one because it’s sort of, not a trigger warning but sort of a, “Here’s what’s up.” There are new listeners to this podcast. I know there are always new listeners but there’s been a recent larger influx of new listeners, so I just want to make sure they know what’s going on, so they’re not startled at any point. We’re going to swear on this podcast, I’m probably going to make fun of every country, including and especially England and the United States. So, if you’re a person who is just, like, not wanting to hear that happen, even though today on this episode, spoiler, we’re talking about Russia, I’m confident that at some point I’m going to say something making fun of England and/or the United States.

Allison: Yes, I guarantee you will. [chuckles]

Ann: Exactly. So, even if you’re like, “This is going to be a safe episode where Ann is not going to slander the country I live in,” you know what? You’re never safe, you’re never safe. So, I just want people to know that, people who might be new to this podcast and they’re expecting, I don’t know, some sort of thing where we read facts. No. There are a lot of opinions, and a lot of our opinions are not about what we’re actually talking about; there are tangents, and there is side talking. And this isn’t to be like… This is just so people know what to expect, basically. If that’s not your thing, god bless, there’s other podcasts, but that’s what this one is like and I just want to make sure people know. Allison, as a person in America, [both chuckle] do you have anything you want to add about the way I slander your country?

Allison: Ann is Canadian, which is close enough to slander my country, I am American so I can slander my country with impunity. That’s what we fought a revolution for, and I plan to do it as much as I can.

Ann: What I find interesting is that I have, this is all inspired by a message I got by somebody who did not appreciate the way that I spoke about the United States in a previous episode, which was an episode about Scotland. And I thought, you know, I just did 25 hours of Scotland-based podcasts where I think relentlessly, often Allison was with me, we made fun of Scotland and no one in Scotland complained about that so…

Allison: We’re a very special nation of people who are uncomfortable when it is not about us.

Ann: Yeah, yeah. And this podcast is really not about you. I know that that’s also the largest proportion of listeners are in the United States, so you know what? You’re all cool. The people who aren’t into this podcast, god bless. So, that was my first announcement.

My second announcement, I’ve got several instructions, calls to action, for the tits-out brigade, which is, if you’re a new listener, you, you the listeners of this podcast. If you’re listening to this, you’re now part of the tits-brigade nation. The second call to action is that Allison’s book has just been published and everybody needs to go get a copy of that book. Allison, can you talk about your book?

Allison: Absolutely, thank you for letting me be the call of action. It is called Let the Dead Bury the Dead, it is an alternate-history 19th-century Russian novel following a cast of four characters who find themselves pulled into a social revolution against the empire possibly by supernatural forces, who is to say? It’s an adjacent historical fantasy, it’s very queer, I had a lot of fun. And it is now, terrifyingly, available wherever you buy books.

Ann: Yeah, I just wanted to emphasize, of course you mentioned it but in case people missed that, the book is very gay. Yeah.

Allison: It is an Allison Epstein classic which means there are three token straight people in this book and… There’s four, there’s four straight people, I take it back.

Ann: Okay, okay. A little representation for that under-represented class, straight people. So, your book is out, it’s called Let the Dead Bury the Dead and do you know where it’s out? What countries can people get it in?

Allison: It is available in the US and Canada right now because foreign rights are difficult. If you are looking for it in another country, you can feel free to reach out to me and we will see what we can do. Right now, US and Canada.

Ann: Get your hands on Allison’s book and read it. It’s available; there’s a book-book, there’s also an e-book. Is there an audiobook Allison?

Allison: There sure is and the audiobook kicks ass so we love it.

Ann: Yeah. And these people listening right now, they all clearly like listening to things so listen to Allison’s book, that’s also available. I also wanted to say, about people getting their hands on the book if you are in Canada and the US, other countries sit tight. The book is available wherever you get books but that may include your local public library. So, if you’re getting the book from the local public library, first of all, you go to your library’s website, you search for Allison Epstein, Let the Dead Bury the Dead, and you place your little hold. If you go to your library’s catalogue online and the book is not listed, then what you do is you look somewhere on that website, there’s a thing being like, “Contact Us” and you punch that button and you say, “Buy a copy of Let the Dead Bury the Dead by Allison Epstein.” And as a person who knows about public libraries, when the library gets a suggestion of people being like, “Please buy this book,” the library, nine times out of ten is going to buy that book.

Allison: And we love libraries here on this podcast. We are big hundred percent library fans.

Ann: I do want to say, if you’re listening to this from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, guess what? Book, e-book, audiobook, I happen to know, all available to place holds. So yeah, get Allison’s book. This entire episode is a Trojan Horse that I’m not hiding and the purpose of it is to get everyone to buy Allison’s book.

Allison: It’s a Trojan Horse and the Trojan Horse is wearing a T-shirt that says, “My book comes out this week,” so it’s not really very sneaky.

Ann: No, it’s not very good. Neither was the actual Trojan horse. What would it be? Would it be a llama? I’m not sure.

Allison: It’s 20,000 llamas, each of them wearing a shirt. [laughs]

Ann: Wear your T-shirt with your book on it, yeah, yeah. We’re subtle like that.

Okay, so the next thing I want to talk about is also related to Allison’s book, this is your next call to action, tits-out brigade. I’m so delighted to announce the first-ever Vulgar History Book Club experience. This is something people have suggested for a while and I never figured out how to do it exactly but lots of people like books, I obviously like books, you have a book, so we’re going to be doing this online book club experience inspired by the Oprah’s Book Club in the sense of, it’s going to be all online. So, what you do starting today actually when you listen to this episode, if you go to VulgarHistory.com/BookClub, there’s going to be all the information there about how to join and what it’s going to be. So yeah, we’re going to be talking about your book, Allison. You don’t have to be involved at all; I know you’re busy.

Allison: I want the listeners to know that Ann messaged me two days ago at about 10:30 in the morning and said, “How do you feel about doing a book club with the tits-out brigade?” And I was in a work meeting, and at about 11:30 she said, “Sorry, we’re already doing it.” [chuckles] So, I was like, “Oh okay, cool.” Really delighted about this and it happened entirely while I was not paying attention.

Ann: You’re busy promoting your book. Actually, talk about that. Where are you going to be promoting your book? If people want to see Allison in person, you’re going to be making appearances, right?

Allison: I am. If you happen to live in or around the Midwest of the United States, I have a couple of events coming up. We’re doing… Well, we did one yesterday, so sorry if you weren’t there, but I also have an event coming up in Wisconsin, an event in Michigan, I also have a very exciting virtual event coming up very soon, I am tossing this to Ann as a segue. But if you want to know where I’m going to be all the time, you can check my website, it’s all up on there.

Ann: Which is AllisonEpstein.com. So, the very exciting live event that’s coming up, this is my fourth call to action, no third, third, this episode. We are going to be doing a live stream of Vulgar History, well Vulgarpiece Theatre technically, coming up this Saturday which is… I want to say the date correctly, which is October 21st at 5:30 PM Central Time. That is the time that it is where you are Allison in Chicago.

Allison: And for all other listeners, if you type “5:30 PM Central Time” into Google and then also your time zone, it will tell you what it is because if we try to do the time zones, we’ll do it wrong.

Ann: Yeah. Absolutely, 100%. So 5:30 PM Central Time. You can go into your little thing and be like, “Central Time to Peru, Central Time to Ireland, Central Time to Saudi Arabia,” wherever you are, and you can see what time that’s going to be. Also, if that’s a weird time for you, if that’s like 1:00 AM, the video will still be there afterwards. So, the way that you can attend this live show is by going to YouTube! If you go to YouTube and look for “Vulgar History” and then Live Events, that’s where it will be, both if you go on Saturday, October 21st or also after that if you just look up the live events.

Allison: We should tell the people what film we are watching for this live show [Ann laughs] because it is highly requested, I believe.

Ann: Yeah, and I believe you just watched it as well Allison, so don’t spoil your thoughts. It is the 2018 movie Mary Queen of Scots starring Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie…

Allison: David Tenant and his 8,000 pounds of fake facial hair.

Ann: David Tenant plays John Knox and David Tenant, his entire body weight’s worth of fake hair, both on his head and on his face.

Allison: It’s so much.

Ann: He’s basically in a Chewbacca costume in this movie.

Allison: He must be so hot and so tired the whole time.

Ann: Yeah, I think he would have had to, I don’t know, do a lot of strength exercises to be able to support that much fake hair every day on set. So, it’s a 2018 movie, Mary, Queen of Scots, starring Saoirse Ronan. I think it’s a perfect way to sort of celebrate the end of the never-ending Mary, Queen of Scots season but you know, there are characters… I watched it when it came out in 2018 and haven’t since, but Allison, there are characters in it who we all know from the story.

Allison: There… Oh, ho, yes! Ann is coming in with all of the facts still in her brain from this season and I’m coming in with unsubstantiated Darnley feelings because they did things to this Darnley that I have thoughts and opinions about.

Ann: Oh yeah, Darnley is in the movie, Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart is in the movie. Not the actual Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart, but the character Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart.

Allison: Jewelled tortoise of our hearts, David Rizzio.

Ann: Mm-hm, mm-hm! All of our friends are there so it’ll be interesting. Anyway, so that’s going to be on the 21st. So, just to recap, our calls to action are… Firstly, it’s just that I’m going to slander the United States. Secondly, get your hands on Allison’s book. Thirdly, VulgarHistory.com/BookClub to talk about this book, Allison’s book, with the rest of the tits-out brigade. And fourthly, live episode this Saturday, October 21, 2023, at 5:00 PM Central Time. Those are all of my announcements. I know it’s a lot, I know it’s a lot. We’re going to repeat them all at the end as well and there’s going to be a fifth call to action midway through this episode so stay tuned. You know what? The tits-out brigade, they’re there, they’re ready for action.

Allison: It’s a brigade and a brigade’s got to act. It’s what a brigade is for.

Ann: A brigade doesn’t just sit around, that’s not a brigade, that’s just, I don’t know, a cluster.

So, today is a special episode for me because I didn’t have to research, Allison did all the research. So, it’s going to be the reverse of our usual dynamic, Allison telling me a story.

Allison: Yes!

Ann: This is similar to one of the most popular episodes of the show actually, So This Asshole Napoleon, which was also you telling me a story. So, this is going to be you telling me a story. So, what is the connection between the story you’re telling me and your book? I assume there is one.

Allison: There is. It is a somewhat tangential connection because my book takes the Romanov dynasty of imperial Russia and I kind of imagine a splinter branch out of it. I did this because I wanted to combine a lot of different historical events into one moment in time where all of these events were not actually happening. And so, I was like, let’s imagine this slightly parallel universe where things are almost the same but not quite. And so, this person does not actually appear in my book, but her vibes heavily inspire many of the characters who are in this book. I happen to love her very dearly in a way that is as problematic as it ever is to love a historical character because they all suck but the vibes are impactful.

Ann: And what is the name we’re using for this person?

Allison: I’m referring to her as Empress Elisabeth, which I am aware is confusing for listeners of this podcast who already know Empress Elisabeth of Austria, but we call that Sisi and this is Elisabeth, so it is two separate people.

Ann: And she’s also sometimes called Elizaveta Petronova?

Allison: Elizaveta Petrovna, that’s her Russian…

Ann: Okay, but she’s Empress Elisabeth of Russia.

Allison: Yes, indeed.

Ann: Okay, and so, we’re going to get into this but just to tease the connection, if you’ve watched The Great, the TV show, guess what? She does appear on that show, asterisk, kind of.

Allison: Technically, she is technically an appearance in that show. [chuckles] Listeners of Vulgarpiece Theatre will know that I have a blood grudge against the show The Great, it is the one I would fight in the street. This is partly why.

Ann: Okay, we are going to talk about Elisabeth. So, take it away.

Allison: Yes. So, I’m going to tell the story of Empress Elisabeth of Russia but in order to tell the story of Empress Elisabeth of Russia, I have to step back a couple of steps and tell you where we are, and who her parents are, and what’s going on in the world. I will try to be brief about that but generally speaking, the story starts when Elisabeth is born which is in 1709 in Moscow, which at that time was the capital of Russia; in about three to five years it wouldn’t be and then it would be again but that doesn’t matter. Elisabeth was the third and final surviving child of Peter I also known as Peter the Great.

Ann: Okay, I have a question, sorry to stop you, but are all Russian leaders called “The Great”? Is that their last name?

Allison: No. [laughs] No, just Peter the Great and Catherine the Great, because they were a little bit extra megalomaniac and they decided to go with that.

Ann: So, Elisabeth is not Elisabeth AKA Elisabeth the Great?

Allison: No. She’s great in my heart but not in her title.

Ann: Okay, so her dad, Peter the Great. She’s just…

Allison: Just Liz.

Ann: She’s just Elisabeth, got it.

Allison: So, in terms of… Ann, you might be able to help me out here in terms of other Vulgar History things going on at the time. I tried to go through and think who was early 1700s in previous Vulgar History episodes. Queen Ann of The Favourite was currently queen in England, so here we are, back in England again. This is also a couple of years before Lana Wood Johnson’s favourite person, Maria Theresa, Marie Antoinette’s mother, and [indecipherable].

Ann: So, what year are we? I’m just bringing up my spreadsheet. 1709? Let’s see, you know who was born in 1701, Mary Toft of the rabbit pieces.

Allison: I was going to say, unfortunate rabbit lady. Oh no!

Ann: Yeah, so that was happening. There was some… I don’t think Russian but there were some European people involved in that, all those dirtbag doctors who were imported, so that’s around then. Let’s see, there’s not a lot happening vis à vis Vulgarpiece Theatre people. Let’s see…

Allison: That’s what I was realizing, the 1700s is quiet Vulgar History period.

Ann: Flora MacDonald from Scotland, she was born in 1722 so we’ve got a little… that era as well. But in the early 1700s, we don’t have a lot going on. Although there is going to be a crossover with somebody who was born in 1728, but I’ll wait until we get to that part of the story.

Allison: That is a spoiler for hopefully within the next two hours because I’m going to try and keep us on track. [laughs]

So, I don’t want to spend a lot of time talking about Peter the Great because I find him exhausting but we do need to know a little about him for Elisabeth’s story to make sense. He’s one of the three tsars of Russia that most people in America have heard of. The other is Nicholas II who is the dad from the cartoon Anastasia. And the other one is Catherine the Great from the TV show The Great, as we’ve established. Some people have heard of Ivan the Terrible, but no one knows anything about Ivan the Terrible except that he sucks.

Ann: You know, I’ve heard that, but I would put him in a category with Vlad the Impaler. I couldn’t have told you what country he was from, what era he was from.

Allison: Yeah, so he’s like three and a half. But anyway, Peter the Great, Elisabeth’s dad became tsar of Russia in 1682 when he was like, 10 years old and he was actually co-tsar with his older brother, Ivan V who… Every source that I find about Ivan V says something deeply ableist and awful about him. But what historians are guessing now is that he may have had Down syndrome or something similar. You can imagine how awful all the historical sources are talking about this person.

Ann: So, this is why there was a co-tsar situation, because his brother Ivan was for whatever reason not seen as being able to be the guy.

Allison: To rule on his own. So, Peter came up as the second tsar and then he eventually kicked out the regent and did whatever and became actual tsar in the late 1680s. So, he’s now all by himself. I’m bringing up his brother because he’ll come back later. There are lots of tangential relatives in this story.

But for right now, when Peter is tsar, his big project, the reason he is known kind of outside of the things that he did, his project was “westernizing” Russia. He wanted Russia to be part of Europe and he wanted all Russians to behave as if they were Germans, essentially. There’s a lot of awkward orientalist kind of racist things tangled up in that and I’m not going to get into it for this story, but the point is, Peter was like, “I’m going to revolutionize this country and make it the gateway to Europe. I’m going to make sure everyone dresses in European clothes; nobody can have long beards because that’s Russian and therefore that’s uncivilized.” And he decided he wanted to build a brand-new European capital that would make Russia feel like Germany or France or Italy or whatever. So, he built Saint Petersburg in his reign, and named it after himself, like an asshole.

Ann: Wait, is he a saint?

Allison: He is not. But he could have picked any saint and the one he picked was the one that happened to have his own name. Also important for this story, Peter the Great, named Peter the Great because he was very important, also because he was reportedly 6 foot 8 inches tall, which is fucking insane for the 1700s. But he was a very tall, very important-looking man. So, that’s the context you need for Elisabeth’s dad.

More importantly for the listeners of this podcast probably was Elisabeth’s mom, who was actually super badass. If you ever want to do an additional Russian queen for this podcast, highly recommend you look into her mom, Catherine I. So, Catherine was born as a peasant in what today would be Poland and she kind of worked her way up through possibly sex work, possibly relationships (it’s not exactly clear in the sources) through the Russian army and then eventually became the mistress of Peter the Great. So, that’s pretty impressive for a girl just scheming her way to become the Queen of Russia. She had two children with Peter the Great, both daughters, Anna who was born in 1708, and our girl Elisabeth who was born in 1709.

Ann: Wait, you’re going to clarify this I think but they were illegitimate daughters when they were born, or not? Were they married?

Allison: They were not married publicly.

Ann: I’m sorry, super-secret sexy married?

Allison: There was a super-secret sexy marriage between Catherine and Peter the Great, which we love to see on this podcast. But annoyingly for Elisabeth, we don’t know if it happened before she was born or after she was born. So, was she technically legitimate? Was she legitimized after the fact? I don’t know, no one really knows and that’s going to be a problem for her later.

Ann: Okay, so did Peter have other children?

Allison: He had a first wife and had a son with his first wife and the first wife did not like Catherine at all, as you can imagine, that went badly. I think Peter and his wives had a total of 13 or 14 children but only three of them survived past the age of 6 or 7 because it’s the 17th, 18th century and that’s unfortunately how it goes.

Ann: Yup! So, Catherine, great, peasant girl, has these two daughters, secret sexy marriage with Peter the Great…

Allison: Yes, and then she gets an actual, not secret, still sexy, public marriage in 1712 when Elisabeth is 3 years old. So, they are technically legally married, technically legitimized but as we know from all of history ever, technically legitimized is not the best kind of legitimized so…

Ann: Especially for a girl.

Allison: Hell. Fortunately, Elisabeth was kind of awesome as a kid, she was reportedly Peter’s favourite kid even though he had a son, which I think is dope. She was super smart, she spoke four languages, French, Russian. I think she was a dancer, she loved to party. She was like the fun kid you would want to hang out with at the club. And much like our girl Mary, Queen of Scots who we just talked about, she was really striking. She was also 5 foot 11 because her dad was 6 foot 8, so there’s just this tall, gorgeous party girl flirting with everybody and having a great time and people are like, “Oh, we love her.” Her sister Anna was shorter, very, very shy, did not want to be out in public at all and would rather have stayed home with her books having a nice time.

Ann: I’m sorry, I know that this is Russia, but this is giving me like Anna and Elsa from Frozen vibes but reversed in the sense that instead of Elsa staying inside because of her snow powers, here it’s Anna staying inside because of her introversion. But yeah, you’ve got the fun sister who wants to party and then you’ve got the other sister who like…

Allison: Yeah, I think of them as the Lydia and Mary Bennetts of Russian history, which is just like, one of them is out flirting with soldiers and the other one is like, “I’m going to stay in here and play my harpsichord.” So, those are the girls we’re working with.

And because Peter the Great is so jazzed about Europe at this point and he’s got two daughters, any dad is going to be like, “Okay, what kind of advantageous marriages can I make for these two girls?” For Peter, it’s, “What specifically European marriages can I make for these girls so I can build alliances with Europe, and everyone can know how civilized and Western we are.” Blergh. So, he has a reasonably good time doing this with Anna, she gets engaged to a German prince who will come up later, but I don’t remember his name and I don’t remember where he is in Germany because Germany exhausts me. [chuckles]

Ann: No, this is like, Lana Wood Johnson is not here on call.

Allison: She’s probably listening at home screaming at me, she’s like, “The German princes, they all matter!” I’m like, they don’t matter, it’s a German guy. But for Elisabeth, Peter is like, “This daughter rocks, I’m going to really aim high for her.” So, he tries to get her engaged to the dauphin of France, which is the son of Louis XIV who is the Sun King AKA the fanciest man in France. So, this is very impressive, it would be great for Russia if this worked out. However, as we talked about a second ago, technically legitimate is not going to do it for the king of France so he writes back and says like, “This is very obviously the daughter of your Polish mistress, you can’t fool me, come back when you have a legitimate daughter.” Peter is all mad about it but he’s like, “There are so many German princes in this country that I’m going to grab another one.” So, he grabs a random German man for Elisabeth, and everything seems to be fine for the time being.

Except then we enter the part of this story where my notes say, “Everything goes to shit for Elisabeth.” She had a very, very bad two years. In 1725, so she’d be in her late teens at this point, her father, Peter the Great, dies. I did not know this until researching this story, Peter the Great died of gangrene of the bladder, which, ahhh! No. I don’t even know what that means but it sounds horrible. I don’t want it.

Ann: Mm-mm. No.

Allison: So, now there’s no tsar on the throne of Russia and cool fact, Peter’s second wife Catherine steps up and becomes the first Empress of Russia, she’s Catherine I.

Ann: Yeah, I just learned that from episode one of The Great, the TV show which I just watched, where they explained that in Russia, unlike any other country I’ve ever looked at on this podcast ever, when the king dies, his wife can become the new tsar, it doesn’t necessarily go to his child.

Allison: Yeah! Especially when his children are fairly young, and his wife is a badass who fought her way up from the Polish countryside.

Ann: What was she? A Polish peasant girl and now she’s just like, “Step back bitches.”

Allison: Now she’s the first Empress of Russia, she’s like, “You wanna go? Let’s go.” Good for her. This is another reason why I beef with the show The Great, they are pretending like women are so subservient to their husbands in Russia at this time and I’m like, “We had Catherine as an emperor not that long ago. Women were doing stuff.” Unfortunately, Catherine I was only empress of Russia for two years because she died of tuberculosis because it is the 1800s and a Vulgar History episode, so someone has to die of tuberculosis.

Ann: Yeah, tuberculosis is a guest star almost every week on this podcast.

Allison: So, that was 1727 and later in 1727, the random German man that Elisabeth was engaged to also died. He died of smallpox which I think is basically spicy tuberculosis, it’s basically the same thing.

Ann: So, they never actually got married, her and random German guy?

Allison: No. They were engaged and it was all ready to go and then her parents started dying and then he died. At this point in the story, Elisabeth is 18 years old, she’s an orphan, she’s newly single and she’s like, “Okay, I’m still pretty close in the line of succession to the Russian throne, right? Both my parents are dead, and I am a daughter but I’m the direct child of Peter the Great and everyone loves me.” So, you know, you would think maybe the throne could come to her, gender doesn’t matter quite as much in this situation. But it mattered that she was only technically legitimate, that was the problem we were working with. So, instead of giving the throne to Elisabeth, who was cool and well-liked, they gave the throne to her half-cousin, Peter II. So, this is the son of Peter’s son with his first wife.

Ann: Oh, the first wife! He had a son. So, Peter had a son, and that son had a son.

Allison: And I assume Peter’s son did not live very long because otherwise it would have gone to him, I don’t remember actually how he died. But anyway, it went back down the legitimate branch of the family, which makes sense. I’m not mad about that one, that’s fine. The king of France was probably like, “Yeah, absolutely. This is a legitimate child, I have no problems with this.” But don’t worry too much about that side of the family tree because Peter II dies, like, a year later so…

Ann: Okay, so everybody is called Peter in this story, I just wanted to note that.

Allison: There are actually only two Peters. There’s about two of everybody in this story. [laughs]

Ann: Okay, okay. Only two Peters… I was waiting for you to be like, “So, the next tsar was also called Peter.”

Allison: No, Scotland has one name, and that name is James and Russia has three names and it’s Peter, Nicholas, and Ivan. Those are the three names we have. [laughs]

Ann: Okay, okay.

Allison: So, Peter II, the legitimate child, he’s dead and so you would think that we’ve gone all the way through that branch of Peter the Great’s family.

Ann: Wait! Question. Do we know what Peter II died of? Was it mysterious circumstances?

Allison: I did not write it down, it was not. One assumes it was tuberculosis.

Ann: Because I was like, is this Elisabeth being like, “Fuck you!”

Allison: [laughs] I don’t think so. I think at this point she’s like, “You know what I get it. Sure, go through the legitimate branch. No problem.”

Ann: That’s true. And I think we’ve seen– Well, this is Russia, but we’ve seen in other places that young men just tend to be very sickly and die while the women are hearty and don’t and that’s why it’s dumb that patriarchy exists.

Allison: Yes. So, they have to go find somebody else to replace Peter II and this is where if I was Elisabeth I’d be pissed off because do you remember Peter the Great’s older brother who had Down syndrome?

Ann: Mm-hm.

Allison: They went back to his branch of the family and went down to his daughter, who was a woman named Anna, this is the second Anna in this story.

Ann: Okay. Two Annas, yes.

Allison: Okay, let’s go to your half-cousin, Anna, the daughter of Ivan V. She can be king.

Ann: Wow! So, even a woman. I can see if you go weirdly in the family tree just so you can get to a guy, but you go weirdly in the family tree… It’s interesting but also women are cool in Russia at this point.

Allison: Yeah! So, she’s the second female emperor of Russia, Empress Anna. She’s got like, I’m sorry to keep bringing it back to England for reference points but I think of her as like a Mary I sort of person, where she’s not great, not terrible, but she had a really off-putting personality and so when you read about her in history people are like, “She sucked so bad.” And it’s like, or was she just a woman who didn’t smile very often?

Ann: Yeah, yeah.

Allison: The point is Elisabeth now, the daughter of the tsar, is like, “Why are we dancing all over the goddamn family tree, finding all of these other people? I’m right here and I’m awesome.” Not only can she not rule the country but all of this dancing around her is making it really hard for her to find a husband too because no one wants to marry the illegitimate black sheep of the Russian family when you could get one better and cooler on the family tree.

So, she’s tired and annoyed and a party girl and loves to flirt and she’s like, “Okay, so you know what I’m going to do now obviously? Go have an affair with someone in the army because I am Lydia Bennett and I know no other way to be.” So, she goes and tracks down a hot army sergeant, his name is Alexander Shubin and she’s like, “Okay. We’re going to have an affair, but no one tell Empress Anna because she’ll be pissed off.” Of course, Empress Anna finds out and is like “Fuck you, for being with an army sergeant in my court, how dare you?” And he’s exiled to Siberia, RIP Alexander Shubin, I’m sure he was cool.

Ann: Can I tell you something about Siberia? Now, I think this is true, I’ve heard it repeated enough times that I think it’s true. But I believe that Saskatchewan, where I live, and Siberia have similar latitudes. So, when they’re like, “We’re going to send them to Siberia because it’s the coldest, most god-forsaken place in the world,” and I’m like, “So is this!” [Allison laughs] So, I feel sort of a kinship with Siberia in that way.

Allison: Fortunately, you are in a lovely, snug house and not in a prison camp, so you are doing better than this guy was.

Ann: Yup!

Allison: That’s hilarious. I hope you take great pride in that. [laughs]

Ann: I do, yeah.

Allison: So, Elisabeth is now down a secret lover, but she is not to be deterred, she’s like, “I’m going to find another secret lover.” This time she hit the jackpot because she took up with a man whose name was Alexei Razumovsky and he’s my favorite person in this story. I love him so much. He was, much like favourite of the podcast Davie Rizzio, he was a musician in the court of Empress Anna. He was a serf from Ukraine who sang in the court choir.

Ann: [excitedly] Just like Rizzio!

Allison: Exactly like Rizzio! And she’s like, “Look at this hot man with this incredible singing voice! I don’t care that he’s a peasant, I would like to be in love with this man.” And Razumovsky, like the legend he is, is like, “Yes, this extremely hot, extremely charismatic royal woman would like to be in love with me.” He does not want power; he does not want money. Later on in the story, other people in royal court will be like, “Would you like a title? Would you like to be a baron of something?” And he’s like, “No, I just love Elisabeth, I don’t really need any titles. I’m good. Just let me stay here with her.” He is the Ken to Elisabeth’s Barbie. He’s just happy to be included and he never betrays her, ever, in the rest of this story. He’s just her hot himbo husband with a great singing voice, here to have a nice time.

Ann: Okay. In the pantheon of both my life experience and this podcast, I’m like… Who? Rizzio is the closest I can think of but that wasn’t a romantic partner, that was a gay best friend. So, this is like, what if Rizzio was also a lover? The closest I can think of in terms of this podcast is from the international season when I talked about Rani Didda from Kashmir, she had Tunga the buffalo herder!

Allison: I remembered him, and I was like, “It’s like the buffalo herder!”

Ann: Just a guy who is there and supporting her and that’s great. But he’s also smart and with it. You know, this is what, what’s his name? Alexei?

Allison: Yeah.

Ann: This is the relationship every strong person, whatever your gender is, deserves, someone who lets you shine. It’s the opposite of, this is like a couple of years ago, Cardi B, I think it was the Met Gala or something, she came in this amazing, it was like she was Venus emerging from sea shells in this wild outfit and goddamn Offset, her baby daddy, she’s on the red carpet and he just started showing up, he just started being in all the pictures with her because he couldn’t let her shine.

Allison: This is not about you! It reminds me of Serena Williams’s husband, whose name I don’t know because he’s Serena Williams’s number one hype man and that’s who this guy is. He’s just like, “You’re so talented, you’re so beautiful, you’re so amazing. I am blessed to know you.”

Ann: And his name is Alexis.

Allison: There we go! [laughs]

Ann: The vibe is definitely… Not Offset and Cardi B, it’s Serena Williams’s husband who is just like, “Look at how great she is, I’m so lucky she married me. I’m just going to make pancakes for our daughter and support her dreams.” This is what I want for every single listener, someone who is that for you. I don’t want… I want this. This is what I want for all of you, it’s my dream.

Allison: And I extra love it because Catherine the Great’s story is better known generally. She’s well-known for having lots of lovers, she has a rotating cast of male favourites and they all suck so bad, they’re all just like, “But what if I was in charge? What if I was important? Why don’t you love me enough?” And I’m like, guys like this were right here! You could have just looked around a little bit and found a hot Ukrainian chorister and been like, “Done.”

Ann: I’m really dwelling on this point because it’s so great and so… It’s the opposite of Mary, Queen of Scots. How about this one guy who just loves you and is cool?

Allison: The bar is so low for dudes in historical stories that are nice that I’m willing to spend five minutes talking about Alexei because I think this is great. [laughs]

Ann: I haven’t recently gotten any kind of hate mail accusing me of being– What’s it called when you hate men?

Allison: A misandrist.

Ann: A misandrist, yeah. I have in the past, but I’m just like, no. You know what? I like men like this.

Allison: Correct.

Ann: I don’t hate men. I hate patriarchy. But like, this is… Okay, at the end of this episode, we’re going to do some scoring, but I feel like…

Allison: I was really hoping we could award him something. [chuckles]

Ann: He’s… Alexei, you know what? Thank you, thank you. You’ve redeemed my faith in men. Okay, Alexei. [Allison laughs] Great! And you know what? Good for Elisabeth not having… There are so many, again, I’m dwelling on this point, but I will, I will sit on this point and dwell on it. There are so many people who are like, “Here’s this guy and he’s shitty but he’s so nice to me.” No. So many people, and I’m going to say heterosexual women, settle for such shitty men! You know? There’s that famous picture of Hailey Bieber dressed to the nines, Justin Bieber in a hoodie with the cord tied looking like he’s angry he got pulled out of his basement playing video games, not that there’s anything wrong with that but it’s just like, this is her moment, and this is what you’re doing? So many women settle for shitty men. But guess what there is out there? Not-shitty men.

Allison: You just have to look around and wait.

Ann: Be okay with them. You know what? I’m going to tell you one more story about someone I know; I won’t say her name but it’s a person who I know in real life. This is when we were in our early twenties, she had had various shitty boyfriends. And then this one guy who was really nice, who we kind of knew as a friend before, they sort of hooked up and then it was like, “Oh is this going to turn into a thing?” And then he was really nice to her, and she was like, “I don’t know about this, he’s being so nice to me. This is weird.” There was a snowstorm on Christmas, and he went through the snow to come to her house and deliver her a box of homemade cookies and she was like, “What do I do with this?” Me and all her friends were like, “You accept this love!” [laughs]

Allison: You deserve this, and you should be delighted.” [laughs]

Ann: She was so confused and perplexed because it wasn’t what she had thought relationships were like and he was so kind and good.

Allison: She’s like, “This can’t be right.”

Ann: She’s like, “This feels weird, this feels wrong,” and we’re like, “Maybe lean into this a bit.” Anyway, they’re now happily married, they have two children, and they’ve been together forever. But yeah, just actual nice people.

Allison: We love to see it.

Ann: We love to see it, we love to see it. We love to see a person who is strong enough in themselves to accept that love.

Allison: Yes. So, everything was going great in Elisabeth’s love life is what I’m getting at. Things were not going as great in her political life.

Ann: Who is the tsar? It’s Anna at this point?

Allison: Right now, it’s Anna but Anna died in 1740 so she had been on the throne for about ten to twelve years and then passed away and Elisabeth was standing there like, “Okay, now is my time. Now has got to be my time to be Empress of Russia.” Except it’s not because the person they pick to be on the throne next is Ivan VI, who is Peter the Great’s great nephew and also a baby who is two months old.

Ann: Wait, so is this the grandson of the Down syndrome brother?

Allison: I believe so.

Ann: Because that’s Peter the Great’s brother and then it’s that brother’s grandson.

Allison: But it’s not through Anna, it’s through another one of his children who then went off to Germany. There are German princes involved again so I lost track of the family tree at that point. [laughs]

Ann: No, but speaking of them, you just said it’s, like, 1740-something? I was just looking at my spreadsheet again, so this is around the same time as the birth of the future Queen Charlotte. So, in terms of people in Germany doing shit…

Allison: Yeah, they’re just like, “There are so many of them, we can marry them to whoever we want.” So, in a real Scotland move they’re like, “Baby King,” and Elisabeth is like, “I am 32 years old, I’m hot, everyone loves me, I’m 6 feet tall, I have this incredible boyfriend, and also all of the soldiers in Saint Petersburg think I’m the shit.” So, what does that all add up to? A coup.

Ann: Yes! [Allison laughs] I hoped you were going to say that.

Allison: She’s like, “I’m going to go out into the streets of Saint Petersburg with my hot boyfriend and we’re going to sneak into the army barracks…”

Ann: Okay, sneaking into the army barracks, she’s going to look very noticeable being 6 foot tall, unless she wears pants and looks like a man.

Allison: But in fact, what Elisabeth decided to do was the opposite of that. What she did, she’s got a giant four-foot-long silver cross in one hand, she’s got a floor-length gown, and on top of the gown, she has a full army breastplate of chainmail. And she just kicks down the door into regimental headquarters and is like, “Who would you like to be your Empress? Me or that stupid baby in the Winter Palace?” And the soldiers are like, “You. We definitely want it to be you.” [laughs]

Ann: She kicks down the door, six feet tall. [Allison laughs] Fashion moment! Just like, “Listen up bitches, we’re taking over Russia.” And they’re all like, “We will follow you, yes.”

Allison: Literally. I didn’t write down the exact words but the sense of what she said literally was, “Who do you want to be your Empress? Me or that illegitimate baby?”

Ann: I feel like Alexei probably helped. She was like, “Alexei, what do you think about this?” And he was like, “Yes.”

Allison: “Perfect, my Queen.”

Ann: And she’s like, “What if I hold this gigantic cross?” He’s like, “Yes, yes.”

Allison: We love this, yeah. So, they go, and her and her brand-new army who are so stunned by how incredible she looks, storm into the Winter Palace and what I extra love about her is that she takes Ivan VI hostage, takes his parents hostage, declares herself…

Ann: Wait, Ivan VI being the baby? She takes the baby hostage?

Allison: She takes the baby hostage, she declares herself Empress of Russia, and no one dies. They don’t kill anybody. They don’t kill the baby; they don’t kill the baby’s parents. They’re like, “You’re a baby, you’re no threat to me. I’m just going to be Empress now, is that cool?” They call this “The bloodless coup,” which is my preferred kind of coup.

Ann: That’s amazing. So, I’m going to put part of this to the power of fashion. She puts on this outfit, stomps in, and is like, “I’m taking over,” and everyone is like, “Of course you are.”

Allison: “Of course, look at you.”

Ann: Please.

Allison: Things don’t end well in the story of Ivan VI, the baby who was no longer king, but I want to emphasize that that was not necessarily Elisabeth’s fault. What happens to him is she says, “Listen, I’m not going to kill you because you’re a baby, but I also can’t have you running around trying to become tsar again.”

Ann: No, it’s like a Mary, Queen of Scots-Jane Grey scenario, you can’t have a possible other monarch alive.

Allison: So, she absolutely Mary, Queen of Scotses it and is like, “I’m going to put you and your parents in this highly fortified castle and you just stay there and live your life, I’m not going to kill you. If you escape, it’s going to be a different story but stay there and you’ll be fine.” For the rest of Elisabeth’s life, Ivan stays there and probably doesn’t have a very nice time because he’s in prison, but he lives. Ivan does try to escape after Elisabeth’s death and he is killed by Catherine the Great, which is important to me to note that it was by Catherine and not by Elisabeth because the TV show The Great would have you believe otherwise and that’s bullshit.

Ann: Wait! So, the TV show The Great, full context, I’ve only watched the first episode of that for reasons we’ll explain later. So, on the TV show The Great, they claim that Elisabeth killed him?

Allison: On the TV show The Great, they claim that Elisabeth is keeping him in a secret room in the Winter Palace and halfway through Season 1 she cuts his throat with a knife, which is bull shit!

Ann: In episode one, Elisabeth is skipping around blowing bubbles out of a bubble wand.

Allison: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Ann: Is she just pretending to be silly?

Allison: No. She is a silly murderer, it is garbage. [laughs]

Ann: Okay, okay.

Allison: We’re staying on topic; we’re not going down that rabbit hole. I just wanted it known that if people in the States know about Elisabeth, they’re like, “Oh, the ditzy one who killed Ivan VI,” and I’m like, “No! Neither of those things are true and I want that on the record.” Not only did Elisabeth not kill Ivan VI, but the big hallmark of her rule is that her entire time as empress, she didn’t order a single death sentence, she did not command anybody to be killed. And like, is that a low bar? Yes. Is that a low bar for a ruler of the country of Russia in particular? No, that is not a common thing.

Ann: So, it’s not just like, that’s interesting and different of her. But it also, perhaps, it’s not just like she’s letting people run free who are traitors or whatever. It just speaks to the fact that no one was trying to make a coup against her.

Allison: And why would you? She’s got a giant…

Ann: She’s so cool!

Allison: I mean, I’m sure some people did not love this, but she was the very popular daughter of the most popular tsar at the time. So, legitimacy aside, people liked her pretty well.

Ann: And also, she’d been around for so long and the army took her side; she had scored up so much support from so many important people and that’s crucial for a successful coup attempt.

Allison: Yes. There are not any countercoups for the rest of this story, she’s just hanging out doing her stuff.

Ann: Yeah, so it’s not like she just let everyone survive. People weren’t raising arms against her, or she had really good intelligence and stopped them before they did.

Allison: I don’t know anything about her spy networks, but I have to believe that this bitch had spies. Come on. You know she did.

Ann: Oh, please! Yeah, yeah. Some sort of Russian flying squadron scenario.

Allison: I hope she had a flying squadron of sexy spies.

So, when I was introducing Elisabeth at the top of this episode, I said our bitch loved a party and now that she is empress, she has to throw her own coronation party but when you come to a throne through a coup, the coronation is a really big deal. You’re like, “This is the first time everyone is going to see me as the ruler of this country. I need to make sure I look legit, I look amazing, and no one is looking at me like, ‘Oh, you weird usurper.’” They’ve got to be like, “That’s my girl, I want her.” So, she kind of pulled out all the stops for her coronation and I love that for her. We have another fashion moment, fortunately.

Ann: I’m just waiting for you to say. Yeah, okay.

Allison: But first, I need to say that instead of having like, the metropolitan of Moscow give her the crown and name her Empress of Russia, this bitch crowned herself, which I love. [laughs]

Ann: Yes!

Allison: Not only did she crown herself, but she crowned herself with a crown that she had made just for herself, and the crown had 5,000 diamonds in it, which is a shit-ton of diamonds.

Ann: That would be so heavy, wouldn’t it?

Allison: And the outfit moment, she’s like, “I’m going to make myself this gorgeous gown.” It’s like, four feet wide if you look at pictures of her at her coronation. I’m like, how did she fit into the church wearing this? It’s enormous. It’s silver silk brocade in gold lace, it’s huge and she looks so good in it that every empress after her wore a dress that looked kind of like hers, that silver with the gold on top. They’re like, “Yeah, that’s the look. We should definitely be doing that.” It’s like Victoria with the white wedding dress, they’re like, “Shit, we should do that. Love that.”

Ann: Here’s what I’m picturing, two things. Firstly, I’m picturing her getting somebody to go measure the width of the doors [Allison laughs] and she’s like, “Make my dress one millimetre less wide than that.”

Allison: Correct.

Ann: Or the other thing I’m picturing is her showing up and being like, “Hmm…” Then she stands sideways and goes, scootch, scootch, scootch, [Allison laughs] and then has to come in sideways.

Allison: It would have been the most fucking dignified scootch you ever saw in your life.

Ann: Yup, yup.

Allison: We love a scootch. She’s also throwing parties all over the city; balls, parades, operas, fireworks. My favourite part of the coronation ceremony though is that she has two fountains set up in the streets of Moscow, one of them shooting up red wine and the other one shooting up white wine so everyone had a preference.

Ann: This is like, first of all, iconic, yes. Kristina of Sweden had a wine fountain at her coronation as well. I’m always here for a wine fountain. Anyone out there throwing any kind of extravaganza, party, wedding, I don’t care, consider a wine fountain.

Allison: Consider. I mean, COVID-19 is whatever, right? We’re just going to get everyone’s germs. This is why everyone was dying of tuberculosis, by the way, they were sticking their mouths on the wine fountain. [laughs]

Ann: [laughs] Drinking out of it like a water fountain.

Allison: So, that’s her coronation moment. It lasts for two months which, fuck yes.

Ann: Yes!

Allison: And then she’s like, “Okay, maybe I should stop the party.” And for all the records that I can see, she did a pretty damn good job of it. She’s very popular in modern Russian history as one of the better ones. She’s against people like Ivan the Terrible who just murdered people all the time so again, the bar is on the ground, but she was very popular with people at the time because she started undoing some of those weird, racist, Europeanizing policies her dad put in place. Like, people in Russia really wanted to wear bears and Peter was like “You can’t wear a beard, that’s uncivilized,” and Elisabeth was like, “You can wear a beard, I don’t care. Put your beards back on.” So, that was one of her first acts and that was so smart on her part because everyone is like, “We love this bitch, we would die for this bitch.”

Ann: That’s why nobody tried to get rid of her, they’re all just like, “She let me have my beard back.”

Allison: They’re like, what’s the thing that’s annoying people the most? Let’s undo that. It’s truly like, “Let’s cancel student loans on my first day in office,” and everyone’s like, “I will do anything for this person.” As her reign went on, I’m skimming a little bit because there were lots of European wars in her reign and Ann, as you know, as I start to read about military history, I go directly to sleep so I don’t know exactly what happened then.

Ann: We got… I forget what it was, it was a comment somewhere and somebody was just like, I think it was the Napoleon episode, and somebody was like, “They skipped over so much important stuff,” and I’m like, “Yes.”

Allison: Yes. Because we don’t care.

Ann: Like all the wars. Yeah. On purpose.

Allison: Yeah. So, as Empress Elisabeth outlawed capital punishment for crimes against the government, she really did not enjoy killing people which, again, so rare in Russian history that they don’t enjoy killing people, it’s really nice. She started advocating for a universal system of education, including for the serfs in Russia, the enslaved people. She did not try to outlaw serfdom, that would have been cool, but she was like, “At least everybody should be able to read, including women and enslaved people.” So, she sponsored the first university in Russia, and she helped negotiate peace with Sweden, so she was not going around starting new wars all that often. She did get…

Ann: Sweden, I just… You and I both have a fondness for Sweden and the history of Sweden.

Allison: We do, we do. Is this adjacent to the ski ski revolution by any chance?

Ann: This is hundreds of years later. But I just wanted to shout out Sweden, your history is great, it involves skis. It’s great.

Allison: We love it, we love it.

Ann: Anyway, so I’m happy for peace with Sweden.

Allison: She did enter Russia into the Seven Years’ War. Lana Wood Johnson again is screaming at me to research the Seven Years’ War and I did not, but I will say that I kind of love Elisabeth’s petty reason for getting Russia involved in the Seven Years’ War, which is that she thought Frederick the Great was a shithead and she didn’t want him to have nice things, which is like, why I would go to war. He was so afraid of her.

Ann: Who is Frederick the Great?

Allison: He was the leader, I believe, of Prussia. He was one of those German guys, essentially.

Ann: Yeah, they’re all called Frederick or George.

Allison: Yes. There are listeners who are yelling at me for getting that wrong and I’m sorry listeners, I don’t know anything about Germany.

Ann: Well, I did earlier say that we were going to slander the United States, but I think we’re also going to… When we don’t know a thing, we’re not going to pretend like we know a thing.

Allison: What I don’t know is the Germanic principalities because there are, as I said, too many of them.

So, I’m getting back to the part of the story that I care about, which is all of the extravagant dirtbagy things that Elisabeth was getting up to at her court while the Seven Years’ War was going on. Because I said this was a girl I wanted to go to the club with, the main reason I said that is because it sounds like her court was so much fun. She reportedly owned 15,000 dresses which, like, when you think about how much a single dress cost in the 1700s and then you’re like, she wanted 15,000 of them.

Ann: I’m thinking more about how long you would have to live to wear one dress each day and I don’t know but that’s impossible.

Allison: I think it’s probably impossible.

Ann: Multiple outfit changes per day, I think, is what we’re looking at.

Allison: Oh, for sure. Every time she walked through a door and did her little scootch then she took the dress off and put on a new one. She had them shipped to her directly from Paris so that she could wear them before the French people did because she was petty, and I love that for her. She threw parties all the time and apparently, at every meal she made sure that they served pineapples which just like, how did you get those in 1700s Saint Petersburg, Russia? But she found a way and it’s so extra that I think it’s delightful. I will say, she was jealous in a kind of Elizabeth I way where she didn’t want anybody to be more beautiful than she was and she would have people at court whipped for wearing the same dress she was going to wear, which like, yikes, not great. But she also was really generous to her ladies-in-waiting when they weren’t stealing her clothes. She loved a wedding, she loved to pay for the weddings of everybody in her court and make them wedding gowns and give them dowries.

Ann: This is so Mary, Queen of Scots-coded.

Allison: I know!

Ann: In fact, so much of this story makes me think of what if Mary, Queen of Scots had the support of anyone? [Allison laughs] What would she have been like as a queen? Kind of like this, I think.

Allison: Kind of like this, yeah. And meanwhile, Alexei Razumovsky, still right at her side, our boy, having a great time, not trying to get involved in politics, again, doesn’t give a damn about the Seven Years’ War. His job, much like Davie Rizzio, was to throw a really nice party.

Ann: Yes!

Allison: He’s in charge of music and theatre at court because he was a singer and he was like, “I got this. Let’s go.”

Ann: This is so perfect. It’s so perfect!

Allison: I know! I love this detail, at court, they called him ‘The Night Emperor,’ which implies that they had a super-secret sexy marriage, and he was like, emperor but only by night because he couldn’t publicly be her husband.

Ann: Wait, wait! I just assumed that they were married but of course they’re not because he’s this peasant choir singer. Super-secret sexy marriage, I bet they were!

Allison: I bet they were! And they probably had secret kids together. It’s very exciting. Also, I love that they called him The Night Emperor because that makes him sound like Batman and I hope he had fun calling himself that.

Ann: I’m just thinking, if they had super-secret kids, which I bet they did, this could be part of the dresses. She’s just like, “I need a new dress that makes me look not pregnant. I need a dress that makes me look not pregnant at six months, at nine months. [both chuckle] Guess what we’re doing everybody? Empire waistline.

Allison: “Don’t worry about it.”

Ann: “We’re just having a muumuu moment. Don’t worry.”

Allison: Love a muumuu moment. Honestly, most of my life these days, I’m in my thirties, every day is a muumuu moment. [laughs]

Ann: Yeah, yeah.

Allison: So, whether or not she had illegitimate, legitimate children with Razumovsky, she couldn’t name those children her heirs because she knew better than anybody else, if you have a technically legitimate child, this is not the country where that’s going to go over well and she didn’t want to introduce instability into this neat thing that she’d just created.

Ann: This is interesting. I was just getting so caught up in the partying, and the wine fountain, and the dresses. But yeah, she’s not married to him– I mean, secretly she’s married to him but yeah, so it’s a little bit of an Elizabeth I of England vibe where it’s like, “I’m this successful monarch but no one knows who the heir is going to be because I have seemingly no husband or children.”

Allison: I think it was a pretty open secret that this was her husband but in terms of succession, yeah, that didn’t help. So, it was like, “Who is coming next? We just had five tsars in ten years, so we’ve got to name somebody.”

Ann: Yeah, so the inconsistency. But that also made me think, you know who Elizabeth had? Bobby Duds.

Allison: Yes, except didn’t push his wife down the stairs.

Ann: Elizabeth was stuck with him, pushing his wife down the stairs, marrying her lookalike much younger niece, having seven sons all called Robert. Versus Alexei is just like… What a better choice she made.

Allison: Yes. So, it’s heir hunting time, basically. I’m going to give you one guess where Elisabeth goes to find an heir. Where has everyone been going all the way through this story to find the next person to the throne?

Ann: The German principalities?

Allison: The goddamn German principalities! [both laugh] Yes, very good. Where she goes actually is her sister, Anna’s, child.

Ann: Oh, Anna!

Allison: The other Anna, not the emperor but her Mary Bennett sister who didn’t like to leave the house, married that German guy, went to Germany, lived a quiet life, and had a kid.

Ann: You know, I forgot she even existed but at the beginning of this story, yes, we talked about her. And you were like, “We’re going to get back to it.”

Allison: Exactly what Anna wanted. [laughs softly]

Ann: And now we’re getting back to it. So, Anna, who is also the daughter of Peter the Great, had children. So, this is the nieces and nephews of Elisabeth.

Allison: Mm-hm. There’s the one kid– I lied to you, I said there were two Peters but there are actually three Peters because this child is named Peter. He’s extremely German and he’s a terrible, terrible child. He’s a garbage person. He probably was… Psychopath is a hard word, but he didn’t really have empathy for other people feeling pain.

Ann: Who is a person who we talked about in the Mary, Queen of Scots series who… was it, liked to kill frogs or something? Was the Bothwell? It was someone like that.

Allison: That sounds like a thing Bothwell would do.

Ann: There’s something, everyone was just like, “This guy sucks. He likes to take mice and stomp on them,” or something. So, shitty from the get-go. Shitty as a child, shitty person.

Allison: He probably had abusive tutors and stuff in his childhood that didn’t help any of this, but I’m not interested in apologizing for this kid because he really, really sucked. Anyway, Elisabeth is like, “This still makes sense for me.”

Ann: This is the heir?

Allison: This is the heir. I don’t think she knew how bad he sucked, and by the time she got him to Saint Petersburg she’s like, “Okay, I’ll be dead. It’s fine, we’ll go with this shitty child.” He grew up, she also had to find him someone to marry. So, looking for a wife for her heir, she went to…

Ann: German principalities!

Allison: The German principalities and she brought back a very smart young lady by the name of Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst, but this person converted to Orthodox Christianity, as was required for the wife of a future tsar, and when you do that, traditionally you change your name so she changed her name to Catherine, in honour of Elisabeth’s mother, the first lady Empress of Russia. This person, the new Catherine, also going to be a lady empress of Russia; that’s Catherine the Great peeking into the very side of this story.

Ann: So, the shitty heir is the Nicholas Hoult character from The Great?

Allison: Yes, technically.

Ann: Okay.

Allison: So, Elisabeth has now set up her succession, it’s going to be Peter III and his wife Catherine, they’re all set. Now that she’s done that, she can go back to having a grand old time at court.

The title of this section in my notes, for the listeners, is “Pants On, Tits Out” so I’m excited for this moment, another costume moment. Elisabeth was very famous for throwing what she referred to as metamorphosis balls. The gimmick of these balls was, you come dressed as the opposite sex, whatever gender rules, gender is a construct, fuck that. Men would come wearing dresses and women would come wearing pants. Everyone hated these. No one had a good time, especially not the men, they’re like, “This is the worst, I hate doing this, she has them every month. Fuck this.” But she did them anyway, religiously, and because it is a documented historical fact this bitch looked amazing in pants, and she just really wanted to wear pants and was like, “Everyone else can look terrible and have a terrible time. I’m going to look great.”

Ann: Because she’s, like, six feet tall. I figure a lot of that is probably legs.

Allison: Legs for days.

Ann: Yeah. So, she’s just like, “Goddammit, I look good in pants. That will be the theme of my party everyday. Me in pants.” Yeah, pants party.

Allison: So, I don’t know if this happened at one of the pants parties but I’m bringing it up because it’s too thematically perfect not to bring up at this point in the story, which is that in 1756 or so, a very cool lady shows up at the court of Empress Elisabeth and she goes by the name is Lia de Beaumont, she is a French noblewoman and the new lady-in-waiting to the empress. Or is she? Because listeners of this podcast might know this French noblewoman better by the name of the Chevalière d’Éon, our favourite sword-fighting trans woman spying for King Louis XV. She spent months at Elisabeth’s court, allegedly spying for the French king but mostly showing up and having a wonderful time and being Elisabeth’s best friend.

Ann: I love this, I love this. It’s a reverse Cecilia of Sweden where somebody lands on the shores to be a spy of the queen but then you actually become friends instead of stealing her jewels and becoming a pirate. So, the Chevalière d’Éon, I do remember this from the episode which, if people want to listen to that next, where I had Maya Deane on talking about that, we talked about that, how the Chevalière AKA Lia de Beaumont, went to Russia and there were these metamorphosis parties. And surely, it was partially at these parties that Chevalière d’Éon was like, “I like wearing a dress! This is me!” But I think it’s also where… A part of the Chevalière d’Éon thing is, like, the gender identity. It’s just like, you were a spy as a woman but was the woman persona you being a spy or are you a woman? And the Chevalière is like, “Who knows? Weeee!”

Allison: “Gender is a construct, fuck you!”

Ann: So, they became friends. I love that, I love that.

Allison: By all accounts, the Chevalière spent six months at Elisabeth’s court, they got on really well, they were like besties, I hope they sword-fought one time at a ball. No one tells me that happened, but I like to believe it happened.

Ann: It must have happened. And this is what I want the movie to be of, you know?

Allison: Yes, I do, I want that. Also, just a little petty note on this is that the king that the Chevalière was serving was the same French king who had turned down her hand in marriage earlier in this story and yeah, I hope he fucking regretted it!

Ann: Yeah, look at who he could have had.

Allison: “You could have had this, Louis! Fuck you!” So, unfortunately, this second part of my notes is just called “Death.” So, we are rapidly approaching the end of her story.

Ann: You know what? Every story ends this way.

Allison: But she lived a good long time, really. She ruled into her fifties and spent the last several years of her life in not-great health; she had fainting fits and dizzy spells. I don’t know exactly what disease that might have been associated with but when, in 1761, she had a stroke and she knew like, “We’re on our way out.”

Ann: So, she became empress, you said she was in her thirties, I think. So, she effectively was empress for, like, 20 years.

Allison: Yeah, she had a 20-year reign.

Ann: A good long time.

Allison: Which compared to everyone else in this story who made it two, three, five years is like, pretty good!

So, on Christmas day 1761, she was 52 years old, and on her deathbed, she called three people to be with her while she passed away after doing her final prayers with her priest. Number one, Peter III, the dickhead German. Number two, soon to be Catherine the Great, his wife. So, her heirs, that’s nice. And number three, super-secret husband, Alexei Razumovsky, holding her hand as she passed away.

Ann: Alexei. [whimpers]

Allison: She was buried in the Peter and Paul Cathedral in Saint Petersburg, where all of the tsars and tsarinas had been buried ever since her dad built the city. I assume she rolls around in her grave anytime anyone watches the TV show The Great, but I cannot confirm that.

Ann: More on that later. What is her legacy, or do you know?

Allison: I have a couple of notes on her legacy. She is regarded in Russian history by Russians as one of the more popular imperial rulers. She’s known for standing up for Russian interests in the Seven Years’ War, which again, I don’t know anything about, but it sounds important. And also beloved for her decision to never sign a single death sentence. She built up a really strong cultural legacy in Russia, she ordered the construction of the Winter Palace that’s there today, so that has lasted.

Ann: The Winter Palace from Anastasia, the animated movie?

Allison: The one that Dimitri lives in with his travel papers? [giggles] Yeah. And it’s also thanks to her that Catherine the Great came along and became empress of Russia and all of the dramatic imperial things that happened during her reign, she kind of picked Catherine out of nowhere so she’s somewhat responsible for that as well. She’s not talked about, I think, as much as she should be in history, but I would say medium well-known and medium significance.

Ann: I wonder if it’s, like, because she did a good job. People like talking about a messy monarch but she kind of took control and everyone was like, “Great.” And then she was in control, and everyone was like, “We love her.” And then she died and it’s like, “Well, that happened.” There’s not mess.

Allison: I will say there was mess because empire generally is messy. I want to be clear that I’m not supporting the Russian empire in this story, modern Russia or past Russia. I always feel the need to caveat that by saying, “Here is a story of a cool person in a deeply problematic empire.” We are not pro-colonizing the Balkans on this podcast. But as far as Russian emperors and empresses go, it’s kind of a badass.

Ann: Also, in her situation, she did the best anyone could have done given the cards she was dealt.

Allison: She could have done more. She could have liberated the serfs, she could have allowed Poland to stop being partitioned, that would have been nice, she could have let Ukraine be an independent country. There are lots of things she could have done. But were any of those particularly likely in her cultural time and place? No.

Ann: Would people still have supported her if she’d made these sort of…

Allison: She probably also had no interest in doing those things, I will say.

Ann: She wanted to throw parties; she wanted wine fountains.

Allison: She wanted to wear a giant dress covered in breastplate armour and hang out with her hot secret husband. That was the plan, mostly.

Ann: Are we ready to move on to the scoring aspect of this?

Allison: We are.

Ann: Okay so I’m going to do the formality, but I think we both know where this is headed. [Allison laughs] One of the awards that we have is the Lady Jane Seymour Award for Outstanding Supporting Performance, that is for people who just– For instance, in the Mary, Queen of Scots story, Mary Seaton got this award, for always being with her, doing the switcharoos, helping her escape, doing her wigs. And I started this award because it’s so rare that anyone in any of these stories has anyone who helps them ever. There are less than ten, or maybe about ten people who have ever gotten this in a hundred-plus episodes.

Allison: That’s so sad.

Ann: That’s why it’s special when someone is actually good to somebody. And then the next tier, recently invented is the Jewelled Tortoise Award for Legendary Friend or Supportive Behaviour. So, that’s named after Davie Rizzio, who was this for Mary, Queen of Scots. We have some other people, you know, I’ll just run down who is on this list. CM, who was the best friend of Hortense Mancini, is on this list; Decio Azzolino, who was Kristina of Sweden’s dirtbag cardinal Rome friend who paid off her debts; Ludwig II is on here for Sisi.

Allison: My boy, I love him.

Ann: And Dowager Empress Ci’an for Empress Cixi from China. Anyway, I feel like Alexei fits on this list.

Allison: I want him to be on that list if you do. I am aware I’m biased but I think he is legendary Jewelled Tortoise behaviour.

Ann: I think it is because of the fact that he never… He was just legitimately there for her.

Allison: Even after she died, they’re like, “Would you like lands and a title?” and he’s like, “No, I just want Elisabeth back. I love her.”

Ann: He was the legitimate… But also the way that he threw the parties, they were just a good partnership. What’s his name? Alexei…?

Allison: Razumovsky, I will spell it for you later.

Ann: Okay. I’m spelling it insanely on my document. But let me see, he’s the first romantic partner on this list. Everyone else was a friend-friend.

Allison: Should we retroactively put the buffalo herder on this list?

Ann: I only don’t because I don’t know enough about him and that’s not on him that’s just on the literature available about, like, medieval Kashmir.

Allison: Yeah, we don’t know enough to know for sure, but I get good vibes from him.

Ann: Oh, he did as well. He became her military guy, and he was good at it, Tunga the buffalo herder. You know what? Tits-out brigade let me know, do you think Tunga the buffalo herder deserves this promotion? Let me know.

Allison: Set up a poll on your Instagram Stories.

Ann: Yeah, maybe I will. So, then we get into the scoring of it all. The first category is Scandaliciousness. I’m going to go with the numbers you suggest because you know this story better than I do but to me, the scandal would be a coup, doing a coup is very scandalous. And I wouldn’t deduct points for it being a bloodless coup but just doing a coup, taking over is pretty scandalous. Being the illegitimate daughter is sort of scandalous. Having this lover who is…

Allison: A super-secret sexy marriage.

Ann: And potentially secret children, throwing the pants party, making everybody cross-dress. On a scale of Scandaliciousness, doing a coup, that’s high points right there but I feel like, I don’t know, on a scale of Lola Montez…

Allison: She’s not a mess.

Ann: No. It wouldn’t be a 10, certainly.

Allison: No. I think you get 5 automatically for a coup, that’s kind of my own mental rating and then I’m giving her a couple extra for super-secret sexy marriages but I’m taking a couple away because her reign kind of went well. If she’d been a scandalous mess, we would have seen that in the mess of her time, you know?

Ann: And even, she had a super-secret sexy marriage, but it was just one. She didn’t have a string of lovers, that would have been more scandalous.

Allison: She was like, “This guy.”

Ann: She was in the best way, kind of boring, scandal-wise. Because she just knew what she was doing and was not a mess.

Allison: I’m thinking like a 7?

Ann: I’m good with a 7. I think 7 is good because a coup is, like, quite a significant scandal thing. The next one though is Scheminess, and I see high scores for this.

Allison: I see high scores for schemes, if only because a successful bloodless coup has to take some planning.

Ann: Long-term planning as well. I think she was on the scene for so long and people liked her and that was partially because she’s cool but also because she’s scheming. She knows who to get on her side, who she needs to have the support of to make this coup happen.

Allison: And when she was planning for her own succession she was like, “What’s the way I can do this that will make everybody happy? That can be the most legitimate person closely related to me, not going into that other weird branch of the family tree. My sister’s kid, this kid will do. I don’t have a legitimate child, technically, so how can I solidify this?” That seemed like a smart strategic move even if it ended kind of badly. How was she to know he was a shit?

Ann: So, Scheminess in this context just means she’s smart, she knows her shit, she has good plans. So, that’s not exciting necessarily because she just is so smart but that represents high scheminess.

Allison: I’m thinking an 8?

Ann: I think an 8 is certainly fair. The next one, which will be tricky, is Significance.

Allison: My gut is to score her mid-to-low here. I think she was very significant for the 20 years that she ruled. I don’t know that her rule necessarily changed the shape of the empire the way her father’s did or that Catherine did. There’s a reason that “The Great” is not at the end of her name but she did a pretty good okay job. But I also feel like 20 years where you were not being ruled by a crazy megalomaniac is a nice thing that we should all aspire to.

Ann: Yeah. because those 20 years could have been utter chaos if it was just baby tsar after baby tsar. You know, that created, I would presume, some level of stability that then Catherine the Great would sort of step into.

Allison: Right. I’m thinking like, a 5?

Ann: I think that’s where I was thinking as well, a 5.

This is interesting as well, the Sexism Bonus, which is just like, how much does sexism hold her back? When she became empress, I would say not at all. But the fact that it took her that long…

Allison: It took her that long because she was illegitimate, not because she was a woman. They put another woman on the throne instead of her. So, I don’t know that it got in her way that much at all, really.

Ann: I mean, there was the thing, she got in trouble for having the affair with the soldier.

Allison: But that was because she didn’t tell the empress about it, because she was like… Again, that was a rank thing not so much of a gender thing. I think probably… No one gets a zero and I’m sure there are things that happened to her that would have been different. She might have been more powerful and influential if she had been a man because other people would have taken her more seriously, possibly. But yeah, I don’t think hers is really a story of sexism so much as it’s a story of “Fuck you, I’m going to do what I want.” [laughs]

Ann: Yeah, I do want to clarify because somebody sent me a message a bit ago. Again, there are new listeners and they’re catching up. For a long time, I used to say, “Everybody gets at least a 5 for Sexism,” but as the show goes on, not everyone does. I think Lola Montez…

Allison: 0 for Sexism. [laughs]

Ann: Sexism was not really an issue for her, that was low. I was looking through my scores. Empress Sisi, I think sexism wasn’t really her issue either.

Allison: Charlotte, Queen Charlotte of England, 0. [laughs]

Ann: Exactly. I used to say everyone gets at least a 5, no longer true. So, I don’t know. I don’t think sexism was really an issue for her.

Allison: I want to say a 3.

Ann: Okay. A 3 feels fair to me. So, I’m adding this up to make sure I have it right. Lana Wood Johnson is rolling her eyes from afar as I add this on my fingers.

Allison: I want to guess. I’m aware I could count in my head, but I will say to the listeners that every time I guest star on an episode like this, the person I’m scoring always gets a 27. So, I’ll be delighted if Empress Elisabeth gets a 27.

Ann: Here’s what it is, it’s a 23.

Allison: Okay!

Ann: But do you know who else has a 23? Lola Montez!

Allison: All right! [laughs]

Ann: You just said you think when you’re on here it’s a 27. It’s not Allison, it’s a 23.

Allison: Is it 23? God dammit.

Ann: Because Christopher Marlowe, 22.5. Lola Montez, 23. Catalina de Erauso, 23.5.

Allison: [cackles] Okay. I take it back, I’m a 23 girlie, good to know.

Ann: 23 is where you are. So, usually, it’s because of really high scandal and low significance. This one is more sort of like, medium. High scheminess.

Allison: High schemes, mid-scandal.

Ann: It’s right here in the Allison Epstein Grotto, I don’t know what to call it.

Allison: I love that. This is where all of my bitches live. [laughs]

Ann: Exactly. They’re neighbours with each other, just having a really good time partying.

Allison: Can you imagine being at that party with all of my 23s? Incredible. [laughs]

Ann: 23 and Me. So, that is where she lives. And if people want to see the whole scale of who scored what, it’s on my website which is VulgarHistory.com.

And this is where I’m going to say, first of all, calls to action. First of all, Allison, tell everybody about your book again. It’s been so long since we’ve talked about it.

Allison: I know. If you remember from almost an hour and a half ago, I released a book this week in the US and Canada, it’s called Let the Dead Bury the Dead. It is alternate history, 19th century Russia. If you are into Russian women kind of making shitty choices and fucking shit up, much like Empress Elisabeth, that happens to a great extent.

Ann: I have a question, alternate history Russia because you use a different branch of the family? Is it a branch we talked about?

Allison: It is not.

Ann: Okay, so you invented a whole different branch?

Allison: I did. I splintered off because I was like, “I don’t want to go into it.” I did not want to go into the German principalities, is the real answer. [laughs]

Ann: Okay. But it’s set during the same time period as when Elisabeth was around?

Allison: No, it is set in 1812 which is after Napoleon has failed to conquer Russia so if you would like a little bit of Napoleon slander sprinkled into the book, there is that as well.

Ann: Oh, that’s true. Trigger warning: whenever Allison is anywhere…

Allison: Trigger warning: Napoleon. [laughs]

Ann: … Napoleon slander will occur. So, your book Let the Dead Bury the Dead. People can buy it in Canada and US, other places, stay tuned.

Allison: Or get creative.

Ann: Or get creative, message Allison. When you get your hands on your copy, whether it’s from the library or you purchase a copy or whatever, there’s the Vulgar History Book Club experience starting up today. So, if you go to VulgarHistory.com/BookClub all the information will be there about how we will be doing this book club which is basically just tits-out brigade talking about this book. You’ll see. It’ll all be there, VulgarHistory.com/BookClub.

And then we’re having our live show, which is coming up this Saturday, if you’re listening to this when this episode is new, Saturday, October 21, 2023, at 5:30 PM Central Time. So again, google that with your own city where you live and see what time that is for you, but it will be available after the fact as well to watch on video. To find that, you just go to YouTube and look up Vulgar History and it’ll be there under the live events.

And Allison, this is our fifth call to action. Here’s the thing, we mentioned The Great, the TV show, several times in this episode and I’m introducing a new thing which is Vulgar History: The After Show which is where when I have a guest on or I am talking about something and to delve into it in the episode would completely derail things, we’re going to do that in The After Show. So, everybody who is on Patreon who is at the Patreon $5 or more level can go there and Allison is going to talk about The Great, in-depth.

Allison: Every time I said, “I can’t get into that here,” I’m going to get into it there.

Ann: Yeah, exactly. So, I have a Patreon, so if you go to Patreon.com/AnnFosterWriter you get early ad-free access to all the episodes there, we also have bonus episodes for everybody at the $5 or more level, bonus episodes like this The After Show, Allison talks about The Great. Anyway, so that’s there. Also, on the Patreon, we have chats, that just got invented. So, there’s an episode discussion chat for people who are on the Patreon. Anyway, we have a Discord there, lots of stuff going on. Also… Making sure I remind everybody of all the things. Allison, your newsletter!

Allison: There have been too many calls to action in this episode, pick whichever ones speak to you. I have a newsletter, it’s called “Dirtbags Through the Ages” and every two weeks I feature someone who did dramatic or shitty things in history. There was an Empress Elisabeth issue that just came out yesterday because I had already done all of the research for this show but most of the time there isn’t a direct overlap. You can find that if you just google “Dirtbags Through the Ages.” I am on Substack and that’s the easiest way to find me.

Ann: And then me/this podcast, we have a website which is VulgarHistory.com, there’s a form there where you can contact me if you want to yell at me for slandering the United States, although you were warned. Or if you want to say nice things to me, you can do that there also. You can also email me, vulgarhistorypod@gmail.com. We’re also on Instagram @VulgarHistoryPod. Honestly, there are too many social media things but if you’re on a social media thing, if you look up Vulgar History, chances are I’m there. Instagram is where most of the action is happening. We also have merch available.

Allison: Unlike John Knox.

Ann: Oh my god, merchandise he did not make, merchandise have I made. I think since the last recording we have a new design in this store. Honestly, if someone is the artist, then they’re not my muse, am I the muse? Jan Jupiter, who is my frequent collaborator for merch designs, made a John Knox shirt just in time for Halloween that is the ghost of John Knox saying, “Whoooores!”

Allison: It’s incredible.

Ann: It’s amazing. So, you can get “Whoooores!” on T-shirts, mugs, stickers, et cetera. The tits-out brigade really demanded that.

Allison: It was not a request. [chuckles]

Ann: It was like, “This has to happen,” and I was like, “This does have to happen.” And Jan, even though they were busy with other stuff, they’re really into Halloween stuff so they were like, “I will make time for this.”

Allison: And they did an amazing job.

Ann: It’s amazing, it’s a little ghost with a beard on and a little hat that he’s always wearing and he’s pointing because he’s always pointing. And then we also recently, Siobhan Gallagher, who I also collaborate with on merch sometimes, she just did a cute new one that says, “Spiteful hag,” which is another thing that people like to have on their merch. Anyway, so the merch store, VulgarHistory.com/Store is the one that is best for US people and if you’re somewhere else in another country, we have a Redbubble store as well which is just VulgarHistory.Redbubble.com.

I think that’s all of my announcements. I’m going to be back, you’re not going to be back next week, you’re going to be busy promoting your book but you’re going to be all over the place!

Allison: Yes I will. If I happen to be coming to a place near you, you can find out on my website which is AllisonEpstein.com.

Ann: But yeah, in terms of the people listening right now, I hope a lot of you will all be there on Saturday for our Instagram Live talking about the Mary, Queen of Scots movie and all of the denim outfits, the hairstyles.

Allison: There are so many fanny packs in this film, I didn’t remember them.

Ann: Prosthetic noses.

Allison: We can’t get into it now. We’ve got to save this for Saturday.

Ann: Yeah, so that’s the tease for Saturday. Anyway, you know, if you want to hear Allison talk about The Great, just pop over to Patreon because we’re going to record that right now. Okay everybody, thanks Allison for joining me.

Allison: Thanks for having me.

Ann: Everybody, pants on, be like Elisabeth. Pants on, tits out, holding a giant cross, kicking down doors, that’s the vibe.


Vulgar History is hosted, written, and researched by Ann Foster and edited by Cristina Lumague.

Transcribed by Aveline Malek at TheWordary.com


Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie (there is a great chapter in this about Elisabeth)


Article from the Moscow Kremlin Museum on Elisabeth’s coronation

This section of the Presidential Library of Russia website

Blog post on La Chevaliere in Russia

New sponsor! Get 15% off all the gorgeous jewellery and accessories, including the Difficult Women collection, at common.era.com/vulgar or go to commonera.com and use code VULGAR at checkout

Get Vulgar History merch at vulgarhistory.com/store (best for US shipping) and vulgarhistory.redbubble.com (better for international shipping)

Support Vulgar History on Patreon



Vulgar History is an affiliate of Bookshop.org, which means that a small percentage of any books you click through and purchase will come back to Vulgar History as a commission. Use this link to shop there and support Vulgar History.