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Did Catherine the Great Really Die From Having Sex With a Horse?

One of the sleaziest rumors about royals is the one involving Russian empress Catherine the Great and a horse. The nasty story alleges that Catherine had an unlimited sexual appetite. She was supposedly never satisfied no matter how many men she slept with. So, as the story goes, she reportedly tried to have sex with a horse.

The shocking story of sexual deviance has persisted for over 200 years. It claims that the horse was strapped to a structure with a lifting mechanism while Catherine lay below. The stallion was in the process of being lowered to her when the lifting mechanism broke. This supposedly brought the animal crashing down on Catherine and crushing her to death.

She was only 14 when she was chosen to be the future king's wife.

Catherine II of Russia — who is more popularly known as Catherine the Great — was Russia’s longest-ruling female monarch. She reigned for 34 years.

Catherine’s marriage to Peter III of Russia was rocky. They both engaged in extramarital affairs. In fact, many people assumed that Catherine’s firstborn son, Paul, was actually fathered by her lover, Sergei Saltykov, a Russian military officer. All in all, Catherine was said to have had at least 12 serious lovers.

Technically, Catherine's husband was only king for 6 months, then he died.

But while Catherine’s romantic liaisons were scandalous, it’s doubtful if she would have dared to do it with a horse.

What actually happened was that a servant named Zakhar Zotov was regularly summoned by Catherine to be at her room at nine o’ clock each morning. Zakhar was designated as a chamberlain and he helped run the household.

Naturally, Zakhar wondered if there was anything wrong when it was already past nine and he had not yet been called by Catherine. So, he went up to her chambers. He didn’t see her in bed when he took a peek so he was a bit alarmed. He went inside and discovered that she had collapsed inside her walk-in closet. That’s when Zakhar called two other male servants for help.

Incidentally, she had lots of portraits showing her on a horse.

In the biography, Catherine the Great, author John T. Alexander related:

“With two comrades Zotov tried to help her up, but she barely opened her eyes once before emitting a faint groan as she exhaled and lapsed into unconscious from which she never recovered.”

It’s also worth noting that Catherine was already 67 years old at that time.

So, who started the rumor that Catherine was killed when she was about to have sex with a hourse?

The sleazy story continues to be referenced in pop culture.

In her Psychology Today article,

“Catherine the Great: Anatomy of a Rumor,” Jennifer Drapkin noted: “During her lifetime, Catherine made many enemies throughout Europe. After her death, the horse myth probably emerged from the French upper class as a way to mar her legend.”

Of course, it’s always the dirtiest rumors that have considerable staying power.

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