According to legend, Russian empress Catherine the Great died while attempting to engage in sexual intercourse with a horse. The truss holding her equine paramour broke, crushing Catherine to death beneath the poor beast.
Catherine the Great actually expired alone and of natural causes. On the morning of
Pornographic poetry and gossip about Catherine's excessive appetite for
As one of her biographers wrote, the "implications of the horse story appear aimed at undercutting Catherine's claims to greatness, by aggressively asserting that her primary motivation was unbridled sex, the excesses of which resulted in her monstrous death."
History regards Catherine as a powerful ruler who saved Russia from almost certain invasion and annexation by her stronger neighbors. Under her, the country prospered, schools were established, laws enacted, wars fought and won. Yet to do all this, the former German princess had to first wrest control from her insane husband, which she did by staging a coup and declaring herself empress.
While her success as a monarch lies at the heart of the various bestiality rumors circulated about her, so too does her overthrow of her husband, because both were viewed in her lifetime and beyond as
Widespread rumors about Catherine engaging in aberrant sexual practices became a way of saying that Catherine herself was an aberration, a freak of nature, and thus that her success as a ruler and her marital treason were not natural to her gender. Rather than challenge the existing premise of women being woefully inferior to men, ordinary human nature would have caused those of both sexes looking for explanations for the apparent conundrum to find one that accounted for Catherine the Great.