- historical event: Prince Christian August of Anhalt-Zerbst came from an old German aristocratic family that had estates southwest of Berlin. His eldest daughter became a Russian empress through marriage, and was known as Catherine the Great.
On this day in 1690 was born German Prince Christian August von Anhalt-Zerbst. He is notable by the fact that his eldest daughter became Empress of Russia, known as Catherine the Great. Namely, many people today in the general public are not aware that the empress was almost of pure German descent, with no Russian blood.
Catherine’s father Christian August came from an old German aristocratic family that owned lands southwest of Berlin. Through inheritance, he became the ruler of his own little state called the Principality of Anhalt-Zerbst (Anhalt-Zerbst Fürstentum). It was a small country with a territory similar to today’s Liechtenstein, but the ruling position in that country gave Christian August sovereign standing i.e. the rank at which he in some way became an equal to European kings and emperors. This was a great advantage because it is precisely because of that status that his daughter was able to marry the heir of the Russian throne and become a Russian empress.
Prince Christian August was in military service of the famous Prussian King Frederick the Great – the ruler of the much larger neighboring state. Indeed, in Frederick’s service, Christian August even reached the rank of field marshal, which was the highest rank in the Prussian army.
Christian’s eldest daughter married the Russian heir to the throne when she was only 16 years old. Previously, she had to convert to the Orthodox faith, which her father, being a Protestant, opposed. However, she still did it and her father refused to go to Russia for her wedding. Prince Christian August died in 1747 at the age of 56. His daughter became empress 15 years after his death.