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Royal Family of Russia


Empress Catherine II "the Great" of Russia
Played by: Elle Fanning

"Ever since I was a child, I felt like greatness was in store for me. Like God himself had spat me forth to land on this Earth and in some way transform it."

The future Catherine the Great, here a naive and idealistic German princess who comes to the Russian court with grandiose dreams of love and romance. Upon learning that her husband is depraved and dangerous, however, she quickly turns her attention to seizing power and bettering Russia herself.

  • Bookworm: She loves reading French philosophy and one of her first tasks when she arrives is finding the library.
  • Costume Evolution: Over the course of the first season Catherines wardrobe shifts from light pastels to stronger colours, and her outfits take on a more Russian flavour with fur trims.
  • Determinator: Once she sets herself on staging a coup and becoming Empress in her own right, she stops at nothing. She even sacrifices her lover in the process.
  • Fake Period Excuse: Catherine is told to be nice to Peter. So she goes to him and apologizes, telling him she was in a bad mood because she "had her blood in." He cringes before forgiving her.
    Peter: So I've decided not to kill her. She was full of clever japes. She explained her blood was in for weeks, apparently, which is strange but...may be an Austrian thing. So let us forgive her.
  • Historical Domain Character: A version of Catherine the Great.
  • I Can Change My Beloved: Variation. Catherine doesn't initially love Peter in the slightest but usually pretends to like him. Once she senses that he may be amenable to change, she tries to slowly make him more progressive by exposing him to art and science under the guise of praising him.
  • Lust Object: Velementov lusts after her, to her disgust. This is later explored — he doesn't want her in particular, but she represents his faraway youth. Catherine is described as a "vision of radiance" in the first episode and is portrayed accordingly. The historical Catherine was considered a beauty.
  • Magnetic Hero: Catherine manages to persuade people to join her coup purely on the strength of her personal magnetism and deep seated belief in her destiny to be Empress.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Catherine spends the first episode a naive and romantic rosy-cheeked young ingenue who believes she and Peter will have a "great love". She is disabused of this notion very quickly.
  • Princesses Prefer Pink: In the final episode of the first season, Catherine wears a hot pink dress when enacting the coup and seizing power.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: To the court, Catherine is a sweet outsider. To the audience, she's ambitious and intelligent, with longterm plans for Russia's progress. She later makes use of this trope once her plotting begins in earnest, playing the part of the soft young queen so well almost nobody clues in to the fact that she's planning a coup.
  • Young Future Famous People: Variation. She's much younger here (20) than when she took power in real life (40s), but the series fast tracks the buildup to the coup so she may become 'famous' younger.


Emperor Peter III of Russia
Played by: Nicholas Hoult

"I'm happy to hear anyone's problems with me. Don't worry about the bodies."

The reigning Emperor of Russia and Catherine's husband, a hedonistic and violent young man used to getting his way.

  • The Alcoholic: As his real-life counterpart, Peter is a little too fond of alcohol and is often shown drinking throughout his day.
  • Aloof Big Brother: Well, half-brother to be more precise. Peter doesn't really care about his half-brother Ivan, even though the child clearly wants to know when his brother will visit him. Although taking into account Peter's horrible personality, it's a blessing in disguise.
  • Appeal to Force: Peter is surrounded by yes-men who agree with everything he says because of his power as Emperor and his tendency to lash out violently at anyone who doesn't.
  • Domestic Abuse: Peter punches Catherine to prove that emotional pain isn't as bad as physical pain.
  • Hate Sink: Peter has very few redeeming characteristics, and even throws Marial's dog Blini off a balcony at one point. Luckily, there's a parachute attached.
  • The Hedonist: Peter enjoys indulgence in women, drink, violence and... pretty much everything else.
  • Historical Beauty Update: Peter, who was described by contemporaries as looking like a fish and was disfigured by smallpox. He is played by Nicholas Hoult and is considered handsome In-Universe.
  • Historical Domain Character: A version of Peter III.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Peter is portrayed self-centered, an abusive husband, vindictive, cruel and paranoid. There are claims that the real Peter III's reign was fairly progressive, as he worked to improve life for the peasant class and fought corruption within the government.
  • Kick the Dog: Peter is casually cruel to animals, killing them for pleasure. He even shoots Catherine's pet bear at a party for a lark.
  • Obliviously Evil: Peter thinks of himself as a pretty great guy, and almost never realizes how utterly terrible he is to everyone, from his very best friend Grigor Dymov to the lowliest kitchen servant.
  • Really Gets Around: Peter seems to have slept with almost every noblewoman in his court.
  • Straw Misogynist: If you ask Peter, women are to Stay in the Kitchen and pop out heirs. Given that the series is told from the perspective of his famously competent wife, this just makes him look even sillier, especially when she starts learning how to work around him.
    Catherine: Together, we could create a greater Russia.
    Peter: No! I rule! You serve.
  • Stupid Evil: Peter is not just a very poor, cruel monarch - he's almost impossibly over the top in his cruelty and sheer obliviousness to how his actions affect the people around him. The only reason he is still Emperor is his position as the last male Romanov heir, plus the fact that he is surrounded by competent advisors (such as Orlo and Catherine) who try to curb his impulses and nudge him towards progress. Even so, he is so exhausting and grating that Catherine manages to gather enough support for a coup, even getting his aunt to agree to step aside and let her take over.
  • Villainous Crush: Catherine's plots get ever more complicated when Peter actually grows to love her (or at least thinks that he loves her) in the latter half of the first season.
  • We Have Reserves: An angry Peter tells the Swedish King that there's 12 million Russians, and he'd gladly lose 4 million of them to kill 2 million Swedes.

    Aunt Elizabeth 

Aunt Elizabeth
Played by: Belinda Bromilow

"Most women die with an unsaid better idea in their hearts."

Peter's doting aunt. Although she is quirky, she has the longterm future of Russia in mind.

  • Anything That Moves: Elizabeth is...alarmingly focused on sexuality and fertility. As Peter notes, she does love to fuck, and does not seem to discriminate in terms of gender or social status.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: Aunt Elizabeth spends her time training butterflies and is seen as the Cloud Cuckoo Lander at court. Turns out she's perfectly capable of murdering a defenseless little boy with her own hands, and is the only one to suspect Catherine of plotting to seize power.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Aunt Elizabeth masturbates in front of a statue of her - in show - brother in law, Peter the Great.note 
  • Hidden Depths: Initially, Elizabeth is just Peter's eccentric aunt. This makes it particularly shocking - especially for Catherine - when she slits a child's throat to protect the future of the crown.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Aunt Elizabeth did not murder Ivan in real life. While it is true that he was murdered, he was killed in his twenties during Catherine's reign after somebody tried to free him — although that was admittedly due to a standing order from Elizabeth's reign.
  • Loon with a Heart of Gold: Elizabeth is one of the only people to be friendly to Catherine when she arrives at court, and offers her advice for settling in. She's also the resident Cloud Cuckoo Lander.
  • Lovable Sex Maniac: Elizabeth's love of sex is widely known at court - she even has sex positions painted on her walls - and she regularly hosts orgies in her rooms.
  • Would Hurt a Child: She slits the throat of Peter's younger half brother in order to assure there's no challenge to Catherine's claim to the throne during Peter's near-lethal sickness.


Played by: Charlie Price

The bastard son of Peter's father and, therefore, Peter's younger half-brother. Aunt Elizabeth secretly keeps him locked away in a quiet wing of the palace under heavy guard.

  • Bastard Bastard: Certainly set up like this, with strong hints that should he reach adulthood he'd be far worse than Peter.
  • Big Brother Worship: He seems especially disappointed that his older half-brother, Peter, never comes to visit him. Although it is implied that Ivan hid a knife and tried to stab Peter at some time in the past, so maybe there is a reason for that.
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation: The real Ivan lived in captivity until his twenties until his guards killed him when army officials made an attempt to free him. In the series, his throat is slit when he's still a child by Aunt Elizabeth to ensure the future of the Russian throne.
  • I Just Want to Have Friends: Due to the isolation he is forced to endure he suffers from extreme loneliness.
    Ivan: "I just want someone to play with."
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behaviour: He draws disturbing and gory images on the walls, implies he tried to stab Peter with a knife in the past, and swears like someone far older.


The Russian Court


Count Orlo
Played by: Sacha Dhawan

An advisor of Peter's, a progressive concerned with the intellectual development of Russia. Catherine notes that his views are in line with hers and recruits him to join the coup.

  • Bookworm: He's the only person other than Catherine ever seen using the library, and they bond over their love of philosophy.
  • Chaste Hero: As of the first season, there's no suggestion of any romantic interest on his part, and he is initially entirely oblivious to Leo's appeal to Catherine.
  • Extreme Doormat: Orlo comes across as this—the other members of the court routinely shame him for being a weak-willed virgin and a useless bureaucrat. He eventually grows a backbone and then uses his reputation as a doormat to instill false confidence in people who underestimate him. He's really clever about it.
  • Grew a Spine: At the start of Season One he is a cowardly intellectual. By the end he still outwardly appears that way to the Russian court but has actually grown far more confident and cunning.
  • The Glasses Come Off: After he kills a soldier he becomes more self-assertive, and sheds the glasses he wears as a sign of it.
  • Hidden Depths: As noted by Marial, Orlo might be nebbish, but he has long been a mainstay at the Decadent Court, meaning that he likely has more political savvy than is initially apparent.
  • Nerds Are Virgins: Orlo is a studious, awkward intellectual, and the other members of the court mock him for likely being a virgin because of it.
  • These Hands Have Killed: He kills a Swedish soldier in the Russian forests and wrangles with this afterwards.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Orlo is the one that lets slip to Peter that the school Catherine is building is meant for women not men. This leads Peter to burn the school down and truly starts Catherine's hatred with him.


Played by: Adam Godley

"People underestimate the joy in suffering."

The Archbishop of the Russian church, who opposes the progress Catherine seeks to bring about.

  • Badass Preacher: Archie can hold his own in a scrap.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Everyone calls the Archbishop "Archie", and as of the first season his full name hasn't been revealed.
  • Fingore: Catherine bites his fingers, filling her mouth with blood, and they're heavily bandaged afterwards.
  • High Priest: Archie's role at first is to represent the church at court. After he becomes patriarch, he becomes this for the entire Russian Orthodox church.
  • Macho Masochism: He derives a thrill and enjoyment from pain, wrestling and enduring other forms of suffering (such as putting his hand over an open flame).
  • Mushroom Samba: He takes some hallucinogens in order to induce a "vision from God".
  • Parental Substitute: To Marial and her sister, after their mother died when they were children and their father turned to drink and women for comfort. In turn, the Patriarch was this for Archie.
  • Plague Doctor: When Peter's ill, Archie dresses up in full plague doctor regalia to treat him.
  • Sinister Minister: Subverted. While Archie is presented as a zealous defender of the church, vociferously opposing social progress, science and technology, he also is practical, understands that change is inevitable, and would rather use his influence to make sure the "new" ideas go his way. Even his (and the church's) publically misogynistic positions don't seem to affect his personal attitude towards women very much, and he's a much loved father figure to Marial.
  • Turn to Religion: When Archie gets too judgy and Holier Than Thou, most characters have absolutely no problem reminding him about his sinful, sex-fueled youth.


General Velementov
Played by: Douglas Hodge

The leader of the Russian military, who takes the brunt of Peter's disappointment at how the war against Sweden is going.

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Velementov is a slobbering alcoholic who lusts after Catherine, much to her disgust. She eventually gets sick of his leching and punches him in the mouth, and he starts taking her more seriously.
  • Butt-Monkey: Is treated as one by Peter, being his favorite punching bag and often being blamed for the failures of the military.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Velementov at first appears to be a fat, lecherous alcoholic. While he is indeed all of those things, he also demonstrates himself to be competent and dangerous, as he swiftly and efficiently puts the palace under lockdown when he learns that Peter has been poisoned, is ruthless in removing obstacles to the planned revolt, leads the palace coup personally, and ultimately is instrumental in convincing Catherine to continue fighting Peter.
  • Drowning Their Sorrows: He drinks to forget the faces of his soldiers who didn't return from war.
  • Old Soldier: A veteran of the Russian army.
  • Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!: His reaction when Catherine asks him to join the coup.
  • Sour Outside, Sad Inside: With his early sexual harassment of Catherine he initially comes across as an abrasive character, but it becomes clear that his rough exterior hides a deeply sad man.
  • Sour Supporter: His role within Catherine's coup: he’s the last person to join and is deeply cynical about the plan, but proves himself to be indispensable..
  • Vodka Drunkenski: Velementov's drink of choice as a Russian soldier.


Count Leo Voronsky
Played by: Sebastian de Souza

"We are always not quite as good as we wish. As capable, as bright. It is the human way to fall short of ourselves. For our thoughts can be untouched by a hard reality, whereas our bodies and souls must bump against the world, and the world will even up the equation over who we are."

A young nobleman whom Peter gifts to Catherine as a lover.

  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Tends towards melancholic - Doctor Chekhov diagnoses him as having too much black bile. He wears a lot of green and brown, in fitting with this date and his role as Nature Lover.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: The only one of Catherine's close circle unaware of the coup, at least at first.
  • Nature Lover: He fondly remembers watching starlings with his father, and brings a tree into his rooms at court.
  • Nice Guy: He is kind, sensitive, a charismatic and attentive entertainer, and supportive of Catherine. He is one of her only reprieves from the ribald court. Even Marial likes him, since he brings her flowers from his walks.
  • Pretty Boy: Short, clean-shaven, fine-featured, and full of cheery joy.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Peter holds him hostage against Catherine when the latter acts on her coup. She decides to sacrifice him for her commitment to creating a better Russia.
  • Significant Sketchbook: Owns one and uses it to sketch while Catherine plots her coup. Later on, she recognises his drawing style from it when he distributes cartoons of her and Peter having sex.
  • Working Out Their Emotions: Deals with his hatred of court life by taking up running, 18th century tracksuit and all.



Grigor Dymov
Played by: Gwylim Lee
"He's my emperor and I love him."

Peter's closest friend at court.

  • Beard of Sorrow: He falls into a funk in the later half of the first season and grows a beard to indicate this.
  • The Dog Bites Back: When he sees that Peter injured Georgina during sex, he impulsively poisons Peter with a big dollop of arsenic.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: He's transparently jealous of his wife's affair with Peter, but bottles it up because of the status and stability Peter's favoritism brings them. This causes him to lash out in less than savory ways, including attempting to poison Peter and falling into depression afterwards.
  • Sanity Slippage: Grigor goes through a mild case of this, due to Peter openly having sex with Grigor's wife, and bragging about it to his face. He winds up attempting to poison Peter with arsenic, after which things only get worse, though he seems to slide back near the end of the season.


Georgina Dymova

Grigor's wife and Peter's favorite mistress.


Lady Antonia Svenska
Played by: Danusia Samal

A wealthy noblewoman who holds a lot of influence with the other ladies at court who develops a rivalry with Catherine.

  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Cries when her husband heads off to war. But when Catherine tries to be sympathetic, Antonia quickly goes back to treating her terribly.
  • Malicious Slander: After being embarassed by Catherine for whipping Mariel, Antonia begins spreading vile rumours through the women of the court that Catherine lost her virginity to a horse.
  • Rich Bitch: She comes from one of the highest and wealthiest families in Russia. She showers the women of the court with gifts, attention and fun so they will support her cruel treatment of those who earn her wrath.
  • A Taste of the Lash: She has Mariel whipped by the guards to teach her to accept her new position in life as a servant rather than a noblewoman.



Played by: Phoebe Fox

"What if your vision of the bear, and the great love, your heart filled and glowing, what if that great love was Russia itself? Not Peter."

Catherine's servant, a former court lady who was demoted to serf after her father offended Peter. She is motivated by her desire to return to her former station and is the one who initially inspires Catherine to overthrow Peter.

  • Ambition Is Evil: Downplayed. Her ultimate goal is to restore her position as a lady of the court, which leads her to betray Catherine on Archie's advice in the first season finale. While she is still somewhat loyal to Catherine, trying to save her life from Peter's wrath by telling him she's pregnant, she still sold her out to Peter and Catherine is visibly furious.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Marial is furious at her father for causing their punishment of serfdom, but shortcuts the discussion part by just punching him instead.
  • The Confidant: To Catherine; as her handmaiden Marial is subject to Catherine's woes and troubles.
  • Determinator: She refuses to cry out when viciously beaten by Lady Svenska's guards, so as not to give her the satisfaction, and keeps a list of people who've wronged her to take revenge on when she's returned to her old station. Ultimately, this is what leads her to betray Catherine to Peter in the first season finale - her aim is to regain her old station, and replacing Peter with Catherine is a step towards that rather than her goal.
  • Fiery Redhead: Most obvious under bright light, but Marial's hair is red and she certainly fulfills the hot blooded requirement.
  • First-Name Basis: Her full name used to be Lady Marial Brezhneva, but with her family's demotion to serfdom she loses the title. After this demotion she is addressed by others as simply 'Marial', but she makes sure to still refer to herself as 'Lady Marial'.
  • Friends with Benefits: Implied to be the dynamic between Marial and Alexei Rostov, as they were friends before her serfdom and have casual liaisons when he arrives in court.
  • Haughty Help: Although she is now a servant, Marial has not lost the airs and attitudes of a high-status lady, and acts accordingly.
  • Hot-Blooded: As noted word for word by Catherine: Marial has a short temper.
  • I Have Boobs, You Must Obey!: A favourite technique of Marial's: she suggests Catherine try it on Orlo to gain his support, but it fails. She later suggests Catherine try it on Velementov. She denies using it herself though: when Alexei Rostov suggests that she's having only sex with him to get his support for the coup, she insists she's doing it because she wants to, not to get anything from him.
    Marial: Maybe a breast...falls from your blouse. Then he will be on you. When he has done you, profess eternal union, stars in alignment, and then talk knives in necks.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Most of the ladies at court change their dresses frequently, but Marial stays in much the same outfit throughout the first season thanks to her family's fall from grace.
  • Mister Muffykins: Marial's small, fluffy and yappy dog, Blini. Her deep love for him confuses even her friends.
  • Never Learned to Read: She asks Catherine to teach her in the first episode, as part of Catherine's plans to start a school: it isn't mentioned again, and she appears to have learnt later in the season when she reads one of Leo's letters.
  • Not in This for Your Revolution: Marial wants Peter gone, but her involvement in the coup is motivated mainly by self interest - namely, having her status returned to her and leaving serfdom. She's less interested in Catherine and Orlo's revolutionary ideas, which is what ultimately leads her to betray Catherine in the first season finale.
  • Servile Snarker: Marial may be a serf in station and bound to serve Catherine, but she nonetheless does so with copious amounts of sarcasm.
  • A Taste of the Lash: Lady Svenska has Marial lashed to remind her of her place as serf.
  • Trauma Button: A smallpox rash is this for Marial because her mother died of the same type when she was a child. She cries when Catherine tells her Vlad has died, which is hugely out of character - she didn't even cry when she was whipped.


Played by: Louis Hynes

One of Catherine's manservants.

  • Did Not Get the Girl: Vlad very nearly sleeps with Marial after mooning over her for months, but comes down with smallpox before anything can happen.
  • First Kiss: Vlad gets his first kiss from Marial.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: There's no sign he knows explicitly about Catherine's plans for a coup.
  • Never Learned to Read: Catherine slowly teaches him to read, since his poorer upbringing meant he never got the chance to learn.
  • Nice Guy: The nicest character in the entire show. Vlad is a genuinely polite, sweet and innocent person who has no resentful feelings about anyone, even if he's being mistreated as a servant. He was willing to turn himself in so other people won't be infected by smallpox.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: His death from pox in season 1 pushes Catherine to realise that Peter isn't committed to reform.
  • Tagalong Kid: For the first half of the season, he is a young boy learning to read and being educated by Catherine in areas of science and math, while crushing on Marial. He eventually succumbs to smallpox, and dies alone so as to prevent anyone else from getting infected.


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