Cool name..

Montefiore has a deep knowledge of Soviet history and great educational credentials. He can toss off references to the “great game.” He can sit in archives and sift through primary sources. These are the marks of a serious biographer.

But as I read Prince of Princes: The Life of Potemkin I got the feeling, that the catalyst for this book was the opportunity to research and write about the joined and separate  sex lives of Catherine the Great and Grigory Potemkin. her military and diplomatic “partner in ruling the Russian empire.”  Call it history if you want because of the time that’s passed; I call it entertaining gossip .

An aside-When did it become bad form for political leaders to have a family and a publicly known “significant other.” Did that change when marriage for love became acceptable? Or is that just an American expectation because of our inner Puritan?

Montefiore does have another agenda besides sex.  Montefiore believes that Potemkin”has not received his rightful place in history” and deserves better than being known “for a calumny and a film”   So Montefiore also plays the role of public defender seeking to acquit Potemkin of being a fraud or a “debauched clown.” He’s persuasive but I don’t know the arguments of Potemkin’s critics.

Montefiore has style and an eye for the right detail. Potemkin bit his nails and while eating a radish,greeted his visitors in a dressing gown with nothing under it; General Suvorov did naked somersaults every morning for his army. There were times though where the saying “too much of a good thing” popped into my head usually when he was juxtaposing a modern reference with a historical event [“the Holy Roman empire, that dating agency for kings].  Jarring and too cute. [Note-I can’t think of a last sentence but will hit publish anyway-Suggestions].