Empress Elizabeth of Russia

2.4 Elizabeth, Empress of Russia

Elizabeth, Empress of Russia

Basic Facts:

Life: 1709 to 1761 (there is some confusion here relating to different calendars, so you might see it listed as 1762 elsewhere)

Reign: 1741 to 1761

Memorable Moment: As empress, Elizabeth held a ball every Tuesday night. All very standard, you might think, but the catch was the men had to dress like women and the women had to dress like the men.

Extremely Brief Summary: Elizabeth seized power in a bloodless coup that she seems to have done only reluctantly. She abolished capital punishment. She loved parties, dresses, and horses, and her main legacy to her country was putting Catherine in position to become the fifth female ruler of Russia in under a century.

Selected Sources and Images:

Elizabeth has had several biographies, but as far as I can tell they are all out of print. Fortunately, there is quite a bit of information on her in Robert K. Massie’s entertaining biography Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman.

Empress Elizabeth

Image by Ivan Argunov Louis Tocqué

Elizabeth, showing off her shapely legs in trousers, as she often preferred to do.

Image by Georg Cristoph Grooth


  1. Loved this! Thank you so much for all your research and for sharing it with us. You do such an outstanding job of making history interesting and fun.


  2. I knew a little about Elizabeth prior to this episode, and what always stood out to me is that she didn’t have her inept nephew killed. That move seemed so uncharacteristic of the time. What I didn’t realize is just how much she hadn’t wanted the job. Most retellings of that time period include Elizabeth and Catherine in the same breath, so we never really hear about Elizabeth’s background. Very interesting!


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