Despite having great wealth and influence, royal women still live under the restrictions of society and the thumbs of their powerful husbands. Yet not all of them bowed to the throne. Some female royals throughout history have risen up, risking their lives — in some cases literally — and their reputations to defeat their husbands. And they didn’t just survive; came out on top and proved who really wore the metaphorical pants!
1. Catherine the Great
Poor Catherine the Great must have thought she had struck gold when she met the quiet, handsome Peter III, future emperor of Russia. But as they say, power tends to corrupt. She had no idea the monster he’d turn into when they wed, nor the punishment she’d have to endure by “virtue” of marriage to him. Still, as her name implies, Catherine was no pushover.
Ignorance is bliss
That’s not to say she had it easy, though. No women in the 1700s did, even if they were married to the emperor. Peter gave her no respect as his wife: he liked the company of other women, and wanted Catherine to know it. Yet when he wasn’t ignoring her completely, Peter was focusing all his attention on her. And that was not so great, either
You see, Peter had issues. He was a mentally unstable emperor with a war fixation, and when you combine that with raging alcoholism you get a violent tyrant. No one around him liked the man he became, including his wife. After years of abuse at his hands, Catherine turned the Imperial Guard and the Orthodox Church against Peter, putting him behind bars and taking his place as empress of Russia in 1761.
Catherine the Great was a significant improvement over her predecessor, though she wasn’t afraid of the tough decisions. Or, as she said herself, “I may be kindly, I am ordinarily gentle, but in my line of business I am obliged to will terribly what I will at all.” One of those things was ordering the execution of Peter III, which she arranged promptly after his arrest. She had a good innings too, ruling until her death in 1796.