Johanna Elizabeth of Holstein-Gottorp (1712–1760)

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Johanna Elizabeth of Holstein-Gottorp (1712–1760)

Princess of Holstein-Gottorp. Name variations: Joanna Elizabeth. Born on October 24, 1712; died on May 30, 1760; daughter of Albertina of Baden-Durlach (1682–1755) and Christian Augustus, duke of Holstein-Gottorp; married Christian August, prince of Anhalt-Zerbst, on November 8, 1727; children: Sophia Augusta Fredericka (1729–1796), princess of Anhalt-Zerbst (who would be known as Catherine II the Great, empress of Russia).

Johanna Elizabeth's family ruled the Duchy of Holstein. Although she did not control vast land and wealth, her relatives were well-connected with some of the great royal families of Europe. Though small in size, the Duchy of Holstein-Gottorp was strategically placed between Denmark and Germany, on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea, and thus could exert influence in the region as competing powers wrestled for control of the Baltic and Northern Europe.

Johanna Elizabeth had no particular plans for her daughter Sophia. The girl would later write that her father "saw her very seldom," and her mother "did not bother much about me." In 1744, Joanna and the young Sophia received an invitation to visit the court of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna of Russia. The purpose of the invitation was to arrange for a marriage between Sophia and Grand Duke Peter Feodorovich (later Tsar Peter III), son of Anne Petrovna (1708–1728) and the duke of Holstein, and heir to the Russian throne. Johanna Elizabeth's intrigues with Frederick the Great, king of Prussia, did not help Sophia win approval in the eyes of Empress Elizabeth, however. When it was discovered that Frederick had asked Johanna Elizabeth to intercede secretly on behalf of Prussian interests at the Russian court, Johanna was promptly banished from Russia in 1745. Mother and daughter never saw each other again. Sophia married Peter and was received into the Orthodox Church as Catherine Alexeievna, later known to the world as Catherine II the Great.

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Johanna Elizabeth of Holstein-Gottorp (1712–1760)

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