Archimandrite Simeon Todorsky: Something for the poor, You Majesty?

[Catherine removes several bracelets and places them in the collection plate]

Archimandrite Simeon Todorsky: For the poor, Captain?

[Capt. Orloff drops a handful of diamonds in the plate]

Archimandrite Simeon Todorsky: Excellency?

Count Alexei: [Count Alexei tosses a bag of what sounds like coins] Quite a haul tonight, Father.

Archimandrite Simeon Todorsky: Chancellor?

[the chancellor gives him a single coin]

Archimandrite Simeon Todorsky: Elizabeth?

[Countess Elizabeth flings the food she'd been eating onto the collection plate. The archimandrite places the morsel on the table]

Archimandrite Simeon Todorsky: Your Imperial Majesty, something for the poor?

[Peter slaps him]

Archimandrite Simeon Todorsky: That was for me. Now what have you got for the poor?

Grand Duke Peter: There are no poor in Russia! Get out!

Grand Duke Peter: I want to play with my toys!

Grand Duke Peter: Why are those bells ringing?

[He opens the bedroom door and addresses a man in the hall]

Grand Duke Peter: Why are those bells ringing?

Capt. Gregori Orloff: I don't know, Peter.

Grand Duke Peter: How dare you address me like that! Who are you?

Capt. Gregori Orloff: My name is Orloff, and I'm on duty as guard.

Grand Duke Peter: I'll have your head for this insolence! You're addressing the emperor!

Capt. Gregori Orloff: There is no emperor. There is only an empress.

Princess Sophia Frederica: Did you bring me a portrait of the grand duke?

Count Alexei: I'm sorry, I did not. Would you like him to be handsome?

Princess Sophia Frederica: Isn't he?

Count Alexei: Would you like him to be better-looking than all other men, and tall, and gracious?

Princess Sophia Frederica: Yes, I think I would.

Count Alexei: Well, he is all that and more. He's the handsomest man in the Russian court, tall and formed like a Greek god, a model in fashion and deportment which all of us strive to follow. Are you eager to see him?

Princess Sophia Frederica: Yes.

Count Alexei: His eyes are like the blue sky, his hair the color of ebony. He is stronger than a team of oxen, and sleepless because of his desire to receive you in his arms. And he can also read and write.

Princess Johanna Elizabeth: So can my daughter. She can also cook and sew and make her own bed if she has to. Can't you, Sophia?

Princess Sophia Frederica: But I don't like to make my own bed, Mother.

Princess Johanna Elizabeth: Don't speak unless you're questioned.

Princess Sophia Frederica: You did question me, Mother.

Count Alexei: Be careful with that knife. You'll cut your beautiful hand. Your hand is beautiful, isn't it?

[He kisses her]

Princess Sophia Frederica: Why did you do that?

Count Alexei: Because I've fallen in love with you. And now you may punish me for my effrontery.

[He hands her a whip]

Princess Sophia Frederica: I deserve punishment far more than you do. We must never do this again. It's disloyal to my future husband.

Count Alexei: Disloyal? It's treason, and I must be careful in the future, But you must help me by not exciting me with your beautiful eyes.

[She stares at him]

Count Alexei: I told you not to look at me.

[He kisses her]

Princess Johanna Elizabeth: What are you two doing down there? Don't answer me. I don't want to know. Sophia, you ought to be ashamed of yourself.

[Sophia hands back the whip]

Princess Johanna Elizabeth: You will instantly follow me to our rooms. Incidentally, our rooms are beneath all contempt, Your Excellency. I want you to know that the stables are probably better than the quarters that you've assigned to us.

Count Alexei: I'm sorry, Your Highness. The horses are tired. But if you prefer the stables, I'm certain that I can arrange to have the horses quartered in your bedroom.

Princess Johanna Elizabeth: Barbarian!

[Leading Sophia away]

Princess Johanna Elizabeth: You're going to sleep in my room tonight.

Princess Johanna Elizabeth: How often do I have to tell you that Sophia Frederica is no longer to play with toys? She's almost seven now. Don't smoke in here. The child's sick. I work and I scheme day and night to arrange a advantageous marriage someday, and you undo everything. How am I to make it clear to you that Sophia might one day become a queen?

Sophia as a Child: I don't want to be a queen, Mother. I want to be a toe dancer.

Princess Johanna Elizabeth: Be quiet, Sophia. You're going to marry a king if I have anything to do with it.

Miss Cardell, Sophia's Nurse: "A nice harness." What is he, a horse doctor?

Herr Wagner: You flatter him. Our learned medico is going to perform one of his operations with an ax. He's the public hangman.

Sophia as a Child: Hangman? What's a hangman? Can I become a hangman someday?

Herr Wagner: Your Highness, a hangman is an executioner, the man who takes heads off skillfully. Sometimes that curious profession becomes the sport of tyrants. As a matter of fact, I was about to read to you of Peter the Great and Ivan the Terrible, and other Russian tsars and tsarinas who were hangmen.

Sophia's Aunt: Grand duchess of Russia. Not bad for this family.

Princess Sophia Frederica: I wonder what he looks like.

Princess Johanna Elizabeth: That unimportant detail can be settled when the Russian ambassador gets here.

Count Alexei: Although for a long time we've heard a great deal about your beauty, Your Highness, I must confess, I was not quite prepared to see such a vision of loveliness. Her Majesty instructed me to present a few gifts as evidence of her graciousness.

[to the servant with the presents]

Count Alexei: Come here.

[to Sophia and her parents]

Count Alexei: This pipe is for you, Prince August. These sables are to keep your shoulders warm. These gloves are to keep your hands warm. This robe is to keep your feet warm. These hot water bottles... to keep Mother warm.

Princess Johanna Elizabeth: Is it then still so cold in Russia, Your Excellency?

Count Alexei: Indeed, Your Highness, the rivers are still frozen, and will be until some time after we've arrived.

Prince August: You're going on a far journey, Sophia, and I may never see you again. And I want you to remember what I've taught you. Always to be honest and truthful, to be a faithful wife, and a loyal subject of your new country. Be kind to those who are in your service, and obedient to your husband and your superiors, and strive at all times to be worthy of your glorious destiny.

Count Alexei: Well, this is unexpected. Your daughter is extremely charming and will be by far the most beautiful woman at Her Majesty's court.

Princess Johanna Elizabeth: I'd be grateful, Your Excellency, if you were not to turn her head. She's been brought up carefully and is unspoilt, and I've also taught her not to flirt.

Innkeeper: Your rooms are ready, Your Royal Highness. Can I show them to you?

Princess Johanna Elizabeth: Yes, you may. I'm prepared for the worst.

Princess Johanna Elizabeth: Well, it is cold. At least you have something to warm you when you get to Moscow. That is, if your husband isn't completely made of ice.

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: So this is little Sophie. Sophia Frederica. Hardly a name for a future empress. You don't like your name, do you?

Princess Sophia Frederica: I do, Your Imperial Majesty.

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: You will be called Catherine Alexina, a good Russian name.

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: What are you doing here, sneaking around like a ghost?

Grand Duke Peter: I hate my wife.

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: You hate your wife? You've only been married for a week. Why? You'll make a fine emperor someday, you idiot. You don't even know that you can't force a woman to be sweet to you. She's only a child. Be patient with her. You know our people are waiting for you to raise a family. They don't care whether you like her or not.

Grand Duke Peter: I don't want her.

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: I picked her for your wife, and your wife she will remain as long as I live. Get that into your skull! You're man enough to manage your own affairs. I don't want to hear anymore about it. Do you understand me?

[He kisses the hem of her skirt. She kicks him and leaves]

Elizabeth's Lady-in-Waiting: Have you noticed, Your Majesty, how the imperial duckling resembles his father?

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: Hush, hush, enough of this. Now, you keep an eye on him. I don't want anyone to go near him unless I know about it, not even his mother. I had enough trouble getting him. If he catches cold or sniffles just once, I'll have you hung by the ears! If he coughs, I'll have you cut in half! And if anyone touches him, I'll have you shot!

Count Lestoq: Your Imperial Majesty, I beg of you not to become excited. You've been ill for weeks, and this turmoil will weaken you.

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: Don't any of you think I'll give you the pleasure of seeing me die. I'll outlive all of you, you sinister buzzards. All of you!

Archimandrite Simeon Todorsky: Her Majesty is very ill, and her days are numbered. Soon, she will be no more, poor soul, and another maniac will become our emperor. It will be a bad day for Russia, and for me if I live that long.

Princess Sophia Frederica: Why are you telling this to me?

Archimandrite Simeon Todorsky: I suppose you know that the grand duke isn't exactly pleased with the present state of affairs.

Princess Sophia Frederica: State of affairs? What affairs? I haven't had an affair for some time.

Archimandrite Simeon Todorsky: I know that the grand duke plans to remove you from court... or worse, as soon as he is in power.

Princess Sophia Frederica: You need have no fear for me. Now that I've learned how Russia expects me to behave, I like it here. And I intend to stay, grand duke or no grand duke.

Archimandrite Simeon Todorsky: We all hope you will stay, and I, for one, at the risk of my neck, would like to help you.

Princess Sophia Frederica: How could you be of help?

Archimandrite Simeon Todorsky: I control enough of the political machine to carry some weight in a crisis.

Princess Sophia Frederica: I have no wish to share in any petty conspiracy. Should it become unavoidable, I think I have weapons that are far more powerful than any political machine.

Archimandrite Simeon Todorsky: I'm afraid you don't know Russians, my child.

Princess Sophia Frederica: That's possible, Father, but I'm taking lessons as fast as I can.

Grand Duke Peter: [Catherine is surrounded by Hessians. Grand Duke Peter points his sword at Catherine's heart] Right here, gentlemen. What a lovely target. You're looking quite well, Catherine, since you provided me with an unexpected addition to the family.

Princess Sophia Frederica: Thank you, Peter. It's nice to see you again.

Count Alexei: At last, Your Majesty, I've achieved the enviable privilege of entering these rooms.

Princess Sophia Frederica: I seem to have a faint recollection that you had that privilege before.

Count Alexei: Not since the days of Her Late Majesty, whom I often visited in the capacity of a trusted admirer.

Princess Sophia Frederica: Tell the others I've retired. Send them away. And come back in here.

Count Alexei: [to the people waiting outside Catherine's rooms] Her Majesty wishes to be alone. You may retire.

Princess Sophia Frederica: Tell me, Alexei, are you still fond of me?

Count Alexei: Yes, Your Imperial Majesty. I love you. But I'm completely bewildered by your attitude towards me. However, I've become accustomed to regard you as one of those extraordinary women who create their own laws and logic. And now I'm concerned only with your safety.

Princess Sophia Frederica: Is it my safety that concerns you, or the safety of an empress?

Count Alexei: I would give my life, Your Imperial Majesty, if the woman I adore were not so far removed from me in station.

Princess Sophia Frederica: The woman you adore is quite close to you, isn't she?

Count Alexei: Catherine, I love you, worship you.

Princess Sophia Frederica: I asked you here tonight because I want you to do something for me. I can trust you, can't I? We'll always be friends, won't we?

Count Alexei: Yes, Your Imperial Majesty. What is it you require?

Princess Sophia Frederica: Blow out the candles. Behind the mirror, as you know, there's a flight of stairs. Down below, someone is waiting to come up. Will His Excellency be kind enough to open the door for him carefully so that he can sneak in?

Count Alexei: [Count Alexei finds Captain Orloff at the foot of the stairs] Her Imperial Majesty is waiting for you, Captain.

Capt. Gregori Orloff: Yes sir. Thank you, sir.

Count Alexei: Will you deliver a message for me, Captain?

Capt. Gregori Orloff: I would be very glad to, sir.

Count Alexei: Tell Her Imperial Majesty that I quite understand now. No, never mind. Don't tell her anything. She'll know.

Capt. Gregori Orloff: Yes, sir.

Grand Duke Peter: There you are, you old crow. Dead as a doornail at last. What have you got to say about it? Open your mouth if you can. In another week, it'll be full of ice. In another month, not a soul will mourn for you. In another year, you'll be forgotten. Where is all your power? It's mine now. Do you hear me? Take it away from me if you can. It's my turn now.

Title Card: With all her ideas of romance outraged, Sophia Frederica was thrust into the Russian cauldron, her name altered, her religion changed, and pushed like a brood mare into the preparations for her marriage to a royal half-wit.

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: This is the Order of Saint Catherine. May you both wear it in good health, and be careful it doesn't scratch you.

[to Count Alexei]

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: Don't stand around here doing nothing. Pin this on Catherine.

[to Princess Johanna]

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: Get up.

[to the Chancellor]

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: What do you think of Catherine?

Chancelor Alexei Bestuchef: I can only admire your judgment, Your Imperial Majesty.

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: That's the chancellor. Steals more money from me in a week than I can collect in taxes in a year. Doctor, come here! What do you think of my taste in women, Doctor? Looks healthy, doesn't she? Just what we need to breed sons for Russia.

Count Lestoq: With your permission, Your Highness.

[He raises Catherine's arms and puts his ear to her chest]

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: How was the journey, comfortable?

Princess Sophia Frederica: Yes, Your Majesty.

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: Are you happy to be here?

Princess Sophia Frederica: Yes, Your Majesty.

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: Are you going to love your new country?

Princess Sophia Frederica: Yes, Your Majesty.

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: Do you promise to be a loyal subject?

Princess Sophia Frederica: Yes, Your Majesty.

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: And don't make too many new friends, and no intrigue and gossip. I have my hands full now.

Count Lestoq: [He emerges from beneath Catherine's cape without his wig] Perfect, Your Imperial Majesty. She will give us no trouble.

[Catherine hands him his wig]

Count Lestoq: Your Highness.

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: Someday I'll have every doctor thrown out of the country. And now, Catherine, before you go to your rooms, is there any wish I can grant you?

Princess Sophia Frederica: I would like to see the grand duke.

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: [Grand Duke Peter enters with his entourage] That's a fine way to receive your bride. I suppose you had more important things to do. I told you to be here on time. Now go on! Kiss each other!

[He kisses Catherine]

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: Now remember, Catherine, the first child must be a boy. That's why we had you brought here - to provide Russia with an heir to the throne. A fine, bouncing, healthy heir. You understand me, Catherine?

Count Alexei: Perhaps I shouldn't have lied to you. Forgive me, won't you?

[He leans toward Catherine]

Countess Elizabeth 'Lizzie': His Imperial Highness sent me for his soldiers. I hope I haven't disturbed you.

Count Alexei: That's Countess Varonsoff. She's always picking up the grand duke's soldiers, which I'm beginning to suspect he leaves intentionally.

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: We must make you very beautiful, Catherine, very, very beautiful so that my nephew will fall in love with you. I expect you two to behave like lovebirds so that Russia will have an heir to the throne. And remember, Catherine, I want a boy, not a girl. Nothing less than a boy will do. We don't want any more women on the throne.

Princess Johanna Elizabeth: But, Your Imperial Majesty, what would we have done if you had been born a boy?

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: I would have had much less trouble in Russia if I'd been born a man instead of a woman. We women are too much creatures of the heart. Aren't we, Catherine?

Princess Sophia Frederica: Yes, Your Majesty.

Count Alexei: Your Imperial Majesty, before the bridal pair retire, I wish to propose a toast to Her Imperial Highness, the Grand Duchess Catherine. May our new bride from far away be forever happy and learn to know the love we have in our Russian hearts for her, and the hope this vast, imperishable empire has for an heir to the throne.

[Trumpets sound as the toast is drunk and glasses smashed on the floor]

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: [the Empress places a string of pearls around Catherine's neck] You have made me very happy today, Catherine, and I hope that you will continue to make me happy.

[Catherine kisses her hand. The Empress picks up a bone and holds it like a scepter]

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: Now I'm going to bed. I'm very tired. And I know that most of you are -

[She replaces the bone with her scepter]

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: Are also very tired.

Count Alexei: May I inquire how Her Imperial Highness deigns to feel this morning?

Princess Sophia Frederica: Her Highness feels as well as can be expected... after her romantic marriage. And how is His Excellency?

Count Alexei: His Excellency is very distressed because you've been avoiding him for an eternity.

Princess Sophia Frederica: I haven't been avoiding you.

Count Alexei: You have. I've tried again and again to see you alone and you've made it impossible.

Princess Sophia Frederica: If you must know, I haven't had enough time to quite recover from the shock of finding my husband a trifle different than you described him.

Count Alexei: I had a duty to my country and a loyalty to my sovereign. Had I described the grand duke... correctly, you might not have come here.

Princess Sophia Frederica: I would have obeyed my mother even if you had told the truth.

Count Alexei: How could I have known of such a degree of filial respect? And anyway, I would have taken no chances, because from the moment I saw you, I wanted you to come to Russia.

Princess Sophia Frederica: Please, be careful. My husband will be told.

Count Alexei: Your husband doesn't mean a thing to you.

Princess Sophia Frederica: He does! I'll always be faithful to him.

Count Alexei: Don't be absurd. Those ideas are old fashioned. This is the eighteenth century.

Princess Sophia Frederica: But I'm not a Russian. I'm going now.

Count Alexei: I told you I wanted to see you alone, and I won't wait any longer. I'll be at the stables tomorrow morning when you go for your ride.

Princess Sophia Frederica: Maybe I won't care to ride anymore.

Count Alexei: In any event, I'll be there, and you'd better be there too.

Princess Sophia Frederica: I will not! And furthermore, I'm going to tell my mother all about you.

Count Alexei: One moment more, Your Imperial Highness. On the reverse side of this miniature is a diamond. Don't lose the diamond.

Count Alexei: How is Her Majesty?

Chancelor Alexei Bestuchef: The last few days she's turned sour, like milk that's been standing too long.

Marie Tshoglokof: Your Highness is so happy this morning. You can't be going to see your husband.

Princess Sophia Frederica: Dear me, my husband. I'd forgotten I have a husband. No, I'm not going to see my husband.

Marie Tshoglokof: If Your Imperial Highness were not so new to our court, I'd suspect you were going to see your lover.

Princess Sophia Frederica: Lover? And what may a lover be?

Marie Tshoglokof: A lover is a man, not a husband, who loves you with all his heart and whom you love in return.

Princess Sophia Frederica: But, Marie, that's wicked! Don't tell me that you have a lover.

Marie Tshoglokof: I wish I had. Here, everyone has a lover. Everyone but me.

Princess Sophia Frederica: Oh, Marie, not everyone. Her Exalted Majesty can't possibly have a lover.

Marie Tshoglokof: Oh, hasn't she. What about the young man who's always with Her Majesty? Why do you suppose she leans on him so heavily? Because she's weak in the knees?

Count Alexei: [Catherine and Alexei meet in the stables] Looking for someone?

Princess Sophia Frederica: Oh, you frightened me. I've only a minute. I ran away. I came down to tell you not to wait. I must go now.

Count Alexei: Is that all you came to tell me?

Princess Sophia Frederica: What else is there to tell?

[She falls backward into the hay. He sits beside her, plucking straws out of her hair and mouth]

Princess Sophia Frederica: If you come closer, I'll scream.

Count Alexei: It will be easier for you to scream without a straw in your mouth.

[They kiss]

Servant: The pig, Your Majesty!

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: Well, put it down and don't make so much fuss about it. The way you handle that pig, you'd think it was the only one in Russia.

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: You look exhausted, Paul. What's the matter?

Narcissus: I'm sorry, Your Majesty. I'm tired. My wife gave birth to a child, yesterday.

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: Boy or girl?

Narcissus: A boy, beloved empress.

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: What the wife of a guard can do should certainly be easy for a grand duchess. Remind me to give you a purse of gold tomorrow. Those of you who have boys in your families, raise your hand. Exactly what I thought! A few more like you and Russia need never worry about her enemies.

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: You wouldn't think that once I had skin like velvet. Empress, bah! I haven't even the power to iron out a single wrinkle. What are you looking at?

[Catherine stares as Peter's drill pokes through the eye of a saint painted on the wall]

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: That must be Peter. Go and see if it is, and tell him to come here at once.

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: What the devil do you mean, poking holes in my bedroom?

Grand Duke Peter: I... I wanted to watch my wife.

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: [She slaps him] Watching your wife won't give you an heir to the throne. The next time I catch you providing my rooms with needless ventilation, I'll have you flogged. I'll catch my death of a draft someday! Now go back to your rooms and wait for your wife! Go on!

[to Catherine]

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: This is all your fault. I had hoped by bringing you to Russia to make a man of that half-wit!

Countess Elizabeth 'Lizzie': I'm sorry to intrude, Your Imperial Majesty, but I think the grand duke dropped one of his soldiers in here.

[Catherine hands her a toy soldier]

Countess Elizabeth 'Lizzie': Thank you. Good night.

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: Wait a minute. Come here. How long have you been at this court, picking up soldiers?

Countess Elizabeth 'Lizzie': Two years and a half, Your Imperial Majesty.

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: I fail to recall your exact duties here, Countess Elizabeth.

Countess Elizabeth 'Lizzie': I'm in charge of the entertainment for His Imperial Highness, the grand duke.

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: And exactly how far is it to your home, Lizzie?

Countess Elizabeth 'Lizzie': My ancestral home is in the province of Astrakhan, about two weeks' journey from Moscow.

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: Not as far as I had hoped. I think His Imperial Highness has been entertained long enough. Do you understand me? I don't want to see you around here again. Now get out.

[Countess Elizabeth exits]

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: She won't snoop around here anymore. I should have thrown her out before I had you brought here. Come here, Catherine. Sit down. Haven't you given me trouble enough? Are you going to behave like an obedient wife, or must I continue to treat you like a stubborn child?

Princess Sophia Frederica: I don't care what you do with me.

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: You might change your mind about that. You're in love with His Excellency, Count Alexei, aren't you?

Princess Sophia Frederica: No, Your Majesty, I'm not. I'm not.

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: It's a good thing you're not. I wouldn't advise you to become my rival.

Princess Sophia Frederica: Rival? What does Your Majesty mean?

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: You'll find out soon enough. In the meantime, you can blow out the candles. Before you retire, you can be of one more service. Behind my mirror, a concealed passage will lead you down a flight of stairs to another door. Behind that door you will find someone waiting to come up. I don't want him to see you, so be careful.

Princess Sophia Frederica: Good night, Your Majesty.

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: Good night, Catherine. And you don't need to report for duty until late tomorrow.

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: What's this, Alexei? Sending notes to the grand duchess? Do you want me to send you into exile? Or shall I tell the grand duchess that you're a notorious heartbreaker, and have broken every woman's heart in this court, including mine?

Count Alexei: You're very flattering tonight, Your Imperial Majesty, but the note contains nothing of importance.

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: Then suppose you read it.

Count Alexei: We are all very much disturbed by your conduct and wish you would change your behavior so that Her Gracious Majesty might forgive you.

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: Who else can read here? You read it, Catherine. I know you can read because my reports say you foolishly spend your time in bed reading books!

Princess Sophia Frederica: "We are all very much upset at, uh... at... and hope you will behave better, so that you may be forgiven by the empress."

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: Send for the chancellor.

[In an adjoining room, Grand Duke Peter, assisted by Countess Elizabeth Varonsoff, starts to drill a hole in the wall]

Chancelor Alexei Bestuchef: Your Imperial Majesty?

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: Read this for me.

Chancelor Alexei Bestuchef: "You must help me to see you alone again. You are being watched so closely that all my efforts to meet you for a few precious seconds are in vain."

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: So, you're up to your old tricks again. And right under my nose too. Well, forget about her. She's reserved for my nephew and being taught how to earn his love first before wasting her favors on others.

[to the chancellor]

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: Go on back to your dinner, it's the first time you've been of use to me in a year.

[to Catherine]

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: And as for you, look after my friends and see that they're fed well. Did you hear what I said?

[the men at the table stand]

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: Sit down, you fools, or I'll send you to Siberia. She may be a grand duchess to the rest of the world, but in here she's being taught how to be a Russian wife!

[Grand Duke Peter and Countess Elizabeth Varonsoff watch through the hole as Catherine doles out soup]

Princess Sophia Frederica: Take your hands off me, you insolent fool! I'm Catherine, Grand Duchess of Russia!

Lt. Dmitri: Come now, don't take advantage of me. This is my first night on duty. The grand duchess isn't permitted out at night. Tell me who you are.

Princess Sophia Frederica: I told you who I am.

Lt. Dmitri: Oh, come now, stop joking. If you're the grand duchess, then I am the grand duke.

Princess Sophia Frederica: I wish you were!

Lt. Dmitri: If I were the grand duke and you were the grand duchess, I wouldn't let you prowl through the night like this, like a pretty little kitten.

Princess Sophia Frederica: Suppose I didn't want to tell you who I really am. What would happen?

Lt. Dmitri: On a night like this, anything might happen, if I'm fortunate.

Princess Sophia Frederica: Well, Lieutenant, you are fortunate. Very... fortunate.

Grand Duke Peter: I suppose you, too, want to congratulate as the father of the heir to the throne of Russia.

Marquis de la Chetardie: That was my intention, Your Imperial Highness. And I bring you the felicitations of my nation, and my own personal congratulations on so glorious an event.

Grand Duke Peter: Yes, I know. Tell me about it some other time. I want to be alone, do you hear? Get out, all of you! I'm crammed up to my neck with congratulations! Get out! And if you must congratulate someone, congratulate my wife!

Count Alexei: Will you please ask Her Imperial Highness once more if she will grant me an audience?

Catherine's Lady-in-Waiting: I'm sorry, Your Excellency. We have orders from Her Imperial Highness not even to mention your name to her.

Count Alexei: Then perhaps you will convey to Her Imperial Highness that I've been waiting for some time now to congratulate her on the great historic event of providing our country with a much-needed heir to the throne.

Catherine's Lady-in-Waiting: I'm certain that history was far from her mind at the time, Your Excellency.

Grand Duke Peter: [Grand Duke Peter cuts off the head of a fair-haired doll] What do you think of this decapitation?

Princess Sophia Frederica: It would be more amusing if it were real. Where's your visitor?

[Countess Elizabeth enters]

Princess Sophia Frederica: Oh, it's Lizzie. Is she in charge of your entertainment again? What will Her Majesty say?

Grand Duke Peter: Her Majesty doesn't know anything about it, and I wouldn't advise you to tell her.

Princess Sophia Frederica: I wouldn't dream of telling the empress anything. She has her own system of spies. Besides, not for the world would I interfere with your pleasures, as long as you don't interfere with mine. How is Astrakhan, Lizzie? Or was it Afghanistan?

Countess Elizabeth 'Lizzie': If you're wise you'll find out for yourself before it's too late. There's some very comfortable convents along the way, and all you have to do to gain admission is shave your head. It's good for the scalp anyway.

Princess Sophia Frederica: Entirely too many men love my hair. And I have no intention of changing my residence. Anyway, this country will soon need a new empress.

Countess Elizabeth 'Lizzie': You may as well know that Peter's going to marry me when the old bat dies and as soon as he gets rid of his present wife!

Princess Sophia Frederica: Who is this officer?

Count Alexei: Orloff, Your Majesty. Captain in charge of the barracks.

Capt. Gregori Orloff: Your Majesty, your visit here is the greatest honor in my life.

Princess Sophia Frederica: I've heard a good deal about you, Captain... from the ladies.

[She walks through the barracks, pulls straw from a mattress, and toys with a stalk while regarding Count Alexei]

Princess Sophia Frederica: I didn't expect to see you here, Your Excellency.

Count Alexei: Why not, Your Majesty? This is my pet regiment. You look ravishing.

Princess Sophia Frederica: Now there's another good-looking soldier. Come here, Lieutenant. What's your name?

Lt. Dmitri: Dmitri, Your Majesty.

Princess Sophia Frederica: And your duties, Dmitri?

Lt. Dmitri: In charge of the night watch, Your Majesty.

Princess Sophia Frederica: It must be cold at night... sometimes.

Lt. Dmitri: Sometimes, Your Majesty.

Princess Sophia Frederica: Anyway, I'm certain you're very efficient, Lieutenant. Is he, Captain? Tell me something about him.

Capt. Gregori Orloff: He's very efficient, Your Majesty. He came to join our regiment about a year ago from the Swedish front, where he fought bravely for about two years. He's also distinguished himself by exemplary bravery on the Turkish border.

Princess Sophia Frederica: This should have been brought to our attention before. I can't understand why such a brave man hasn't been decorated. His Excellency doesn't mind?

Count Alexei: [Catherine starts to remove one of Count Alexei's medals] Not if Her Majesty will tell me why she continues to avoid me.

Princess Sophia Frederica: Her Majesty will tell you tonight, if you will call on her.

Count Alexei: With pleasure, Your Majesty.

Princess Sophia Frederica: [She pins the medal on Lt. Dmitri] For bravery... in action. See that you do justice to it in future emergencies. And now, Captain, tell me about yourself.

Capt. Gregori Orloff: Your Majesty, I'm distressed at my neglect at not having rewarded Lieutenant Dmitri before. With your permission, Your Majesty.

[He pulls out a handful of diamonds and gives one to Dmitri]

Princess Sophia Frederica: [Catherine leans in to examine the jewels and picks one up] Rich too, hmm?

Grand Duke Peter: I've had enough of this sanctimonious talk. Let us drink. Why doesn't he take up his collections in church? To the most charming woman in my empire, my friend, the countess Elizabeth.

[the party stands. Catherine remains seated and sets aside her drinking glass]

Grand Duke Peter: Go ask Her Majesty, my wife, why she doesn't join our toast.

Adjutant: His Majesty, the emperor of Russia, wishes me to ask why Her Majesty refuses to join the toast.

Sophia's Aunt: Tell His Majesty that my thirst is not as great as his tonight.

Adjutant: Her Majesty wishes me to convey to His Majesty that her thirst is not as great as his tonight.

Grand Duke Peter: Go tell my wife she's a fool.

Adjutant: His Majesty, the emperor of Russia, wishes me to inform Her Majesty that she is a fool.

[Beneath the table, Catherine ties her napkin into a knot. She and Capt. Orloff rise from the table, and she takes his arm]

Grand Duke Peter: What is your rank, Orloff?

Capt. Gregori Orloff: Captain, Your Majesty?

Grand Duke Peter: Well, you're nothing now.

[He strips decorations from Orloff's uniform and takes his sword]

Grand Duke Peter: Now get out, both of you, and stay out!

[Catherine and Orloff depart]

Grand Duke Peter: Sit down. My wife is not to leave the palace. She's under arrest until further orders. Am I the emperor of Russia, or am I not? We'll issue a proclamation that she died...

[He examines a knife]

Grand Duke Peter: and ask the people to pray for her.

[He stabs an apple on the word "pray"]

Count Alexei: Exit Peter the Third. Enter Catherine the Second.

Guard: Your Imperial Majesty, we're sorry to trouble you, but Her Majesty isn't in here, is she? She's no longer in her rooms.

Grand Duke Peter: You infernal blockhead! This is the last place in the world she would come to. Double the guard! Surround the palace! Find her and bring her here to me!

Archimandrite Simeon Todorsky: God grant you victory, Catherine. All Russia is waiting for the sound of our bell.

Princess Johanna Elizabeth: Another day like this, and I'll fall apart. When I return, I'll complain to the king about the state of his roads.

Count Alexei: The roads are bad, aren't they? When we reach the border, there will be snow and we shall change to sleds.

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: So, this is the mother. You've raised a pretty child.

Princess Johanna Elizabeth: Your Imperial Majesty, I've come to lay at your feet feelings of the deepest gratitude for the benefactions which your bounty has heaped upon my house, and of which many instances are given me at every step I take into your Majesty's realms.

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: Tush, tush! A pretty speech. What I have done is nothing in comparison with what I shall do.

Count Alexei: These are your ladies-in-waiting. They represent illustrious houses of our most important domains. Step forward, Natacha. She is the daughter of Prince Dolgoruki. Natacha, come here. This is your mistress of the wardrobe. She has charge of the beds and of the laces.

Russian Orthodox Priest: "Grant them of the fruit of their bodies fair children, concord of soul and body. Exalt them like the cedars of Lebanon, like a luxuriant vine. Give them seed in number like full ears of grain that they may abound in every work that is good and acceptable unto Thee; and let them behold their children's children like a newly planted olive orchard, round about their table that obtaining favor in Thy sight, they may shine like the stars of heaven." Blessed be this bed.

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: You want to know why I sent your mother away. Well, I'll tell you why. I sent your mother away because she didn't bring you up properly. I was told you were an obedient, respectful child. Well, you're nothing of the sort! Why do you think I had you brought from Germany? To give you these pearls? Or to make you a grand duchess of the Holy Russian Empire? I had you brought here to be an obedient wife and to supply my country with a much-needed heir to the throne.

[rings a bell]

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna: Take Her Imperial Highness, the grand duchess, and turn her over to my mistress of the robes with the instructions that from this minute on she's to be attached to my personal staff where I can keep her under my eye, where I can educate her and teach her what it means to be a Russian wife and how to accept the embraces of a husband like a Russian wife! Now, get out, both of you. I have a war on my hands.