Like many rulers before her, Catherine the Great of Russia muscled her way into the job.
A German born princess with no hereditary claim to the throne, Catherine overthrew the two men with legitimate interests, her husband Peter III (grandson of Peter the Great) and Ivan VI (too complicated to explain his connection.)
She ruled as Empress of Russia for thirty-four years.
Not that it was easy.
Catherine was intelligent and well-educated in an era when most of her countrymen were neither.
Having studied the works of the Enlightenment philosophers and corresponded with leading thinkers, Catherine had visions of a new and improved Russia. (Albeit a Russia in which she was still in charge.)
That she was often thwarted is not surprising given what she had to work with. The nobility were lazy and entitled, the Orthodox Church rigid and powerful, and the peasants impoverished and ignorant. (In the 18th C, serfs [i.e. slaves] made up almsot almost half the Russian population. )
Despite these handicaps, Catherine cajoled, corresponded, and coupled with various allies and lovers to keep her beloved Russia stable through wars, rebellion, and foreign intrigue.
I enjoyed this book not only for its portrait of an intelligent female ruler, but for the history of 18th C Russia and her neighbors, information which goes a long way in explaining subsequent events of the 20th C.