History

Catherine the Great’s shockingly expensive hobby

Catherine the Great moneyCatherine the Great ruled Russia from <1762 until 1796. During these 34 years, she acquired countless jewels (including nearly 5,000 diamonds that were used to create the Imperial Crown of Russia), accumulated elaborate gowns in rare fabric such as gold lace and silver brocade, and amassed an art collection that eventually took over the entire Winter Palace.

But the costs of her jewelry, clothing, and art collecting hobbies can’t compare with what she paid in order to pursue her favorite pastime of all.

According to Jean-Henri Castéra, an 18th-century French diplomat, the Empress of Russia spent 92,820,000 rubles on lovers. That’s approximately $4,600,000,000 in today’s money.

4.6 billion dollars. On guys.

And it wasn’t all straight-up cash payments, either. Catherine was a classy lady: she handed out whole estates and palaces, jewels, fancy tableware, and actual human beings (thanks to good ol’ fashioned serfdom) to the dudes she added to her stable of Slavic gigolos.

And you thought your hobby was expensive.

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