How Catherine The Great’s Coup Against Her Husband Peter Really Happened

Photo: Courtesy of Hulu.
The Great is so ridiculous that, even though it is based on real historical figures, it’s hard to believe that any of this actually happened. Catherine plots to kill Peter on The Great and believe it or not, Catherine the Great did stage a coup d’etat in Russia. They've just fudged some of the known details a tiny bit.
The Hulu series makes it abundantly clear that it is historically inspired fiction, not full on fact. The asterisk and footnote in the title cards signals to the audience that the show is “an occasionally true story,” which is both cheeky and informative. The press release also describes the show as "fictionalized, fun, and anachronistic" — and that's what it is! But as it so often the case, the truth is stranger than fiction, and The Great has some truths laying the groundwork for all that bizarre comedy. 
In real life, Peter III died in 1762, sixteen years after he and Catherine married. The exact cause of his death is unknown, which makes Catherine’s ascension to the Russian throne such a good subject matter for a television series. Catherine and her lover Count Alexei Grigoryevich Orlov did conspire to overthrow the emperor, though their revolt was mostly violence-free. They arrested him, forced him to abdicate, and he died shortly after. Catherine then put on a soldier's uniform and declared herself victorious, which is extremely badass.
It is assumed that Catherine and Orlov had him assassinated, though his official autopsy claims that he fell ill. It is possible that Orlov's brother killed him. There are also theories that Peter died by suicide in captivity, and that Catherine’s coup was motivated by suspicions that Peter was going to divorce her, rather than her own political aspirations.
What this means is that we need several more seasons of The Great. There are years and years of comedic situations to contrive from this period in history. The coup that begins in the season 1 finale is likely to be unsuccessful, if the show plans on following the timeline. After Peter died, in real Russia, multiple men came forward claiming that Catherine had faked Peter’s death and pretended to be the former emperor themselves. Don’t you want to see Elle Fanning’s character deal with that?
If you want to keep looking to history for potential spoiler material, let's also take a quick look at the name of the real Catherine's lover and conspirator: Grigoryevich Orlov. There is a Grigor Dymov on The Great, played by Gwilym Lee, as well as Sacha Dhawan’s character Count Orlo. It appears that aspects of both characters have been drawn from the same historical figure… interesting, as neither character is Catherine’s love interest in season 1.
With that in mind, The Great is clearly only interested in being historically accurate to a point. It’s way more fun imagining what Catherine and Peter’s marriage would be like if you keep historical accuracy at arm’s length. It’s there, but like the code in Pirates of the Caribbean the facts about Peter's death are merely guidelines, not rules. 
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