Young Catherine
VHS cover, featuring Vanessa Redgrave and Julia Ormond
Directed byMichael Anderson
Written byChris Bryant
StarringVanessa Redgrave
Julia Ormond
CinematographyErnest Day
Release date
  • February 17, 1991 (1991-02-17) (U.S.)
Running time
150 minutes;
180 minutes (TNT)
CountryUnited Kingdom

Young Catherine is a 1991 British TV miniseries based on the early life of Catherine II of Russia. Directed by Michael Anderson, it stars Julia Ormond as Catherine and Vanessa Redgrave as Empress Elizabeth.

Plot summary

In the early 1740s, Elizabeth, Empress of Russia, is seeking a bride for her nephew and heir, Peter. She picks the beautiful Princess Sophie, a teenager from a tiny German-speaking state. It's a huge change of fortune for the naive young girl. After arriving in Russia, she is received into the Russian Orthodox Church under the new name Catherine. Though she feels like an outsider at first, she eventually becomes devoted to her new homeland, its culture and its people.

But her personal life is in turmoil. Peter is mentally unbalanced and sometimes vicious. Shortly after the couple's wedding, he makes clear that the marriage will never be consummated. Meanwhile, Empress Elizabeth, whose anger is legendary, expects Catherine to produce an heir or perhaps suffer the consequences. One of the troubled Catherine's few confidants is an aging, worldly-wise British diplomat, Sir Charles Williams. On his advice, she gives up her virginity to a soldier who is devoted to her, and bears a child, Paul, who is officially Peter's son and heir.

As the life of the old empress draws to an end, Peter increasingly threatens to take "revenge" on Catherine, and on Russia itself, once he occupies the throne. Catherine and her supporters at court realize that action is needed to protect her, and some warn that ultimately, the struggle may come down to her life or Peter's.


Award and nominations

Primetime Emmy Awards

Gemini Award


Both a 150-minute version and a 180-minute Turner Network Television version were released on VHS on May 29, 1991, and both are currently out of print. A 187-minute Russian language version was at one time available on DVD. The film became available on DVD from the Warner Bros Archive Collection on November 19, 2013.[1]


  1. ^ "Young Catherine DVD". TCM shop. Retrieved February 2, 2018.