Portrait of Grigory Grigoryevich Orlov (1734-1783), Count (1762). Adjutant-general (1762), Master-General of the Ordnance (1765), favorite of Empress Catherine II (1762-1772), 1763
Count Grigory Grigoryevich Orlov (Russian: Орлов, Григорий Григорьевич; 1734–1783) was the favorite of Catherine the Great of Russia who presumably fathered her son. He led the coup which overthrew Catherine's husband Peter III of Russia, and installed Catherine as empress. For some years, he was virtually co-ruler with her, but his repeated infidelities and the enmity of Catherine's other advisers led to his fall from power. Orlov was the son of Gregory Orlov, governor of Great Novgorod. He had a younger brother Alexei Grigoryevich Orlov who would equally gain military and political prominence in Russia. Grigory Orlov was educated in the corps of cadets at Saint Petersburg, began his military career in the Seven Years' War, and was wounded at Zorndorf. While serving in the capital as an artillery officer, he caught the fancy of the then Grand Duchess Catherine Alekseyevna, and was the leader of the conspiracy which resulted in the dethronement and death of her husband, Emperor Peter III (1762). After the event, Empress Catherine raised him to the rank of count and made him adjutant-general, director-general of engineers, and general-in-chief. They had an illegitimate son, Aleksey Grigorievich Bobrinsky who was named after the village of Bobriki, and from whom descends the line of the Counts Bobrinsky. Orlov's influence became paramount after the discovery of the Khitrovo plot to murder the whole Orlov family. At one time, the Empress thought of marrying her favorite, but the plan was frustrated by her influential advisor Nikita Panin. Orlov was no statesman, but he had a quick wit, a fairly accurate appreciation of current events, and was a useful and sympathetic counselor during the earlier portion of Catherine's reign. He entered with enthusiasm, both from patriotic and from economic motives, into the question of the improvement of the condition of the serfs and their partial emancipation. As the president of the Free Economic Society, he was also their most prominent advocate in the great commission of 1767, though he aimed primarily at pleasing the empress, who affected great liberality in her earlier years. He was one of the earliest propagandists of the Slavophile idea of the emancipation of the Christians from Ottoman rule. In 1771, he was sent as first Russian plenipotentiary to the peace congress of Focşani, but he failed in his mission, owing partly to the obstinacy of the Ottomans, and partly (according to Panin) to his own outrageous insolence.
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