Catherine the Great was a fascinating character. A teenager who was married off to an eccentric Czar, Peter III. Her husband was uninterested in her, and she was under constant pressure to bear the heir to the Russian throne. Bored and unhappy, Catherine read. And read. And read.
"She had been a bright child; her languages then were French and German, [and] she learned Russian," Massie says. "She began to read the great philosophers of the French Enlightenment. And in that way, she developed a philosophy of rule."
What caught my attention however, as this little anecdote about how Robert Massie came to be interested in the Russian royalties:
"My first child, my son Bob Jr., was born with hemophilia ... a genetic disease. We didn't know where this had come from; we knew nothing about this. This was 50 years ago.
"I knew a little, not much, about the most famous hemophiliac, the son of Nicholas II, the last czar. I started going down to the New York Public Library on my lunch hour and reading what I could find. I learned a lot about Russia. ... We went to Russia and I learned the Russian language to some degree, and I wanted to keep going."
Sometimes, you just don't know. Something happens. A thought led you to a path. You just followed it logically, until it led to someplace you never really expected.