Like almost every one who has attained distinction, Catharine was very systematic in the employment of her time. She usually rose at about five o’clock both in summer and winter; and what seems most remarkable, prepared her own simple breakfast, as she was not fond of being waited upon. But a short time was devoted to her toilet. From eight to eleven in the forenoon she was busy in her cabinet, signing commissions and issuing orders of various purport. The hour, from eleven to twelve, was daily devoted to divine worship in her chapel. Then, until one o’clock, she gave audience to the ministers of the various departments. From half past one till two she dined. She then returned to her cabinet, where she was busily employed in cares of state until four o’clock, when she took an airing in a coach or sledge. At six she usually exhibited herself for a short time to her subjects at the theater, and at ten o’clock she retired. Court balls were not unfrequently given, but the empress never condescended to dance, though occasionally she would make one at a game of cards. She, however, took but little interest in the game, being much more fond of talking with the ladies, generals and ministers who surrounded her. Even from these court balls the very sensible empress usually retired, by a side door, at ten o’clock.
The empress informed herself minutely of every thing which concerned the administration of government. Her ministers were merely instruments in her hands executing her imperial will. All matters relating to the army, the navy, the finances, the punishment of crime and to foreign affairs, were reported to her by her ministers, and were guided by her decisions.
There must always be, in every government, an opposition party—that is, a party who wish to eject from office those in power, that they themselves may enjoy the loaves and fishes of governmental favor. This is peculiarly the case in an empire where a large class of haughty nobles are struggling for the preeminence. Many of the bigoted clergy were exasperated by the toleration which the empress enjoined, and they united with the disaffected lords in a conspiracy for a revolution. The clergy in the provinces had great influence over the unlettered boors, and the conspiracy soon assumed a very threatening aspect. The first rising of rebellion was by the wild population scattered along the banks of the Don. The rebellion was headed by an impostor, who declared that he was Peter III., and that, having escaped from those who had attempted his assassination, he had concealed himself for a long time, waiting for vengeance. This barbaric chieftain, who was called Pugatshef, very soon found himself at the head of fourteen thousand fierce warriors, and commenced ravaging oriental Russia. For a season his march was a constant victory. Many thousand Siberian exiles escaped from their gloomy realms and joined his standards. So astonishing was his success, that even Catharine trembled.