Helen Mirren: ‘It’s appalling, the way history treats successful, powerful women’

The Premiere of Sky Atlantic's: 'Catherine the Great' held at the Curzon Mayfair

Helen Mirren is currently promoting her Sky/HBO miniseries, Catherine the Great. Dame Helen is a queen, so of course she gets to play all of the queens. These are photos from the London premiere event, where Helen was carried to the carpet by 18th-century-style minions. She wore a Chalayan pantsuit ensemble which looks amazing. She also wore some of the best jewelry p0rn I’ve ever seen in my life: LOOK AT THAT NECKLACE. Gorgeous. As I get older, I’ve really started to feel like those kinds of huge pieces should be worn exclusively by women older than 40, and probably older than 50. You need age and wisdom to pull off giant necklaces. Helen recently spoke to the Sun about playing Empress Catherine, and she has a lot to say:

The horse rumor for Catherine the Great: “It’s appalling, the way history treats successful, powerful women. It has to pull them down. Her unbelievable achievements were very successful, obfuscated by history. I have feminist friends who say, ‘Oh, what are you going to do about the horse?’, which of course is a complete lie, a classic way of belittling her. She was in fact a serial monogamist.”

Helen sees misogyny in the way Catherine is still portrayed: “You look at the way Louis XIV or Henry VIII behaved — their behaviour was completely acceptable, whereas Catherine had a series of four or five relationships, which in any modern woman’s life is not that many. She certainly was never the sort of mad sexual voracious creature that history has made her out to be.”

Catherine had a liberated sexuality in a pre-Victorian era: “Catherine was completely open, there was no shame about it. I could not get my head around that, growing up with a post-Edwardian, post-Second World War, Protestant attitude towards sexuality — and having played Elizabeth I, about whom even the slightest whiff of a sexual relationship would have been the end of her. I found it extraordinary, but the attitudes towards sex in the 18th century were, in many ways, far more liberated even than they are now. I think we’re still coming out of the Victorian age, in a way. Although the younger generation have a very different attitude compared to the world I grew up in. Female sexuality is far more accepted now. That has its drawbacks but in general I absolutely applaud that, I love it.”

[From The Sun]

For British people, the Victorian era really did a number on them. For us here in America, the Puritan strain has been screwing us up for centuries. Even today, in 2019, we are still dealing with Puritanical strains in almost every facet of American life. As for what Helen says about Catherine’s political enemies making up sh-t about her sex life to smear her… yep. I can believe that. I always halfway believed the horse story though, so my bad.

The Premiere of Sky Atlantic's: 'Catherine the Great' held at the Curzon Mayfair

The Premiere of Sky Atlantic's: 'Catherine the Great' held at the Curzon Mayfair

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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24 Responses to “Helen Mirren: ‘It’s appalling, the way history treats successful, powerful women’”

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  1. Seraphina says:

    If I can look like Helen as I age, I don’t care about aging. She rocks it and I love her. And I agree. Preach Helen.

  2. Jess says:

    Good on her for calling this stuff out. Slut shaming has been a way of controlling women for centuries. I read a great book about Catherine years ago that opened my eyes to how absurd and sexist the horse story was and I’m hoping this show spreads the word far and wide.

    • otaku fairy.... says:

      100%. It’s abuse. It’s used to control women (and girin so many different areas of life too, not just sexually and physically but mentally, emotionally, legally, financially, socially, politically, etc. It’s used to also justify things that should not be, or are not, accepted in other circumstances. It is not, has never been, and likely will never be Just Words of just judgment/a difference of opinion.

  3. BayTampaBay says:

    We all need to bow down to Queen Helen of the island nation of Fuckinfantastica and that killer necklace with matching earrings!

    I am talking deep curtsy with head bowed very low!

    This Dame is just killing it!

  4. Sierra says:

    She is right, just look at how they changed Cleopatra into a lovesick greedy ruler and not a woman who was intelligent and fought for her country.

    Most people don’t even know Nefertiti who ruled Egypt and was the real brains behind Tutankhamun reign.

    In real history, women were the hunters and hunted for food for the family. It’s only men who couldn’t handle strong women so they changed history.

    • Algernon says:

      Nefertiti is a fascinating figure, but she did not rule even by proxy during Tutankhamun’s reign. She was his step-mother, and she may have ruled as a pharaoh in her own right after her husband, Akhenaten, died, but Nefertiti was part of Akhenaten’s monotheistic revolution that shifted Egypt’s religious observance to Aten. This was massively unpopular with the people of Egypt and, if you believe Nefertiti ruled after Akhenaten died, led to her downfall. She was likely driven out of Egypt by a populist reformation going back to pantheistic observance. Tut then became pharaoh, and he was controlled by his advisors, which included his uncle. Nefertiti was out of the picture by then.

    • Christina says:

      Sierra and Algernon, thanks for discussing the history. Fascinating stuff. And rulers from that time would remove and alter the record by trying to chisel out predecessors’ names and faces from monuments. It’s miraculous that we know what we do about these women today.

      • Algernon says:

        That is almost certainly what happened to Nefertiti. She just vanishes from history, even if you assume she was Pharaoh Neferneferuaten, she still ends up disappearing into history. No one is certain when/how/where she died, can’t find her body or burial site, it’s a big mystery.

  5. Becks1 says:

    Wow, she looks amazing. Love that necklace, and the pantsuit is incredible.

    She’s of course absolutely right about history and how it treats women. Henry VIII was a really despicable person but he’s talked about almost like he was quirky. “oh he killed some wives and divorced others.”

    • DS9 says:

      I’ve always found it interesting the difference in the way we talk of Mary I and Henry VIII. Because they were both fickle, fearful, and desperate and yet viewed so very differently and spoken of differently.

  6. Valiantly Varnished says:

    I recently watched a documentary about the history of the Russian Czars and Catherine the Great for me was the most interesting. She was a true ruler. And her people loved her. It’s only after she died that historians re-wrote her history and tried to diminish her. She did have lovers. But most of them she would be with for years before they would split. She was a serial monogamist. And the one reason why she always refused to re-marry was because she knew that by doing so she would be giving up her power as a leader. And she was right. Just like Elizabeth I was right. The only difference between them on that front is that Catherine owned her sexuality and didn’t hide it or see it as a weakness.

    • DS9 says:

      She was also selective when choosing her lovers as well. They were smart men, effective in their positions and she used them and the relationships wisely.

      • Valiantly Varnished says:

        Exactly. They were her intellectual equals and she often sought advice and conferred with them on matters of state. But the moment she felt they overstepped boundaries with her role as Empress she ended things. What I found most intriguing id that even the lovers she broke up with remained loyal to her and had her back. That speaks volumes

  7. janey says:

    She’s roughly the same age as my mother, if I suggested to her perhaps she’d like to get full make up on, nice outfit, and stay out past 10pm she’d laugh her head off. Helen looks great but where does she get her energy from? She’s amazing.
    I don’t know anything about the horse and I shall keep it that way until Horrible Histories covers it.

  8. Eleonor says:

    You are so right about big necklaces. As I grow older I am more self confident and I wear really big jewelry now.

  9. DS9 says:

    Catherine was an amazing leader, a dynamic personality, and an effective ruler and the backlash that followed her success led all the way to a forest in Yekaterinburg. If Catherine had been a man, I fully believe we would have seen a far more modern Russia. We may have even avoided communism.

    I am happy as hell to see someone with such a bright, honest take on one of the most fascinating women in history get a crack at this bat.

    And please don’t forget that her reign followed that of another female Russian ruler, Empress Elizabeth.

  10. Jaded says:

    She’s a modern day Boudica and takes no prisoners. I adore her.

  11. TQB says:

    That necklace took my breath away. We are blessed to live in the age of Dame Mirren, her timeless beauty, and her magnificent performances of powerful women of history.

  12. Boxy Lady says:

    It’s cool that she’s playing another Russian. I remember her part as a Soviet ballerina in White Knights. I wonder if she speaks Russian in this part as well?

  13. Molly says:

    Catherine the Great was one of the greatest female rulers in history. She was highly effective and successful. She also really loved her adoptive country from all accounts and Russians love her still afaik. So like can this dumb horse rumor finally disappear. Cause it’s really misogynistic.

  14. GMonkey says:

    It’s far more appalling the way history and present day treats poor and marginalized women.

  15. Here In My Jammies says:

    I studied Russian history in college and loved reading about Catherine the Great. When I tried to discuss her I often ran into the horse story. It was from her time’s tabloid press. Despite all of the slander she still made the Great list. I think Peter the Great is the only other Tsar from the modern era in Russia to make it. Catherine was married to a dolt and led a successful coup to overthrow him. Then followed it up with a successful reign. Damn go girl. I mean Tsarina.