A shy sixteen-year-old girl from Germany is chosen to marry Grand Duke Peter, future Tsar of Russia. But this is only the beginning of a remarkable life for Young Catherine. For her nephew and heir (Reece Dinsdale), Russian Empress Elizabeth (Vanessa Redgrave) picks a wife the scheming ruler believes she will be able to control. But soon after Catherine's (Julia Ormand) arrival in the glittering capital, St. Petersburg, she realizes her story may not end happily ever after. Her new husband is debauched and insane, and she is a pawn in the lethal games of court intrigue. To survive, this naïve young girl must learn to wield her court, her sex and her empire to become Catherine the Great, the most powerful monarch in Russian history.