Anna Protasova

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Anna Stepanovna Protasova
Jean-Louis Voille 001.jpg
Anna Stepanovna Protasova's 1789 portrait by Jean-Louis Voille
Born 1745
Died 1826
St. Petersburg
Father Senator Stepan Feodorovich Protasov
Mother Anisya Nikitishna, née Orlova
Occupation confidant of empress Catherine the Great

Countess Anna Stepanovna Protasova (Анна Степановна Протасова; 1745–1826) was a Russian lady-in-waiting and noble, confidant of empress Catherine the Great.

She was daughter of Senator Stepan Feodorovich Protasov and Anisya Nikitishna, née Orlova, and the cousin of Alexej Orlov, with whom she was reported to have had a relationship. She was the foster parent of a couple girls rumored to have had Orlov as their biological father and either Catherine or Protasova as their biological mother.

She replaced Countess Praskovja Bruce as confidante and first maid-of-honor in 1779. She became lady-in-waiting in 1785. Catherine entrusted her with her most intimate personal affairs. She is most known in history as "l'éprouveuse", the role she played in Catherine's love life. According to legend, she was to "test" the prospective lovers sexually before they became the lovers of Catherine, after they had been suggested by Potemkin, chosen by Catherine, and examined by a doctor for venereal disease. This very same unconfirmed role has also been attributed to her predecessor as lady-in-waiting, Praskovja Bruce. She accompanied Catherine on all her trips and journeys. Protasova is mentioned as "l'éprouveuse" in the poems of Byron.

In 1801, she was given the title of Countess, and remained lady-in-waiting to the Empress Dowager Maria Feodorovna. She died in St. Petersburg.


  • Simon Sebag-Montefiore : Potemkin och Katarina den stora (2005)
  • Marie Tetzlaff : Katarina den stora (1998)