Hulu’s ‘The Great’ is a comedy-drama series that focuses on Catherine the Great, Empress of All Russia. Through absurd comedy and biting satire, the historical show highlights the trials and tribulations of being a progressive female ruler in an excessively patriarchal and orthodox society. Created by Tony McNamara, the show has Elle Fanning, Nicholas Hoult, Phoebe Fox, Douglas Hodge, Sacha Dhawan, and Adam Godley at its helm.
The show uses a contemporary lens to examine the chaotic events that follow after Catherine and her supporters overthrow the rule of her husband, Peter III. With fascinating characters possessing unique personalities, the series highlights the various segments of the population of 18th Century Russia. With the Church being a massive influence on the monarchy, the character of the Archbishop, known as “Archie,” emerges as a fascinating player in the high-stakes game of regal power politics. You might be wondering whether the cunning Archie is based on a real person. So, let’s dive right in and find out!
Is Archbishop “Archie” a Real Person?
No, Archbishop “Archie” is not based on a real person. Archie starts off as the Archbishop and ultimately becomes the Patriarch, exerting a powerful influence over the nobles and common folk. His fictional character can be seen as a means of representing the historically verified bond between the church and the state.
The annals of history do confirm the authority of the Russian Orthodox Church in the 18th Century. Thus, with his allegiance sworn to the Russian Orthodox Church, Archie claims to receive visions from God and uses people’s respect for and fear of the church to maintain power. In fact, it is due to Archie that Catherine becomes the wife of Peter, as he had seen her in one of his visions. However, we later find out that though Archie is truly a religious man, he is not above engaging in blatant lying and cunning conspiracies in order to protect the church’s interests. Shrewd and observant, Archie expertly uses people’s weaknesses against them.
History is witness to the fact that the church was a kingmaker in the olden days. In the show, we see how the church controls the printing press and decides exactly what information is handed out to the common folk. Additionally, the church also regulates the dissemination of medicines and medical treatments. Thus, the show highlights the very real interactions between the religious personas, royals, and the common public.
Understandably, Archie’s loyalties shift in order to accommodate the demands of whoever is in power. When Catherine’s radical ideas endanger his position along with the church’s, he does whatever he can to avoid being killed. He frequently points out that, unlike his fellow priests, he is progressive, especially since he’s willing to interact with women. Interestingly, Archie believes that Aunt Elizabeth is the ideal ruler because she is intimately familiar with the political and cultural landscape of Russia.
Although largely present as a creepy, comedic, and cunning presence, Archie does possess a softer side that emerges during his interactions with Marial, Catherine’s best friend and former maid. Having raised Marial himself, he feels responsible for her well-being. Their divided loyalties often lead to arguments, but Archie remains a father figure to Marial.
Thus, Archbishop “Archie” is not based on a real person. His fictional character is simply a means of using exaggerated humor and wacky satire in order to highlight the church’s role in the monarchy.