These depictions included the most notorious myth of all: it was claimed that, during an orgy of bestiality, Catherine died when the harness that was suspending a stallion above her broke, causing her to be crushed by the horse. She would never marry again, instead taking lovers whom she promoted to key positions in the Russian government. In reality she died from a stroke. Cleopatra was said to have offered men a night of lovemaking with her at the cost of their lives. Anne Boleyn was falsely accused of affairs with five different men, including incest with her brother. The use of horse-riding as a sexual metaphor had a long history in libelous attacks on courtly women. Of this change in partners, Catherine wrote to a friend: "Why do you reproach me because I dismiss a well-meaning but extremely boring bourgeois in favor of one of the greatest, the most comical and amusing, characters of this iron century?
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