As capital of the Russian empire from the early eighteenth century until the fall of the Romanov dynasty in 1917, St Petersburg has often been seen as Russia's 'window onto Europe'. From its origins as an isolated military settlement at its foundation, St Petersburg grew rapidly to become a major European capital under Catherine the Great. This book examines the city's development in the crucial period before Catherine's accession and its development as a suitable seat for the Russian imperial court. The court played a leading role in fostering the various cultural changes that were introduced in Russia during the eighteenth century. In exploring the ceremonial and social life of St Petersburg during this period, the foundation for the glittering courts of the later Romanov rulers, the book highlights another important aspect of the relationship between Russia and Europe.