Screen legend Helen Mirren will play the lead role in a new Sky and HBO drama about Catherine the Great.

The four-part drama delves into the politically tumultuous and sexually charged court of the Russian monarch, who was the most powerful female ruler in history.

"I am very excited by the possibility of embodying a woman from history who grabbed and then wielded great power," said Helen Mirren, who is of Russian descent and originally surnamed Mironoff.

"She rewrote the rules of governance by a woman, and succeeded to the extent of having the word Great attached to her name, Catherine the Great.

"I am very grateful to have HBO and Sky as partners in this endeavour. There are no other homes on television that bring the support and understanding needed for this kind of project."

Catherine wielded supreme power throughout Russia for nearly half of the 18th century and was a strong-minded, independent, brilliantly intelligent and sexually liberated woman.

The mini-series will concentrate on the latter stages of her reign and her passionate affair with Grigory Potemkin. Unable to publicly marry and famously promiscuous, they develop a unique and devoted relationship, overcoming their adversaries and reshaping Russia.

Catherine the Great will air on Sky Atlantic and TV streaming service NOW TV in Ireland next year.

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