She came to the court from one of the French colonies, sent by her noble father to work as Empress Catherine's handmaiden, as a means of completing her education before a suitable marriage was arranged.
The girl was a true beauty - dark-skinned and perfect, the more daring courtiers whispered that she eclipsed even the Empress herself. Men vied openly for the promise of her hand, or less than that, to be granted a smile or a dance at the imperial balls. It was widely known that she'd have the pick of the nobility of several European countries, when her time came to marry.
All of this reached the ears of the Empress in fairly short order, and she took the girl under her wing - or, some said less charitably, determined the need to keep a potential rival close at hand.
And so the St. Croix girl quickly became the most favoured - at least seemingly - of Empress Catherine's women, going so far as to sleep in her room at night, for reasons both ladies refused to explain. It was soon rumoured abroad that the girl exerted a strange influence over the Empress, had her ear on matters of the law, and the life or death of certain prisoners. And then the whispers started, begun by a chambermaid, that there was only one bed to be seen in the room, and the two women shared it.
The Empress' advisors were naturally concerned by this, and agreed unanimously that the girl would have to be watched, and perhaps it might be necessary to take more… expedient action in the future. But for the moment, they were agreed on one other point also: her infatuation with Monet St. Croix, embarrassing and potentially dangerous though it might be, was indisputably better than the business with the horse.