Born into the illustrious Vorontsov family, she was exceptionally well educated and married at 16 to Prince Mikhail Dashkov. At court she attached herself to the future Catherine the Great, she took a leading part in the coup d'état of 1762. Falling from favour, and following the death of her husband, in 1768 she made an extensive tour of western Europe. In 1782 after her return to Russia she was appointed director of the Imperial Academy of Arts and Sciences, and president of the Academy of Sciences. Exiled during the reign of Emperor Paul, she was recalled by his son. Her son, the last of the Dashkov family, died in 1807, their fortune was bequeathed to a cousin, who took the family name of Vorontsov-Dashkov.