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|Christina by Sébastien Bourdon|
|Reign||6 November 1632 – 6 June 1654|
|Coronation||20 October 1650|
|Predecessor||Gustav II Adolf|
|Successor||Charles X Gustav|
|House||House of Vasa|
|Father||Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden|
|Mother||Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg|
|Born||18 December [O.S. 8 December] 1626|
|Died||19 April 1689 (aged 62)|
|Burial||22 June 1689|
St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City
|Christina by Sébastien Bourdon|
|Reign||6 November 1632 – 6 June 1654|
|Coronation||20 October 1650|
|Predecessor||Gustav II Adolf|
|Successor||Charles X Gustav|
|House||House of Vasa|
|Father||Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden|
|Mother||Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg|
|Born||18 December [O.S. 8 December] 1626|
|Died||19 April 1689 (aged 62)|
|Burial||22 June 1689|
St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City
Christina (Swedish: Kristina Augusta; 18 December [O.S. 8 December] 1626 – 19 April 1689), later adopted the name Christina Alexandra, was Queen regnant of Sweden from 1633 to 1654, using the titles of Queen of Swedes, Goths, and Vandals, Grand Princess of Finland, and Duchess of Ingria, Estonia, Livonia and Karelia. She was the only surviving legitimate child of King Gustav II Adolph and his wife Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg. As the heiress presumptive, at the age of six she succeeded her father on the throne of Sweden upon his death at the Battle of Lützen. Being the daughter of a Protestant champion in the Thirty Years' War, she caused a scandal when she abdicated her throne and converted to Roman Catholicism in 1654. She spent her later years in Rome, becoming a leader of the theatrical and musical life there. As a queen without a country, she protected many artists and projects. She is one of the few women buried in the Vatican grotto.
Christina was moody, intelligent, and interested in books and manuscripts, religion, alchemy, and science. She wanted Stockholm to become the Athens of the North. Influenced by the Counter Reformation, she was increasingly attracted to the Baroque and Mediterranean culture that took her away from her Protestant country. Her unconventional lifestyle and masculine dressing and behaviour would feature in countless novels and plays, and in opera and film.
Christina was born in Stockholm in the royal castle Tre Kronor, and her birth occurred during a rare astrological conjunction that fuelled great speculation on what influence the child, fervently hoped to be a boy, would later have on the world stage. The king had already sired two daughters – a nameless princess born in 1620 and then the first princess Christina, who was born in 1623 and died the following year. Excited expectation surrounded Maria Eleonora's third pregnancy in 1626. There was much excitement when the baby was born and was first thought to be a boy as it was hairy and screamed, "with a strong, hoarse voice". Christina later wrote in her autobiography that, "Deep embarrassment spread among the women when they discovered their mistake". The king, though, was very happy, stating, "She'll be clever, she has made fools of us all!". From most accounts, Gustav Adolf appears to have been closely attached to his daughter and she appears to have admired him greatly. Her mother remained disappointed Christina was a girl.
Before Gustav Adolf left for Germany to defend Protestantism in the Thirty Years' war, he secured his daughter's right to inherit the throne, in case he never returned and gave orders that Christina should receive education normally only afforded to boys. Her mother, of the House of Hohenzollern, was a woman of quite distraught temperament and was melancholic. It is possible she was insane. After her father died on 6 November 1632 on the battlefield, Maria Eleonora had him brought home in a coffin, with his heart in a separate box. Maria Eleonora ordered that the king should not be buried until she could be buried with him. As a result, he was not buried until 22 June 1634, more than 18 months later. She also demanded that the coffin be kept open, and went to see it regularly; patting it and taking no notice of the putrefaction. Eventually the embarrassed Chancellor, Axel Oxenstierna, saw no other solution than to have a guard posted at the room to prevent further episodes.
Christina now became the belated centre of her mother's attention. Having previously showed her daughter complete indifference, Maria Eleonora suddenly became perversely attentive to her. Gustav Adolf had decided that in the event of his death, his daughter should be cared for by his half-sister, Catherine of Sweden. This solution did not suit Maria Eleonora, who had her sister-in-law banned from the castle. In 1636 Chancellor Oxenstierna saw no other solution than exile the widow to Gripsholm castle, while the governing regency council would decide when she was allowed to meet her nine-year-old daughter. For the subsequent three years, Christina thrived in the company of her aunt Catherine and her family. After the death of her paternal aunt and foster mother, Catherine of Sweden, Countess Palatine of Kleeburg in 1638, the royal council appointed two foster mothers for the queen: countess Ebba Mauritzdotter Leijonhufvud and Christina Nilsdotter Natt och Dag.
On 15 March 1633 Christina became queen at the age of six, giving rise to the nickname the "Girl King". Christina was educated as a state-child. The theologian Johannes Matthiae Gothus became her tutor; he gave her lessons in religion, philosophy, Greek and Latin. Chancellor Oxenstierna taught her politics and discussed Tacitus with her. Christina seemed happy to study ten hours a day. She learned Swedish as well as German, Dutch, Danish, French and Italian; her talent for languages was nothing short of unique. Oxenstierna wrote proudly of the 14-year-old girl that, "She is not at all like a female" and that she had "a bright intelligence". From 1638 Oxenstierna employed a French ballet troupe under Antoine de Beaulieu, who also had to teach Christina to move around more elegantly.
The Crown of Sweden was hereditary in the family of Vasa, but from King Charles IX's time (reigned 1604–11) excluding Vasa princes descended from a deposed brother and a deposed nephew of his. Gustav Adolf's legitimate younger brothers had died years earlier; his only surviving brother was his father's extramarital son, and therefore there were only legitimate females left. There were no eligible living female lines descended from elder sons of King Gustav I Vasa, so Christina was the heiress presumptive. From her birth King Gustav Adolph recognized his daughter Christina's eligibility even as a female heir, and although called "queen", the official title she had as of her coronation was King.
In 1636–1637 Peter Minuit and Samuel Blommaert negotiated with the government about the founding of New Sweden, the first Swedish colony in the New World. In 1638 Minuit erected Fort Christina in Wilmington, Delaware; also Christina River was named after her. In December 1643, Swedish troops overran Holstein and Jutland in the Torstenson War.
The National Council suggested that Christina join the government when she was sixteen; but she asked to wait until she had turned eighteen, as her father had done. In 1644 she took the throne, although the coronation was postponed because of the war with Denmark. Her first major assignment was to conclude peace with that country. She did so successfully; Denmark handed over the isles of Gotland and Ösel to Sweden, whereas Norway lost the districts of Jämtland and Härjedalen, which to this day have remained Swedish.
Chancellor Oxenstierna soon discovered that Christina held differing political views from his own. In 1645 he sent his son, Johan Oxenstierna, to the Peace Congress in Osnabrück and Münster, presenting the view that it would be in Sweden's best interest if the Thirty Years' War continued. Christina, however, wanted peace at any cost and sent her own delegate, Johan Adler Salvius. Shortly before the conclusion of the peace settlement, she admitted Salvius into the National Council, against Chancellor Oxenstierna's wishes. Salvius was no aristocrat but Christina wanted opposition to the aristocracy present. In 1648 Christina obtained a seat in the Imperial Diet of the Holy Roman Empire when Bremen-Verden and Swedish Pomerania were assigned to Sweden at the Treaty of Osnabrück. In 1648 she commissions 35 paintings from Jacob Jordaens for a ceiling in Uppsala Castle.
In 1649, 760 paintings, 170 marble and 100 bronze statues, 33 thousand coins and medallions, 600 pieces of crystal, 300 scientific instruments, manuscripts and books (including the Sanctae Crucis laudibus by Rabanus Maurus, the Codex Argenteus and the Codex Gigas) were transported to Stockholm. The art, from Prague Castle, had belonged to Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor and was captured by Hans Christoff von Königsmarck during the Battle of Prague and the negotiations of the Peace of Westphalia.
In 1649, with the help of her uncle, John Casimir, and her cousins Christina tried to reduce the influence of Oxenstierna, and she declared Casimir's son, her cousin Charles Gustav, as her heir presumptive. The following year, Christina resisted demands from the other estates (clergy, burgesses and peasants) in the Riksdag of the Estates for the reduction of tax-exempt noble landholdings.
In 1645 Christina invited Hugo Grotius to become her librarian, but he died on his way in Rostock. She appointed Benedict (Baruch) Nehamias de Castro from Hamburg as her Physician in ordinary. In 1647 Johann Freinsheim was appointed. The Semiramis from the North corresponded with Pierre Gassendi; Blaise Pascal offered her a copy of his pascaline. To catalogue her new collection she asked Heinsius and Isaac Vossius to come to Sweden. She studied Neostoicism, the Church Fathers, Islam, and read Treatise of the Three Impostors, a work bestowing doubt on all organized religion  and had a firm grasp of classical history and philosophy. Other illustrious scholars she invited to visit were Claude Saumaise, Pierre Daniel Huet, Gabriel Naudé, Christian Ravis, and Samuel Bochart.
In 1646 Christina's good friend, ambassador Pierre Chanut, corresponded with the philosopher René Descartes, asking him for a copy of his Meditations. Christina became interested enough to start correspondence with Descartes about hate and love. Although she was very busy she invited him to Sweden, Descartes arrived on 4 October 1649. He resided with Chanut, and had to wait till 18 December until he could start with his private lessons and gave her an insight into Catholicism. With Christina's strict schedule he was invited to the castle library at 5:00 AM to discuss philosophy and religion. The premises were icy, and on 1 February 1650 Descartes fell ill with pneumonia and died ten days later. Christina's rigorous philosophical schedule is why many blame her for Descartes death.
Christina was interested in theatre and ballet. She was also herself an amateur actress. Plays had always interested her, especially those of Pierre Corneille. In 1647 Antonio Brunati had built a theatrical setting in the palace. Her court poet Georg Stiernhielm wrote her several plays in the Swedish language, such as Den fångne Cupido eller Laviancu de Diane performed at court with Christina in the main part of the goddess Diana. She invited foreign companies to play at Bollhuset, such as an Italian Opera troupe in 1652 with Vincenzo Albrici and a Dutch theatre troupe with Ariana Nozeman and Susanna van Lee in 1653. Among the French artists she employed at court was Anne Chabanceau de La Barre, who was made court singer.
Christina understood that it was expected of her to provide an heir to the Swedish throne. Her first cousin Charles was infatuated with her and they became secretly engaged before he left in 1642 to serve in the army in Germany for three years. Christina revealed in her autobiography that she felt, "an insurmountable distaste for marriage" and "an insurmountable distaste for all the things that females talked about and did". She slept for three to four hours a night and was chiefly occupied with her studies; she forgot to comb her hair, donned her clothes in a hurry and wore men's shoes for the sake of convenience. However, she was said to possess charm and the unruly hair became her trademark. Her closest female friend and noted passion of her youth was Ebba Sparre, whom she called "Belle". Most of her spare time was spent with la belle comtesse, and Christina often called attention to her beauty. She introduced Sparre to the English ambassador Whitelocke as her "bed-fellow", assuring him that Sparre's intellect was as striking as her body. Despite their relationship, Christina hosted Ebba's wedding to Jakob Kasimir De la Gardie in 1653; the marriage lasted only five years; Ebba visited her husband in Elsinore when he was shot and killed, and their three children all died young. When Christina left Sweden she continued to write passionate letters to Sparre, in which she told her that she would always love her. Christina, though, used the same emotional style when writing to men and women she had never met (those whose writings she admired) and there is conjecture as to the context of her letters to Sparre.
On 26 February 1649, Christina announced that she had decided not to marry and instead wanted her first cousin Charles to be heir to the throne. The nobility objected to this, while the three other estates — clergy, burghers, and peasants — accepted it. The coronation took place in October, 1650. Christina went to the castle of Jacobsdal, where she entered in a coronation carriage draped with black velvet embroidered in gold, and pulled by six white horses. The procession to Storkyrkan was so long that when the first carriages arrived at Storkyrkan, the last ones had not yet left Jacobsdal. All four estates were invited to dine at the castle. Fountains at the market place splashed out wine, roast was served, and illuminations sparkled. The participants were dressed in fantastic costumes, as at a carnival.
Her tutor, Johannes Matthiae, represented a gentler attitude than most Lutherans. In 1644 he suggested a new church order, but was voted down as this was interpreted as excessively Calvinist. Christina, who by then had become queen, defended him against the advice of chancellor Oxenstierna, but three years later the proposal had to be withdrawn. In 1647 the clergy wanted to introduce the Book of Concord (Swedish: Konkordieboken) - a book defining correct Lutheranism versus heresy, making some aspects of free theological thinking impossible. Matthiae was strongly opposed to this and was again backed by Christina. The Book of Concord was not introduced.
In August 1651, she asked for the Council's permission to abdicate, but gave in to their pleas for her to retain the throne. She had long conversations with Antonio Macedo, interpreter for Portugal's ambassador. He was a Jesuit, and in August 1651 smuggled with him a letter from Christina to the Jesuit general in Rome. In reply, two Jesuits came to Sweden on a secret mission in the spring of 1652, disguised as gentry and using false names. Paolo Casati had to gauge the sincerity of her intention to become Catholic. She had more conversations with them, being interested in Catholic views on sin, immortality of the soul, rationality and free will. Though raised to follow the Lutheran Church of Sweden, around May 1652 Christina decided to become Roman Catholic. The two scholars revealed her plans to Cardinal Fabio Chigi and King Philip IV of Spain and Spanish diplomat Antonio Pimentel de Prado was sent to Stockholm.
After reigning almost twenty years, working at least ten hours a day, Christina had what some have interpreted as a nervous breakdown. She suffered with high blood pressure, complained about bad eyesight and pain in her neck. In February 1652 the French doctor Pierre Bourdelot arrived in Stockholm. Unlike most doctors of that time, he held no faith in blood-letting; instead he ordered sufficient sleep, warm baths and healthy meals, as opposed to Christina's hitherto ascetic way of life. She was only 25 and should take more pleasure in life. Bourdelot asked her to stop studying and working so hard and to remove the books from her apartments. The funny Bourdelot showed her the 16 sonnets of Pietro Aretino, which he kept secretly in his luggage. For years Christina knew all the sonnets from the Ars Amatoria by heart and was keen on the works by Marcus Valerius Martialis. By subtle means Bourdelot undermined her principles. She now became an Epicurean. Her mother and de la Gardie were very much against the activities of Bourdelot and tried to convince her to change her attitude towards him; Bourdelot returned to France in 1653 "laden in riches and curses".
In 1651 Christina told the councils she needed rest and the country needed a strong leader. The councils refused and Christina agreed to stay on the condition the councils never again asked her to marry. Within weeks, Christina lost much of her popularity after the beheading of Arnold Johan Messenius, together with his 17-year old son, who had accused her of serious misbehavior and of being a "Jezebel". Instead of ruling she spent most of her time with her foreign friends in the ballroom on Sunday evenings and in the theater.
In 1653 she founded the military Amaranten order. Antonio Pimentel was appointed as its first knight; all members had to promise not to marry (again). In February 1654 she plainly told the Council of her plans to abdicate. Oxenstierna told her she would regret her decision within a few months. In May the Riksdag discussed her proposals. She had asked for 200,000 rikstalers a year, but received dominions instead. Financially she was secured through revenue from the town of Norrköping, the isles of Gotland, Öland and Ösel, estates in Mecklenburg and Pomerania. Her debts were taken over by the treasury.
Her plan to convert was not the only reason for her abdication, as there was increasing discontent with her arbitrary and wasteful ways. Within ten years, she had created 17 counts, 46 barons and 428 lesser nobles. To provide these new peers with adequate appanages, she had sold or mortgaged crown property representing an annual income of 1,200,000 rikstalers. During the ten years of her reign, the number of noble families increased from 300 to about 600, rewarding people like Lennart Torstenson and Louis De Geer for their war efforts and Johan Palmstruch the banker. These donations took place with such haste that they were not always registered, and on some occasions the same piece of land was given away twice.
Christina abdicated her throne on 5 June 1654 in favor of her cousin Charles Gustavus. During the abdication ceremony at Uppsala Castle, Christina wore her regalia which were ceremonially removed from her, one by one. Per Brahe, who was supposed to remove the crown, did not move, so she had to take the crown off herself. Dressed in a simple white taffeta gown she gave her farewell speech with a faltering voice, thanked everyone and left the throne to Charles X, who was dressed in black. Per Brahe felt that she "stood there as pretty as an angel." Charles Gustavus, who was crowned later on that day, proposed her again to marry. Christina laughed and left the country, hoping for a warm reception in Catholic countries. Charles had to move into an empty palace.
In the summer of 1654, she left Sweden in man's clothes with the help of Bernardino de Rebolledo, and rode as Count Dohna, through Denmark. Relations between the two countries were still so tense that a former Swedish queen could not have traveled safely in Denmark. Christina had already packed and shipped abroad valuable books, paintings, statues and tapestries from her Stockholm castle, leaving its treasures severely depleted.
Christina visited Johann Friedrich Gronovius, and Anna Maria van Schurman in the Dutch Republic. In August she arrived in the Southern Netherlands, and settled down in Antwerp. For four months Christina was lodged in the mansion of a Jewish merchant. She was visited by Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria; the Prince de Condé, ambassador Chanut, as well as the former governor of Norway, Hannibal Sehested. In the afternoon she went for a ride, each evening parties were held; there was a play to watch or music to listen to. Christina ran quickly out of money and had to sell some of her tapestries, silverware and jewelry. When her financial situation did not improve the archduke invited her to his Brussels palace on Coudenberg. On 24 December 1654, she converted to the Catholic faith in archduke's chapel. Raimondo Montecuccoli and Pimentel, who had become a close friends, were present. She did not state her conversion in public, in case the Swedish council might refuse to pay her alimony. On top of this, Sweden was preparing for war against Pomerania, which meant that her income from there was considerably reduced. The pope and Philip IV of Spain could not support her openly either, as she was not publicly a Catholic yet. Christina succeeded in arranging a major loan, leaving books and statues to settle her debts.
In September she left for Italy with her entourage of 255 persons and 247 horses. The pope's messenger, the librarian Lucas Holstenius, himself a convert, waited for her in Innsbruck. On 3 November 1655, Christina converted in the Hofkirche and wrote to Pope Alexander VII and her cousin Charles X about it. To celebrate her official conversion L'Argia an opera by Antonio Cesti was performed. Ferdinand Charles, Archduke of Austria, already in financial trouble, was almost ruined by her visit. He was relieved by her departure on 8 November.
The southbound journey through Italy was planned in detail by the Vatican and had a brilliant triumph in Ferrara, Bologna, Faenza and Rimini. In Pesaro Christina got acquainted with the handsome brothers Santinelli, who so impressed her with their poetry and adeptness of dancing that she took them into service, as well as a certain Monadeschi. On 20 December she reached the Vatican, the last distance in a sedan chair designed by Bernini. She was granted her own wing inside the Vatican, and when the pope spotted the inscription symbolizing the northern wind, Omne malum ab Aquilone (meaning "all evil comes from the North"), he ensured that it was rapidly covered with paint.
The entry into Rome proper took place on 23 December, on horseback through Porta Flaminia, which today is known as Porta del Popolo. Christina met Bernini some days later, and they became lifelong friends. She often visited him at his studio, and on his deathbed he wanted her to pray for him, as she used a language that God would understand.
In St Peter's Basilica she knelt in front of the altar, and on Christmas Day she received the sacrament from the Pope himself. In his honour she took the additional names Alexandra Maria – Alexandra not only after the pope, but also in honour of her hero, Alexander the Great. Her status as the most notable convert to Catholicism of the age, and as the most famous woman at the time, made it possible for her to ignore or flout the most common requirements of obeisance to the Catholic faith. She herself remarked that her Catholic faith was not of the common order; indeed, before converting she had asked church officials how strictly she would be expected to obey the church's common observances, and received reassurances. She respected the Pope's position in the Church, but not necessarily his acts as an individual; she once commented on this to one of his servants: The papal summer residence at that time was the Quirinal Palace, located on Monte Cavallo (literally "Horse mountain"). Christina stated that Monte Cavallo might rather be named Monte degli Asini ("Donkey mountain"), as she had never met a pope with common sense during her 30 years in Rome. Christina's visit to Rome was the triumph of Pope Alexander VII and the occasion for splendid Baroque festivities. For several months she was the only preoccupation of the Pope and his court. The nobles vied for her attention and treated her to a never-ending round of fireworks, jousts, fake duels, acrobatics, and operas. At the Palazzo Barberini, where she was welcomed by a crowd of 6,000 spectators, she watched in amazement at the procession of camels and elephants in Oriental garb, bearing towers on their backs.
Christina settled down in the Palazzo Farnese, which belonged to the Duke of Parma, just opposite the church of Saint Birgitta, another Swedish woman who had made Rome her home. Christina opened an academy in the palace on 24 January 1656, called Academy of Arcadia, where the participants enjoyed music, theatre, literature and languages. Every Wednesday she held the palace open to visitors from the higher classes who kept themselves busy with poetry and intellectual discussions. Belonging to the Arcadia-circle was also Francesco Negri, a Franciscan from Ravenna who is regarded as the first tourist of North Cape, Norway. Negri wrote eight letters about his walk through Scandinavia all the way up to "Capo Nord" in 1664. Another Franciscan was the Swede Lars Skytte, who, under the name pater Laurentius, served as Christina's confessor for eight years. He too had been a pupil of Johannes Matthiae, and his uncle had been Gustav Adolf's teacher. As a diplomat in Portugal he had converted, and asked for a transfer to Rome when he learnt of Christina's arrival. However, perhaps the most illustrious of the eminent figures befriended and patronized by Christina was the sculptor-architect-painter, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the greatest artistic genius of the century, to whom the queen showed the highest of personal honors by visiting his home-studio on more than one occasion. "Whoever does not esteem Bernini is not worthy of esteem himself," she is quoted as saying by Domenico Bernini, son of the artist, in his biography, The Life of Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
However the arranged appanage from Sweden did not materialize; Christina lived off loans and donations. Her servants burned the wood from the doors to heat the premises; and the Santinelli brothers sold off works of art that came with the palace. The damage was explained away with the staff not being paid.
29-year-old Christina gave occasion to much gossip when socializing freely with men her own age. One of them was Cardinal Decio Azzolino, who had been a secretary to the ambassador in Spain, and responsible for the Vatican's correspondence with European courts. He was also the leader of the Squadrone Volante, the free thinking "Flying Squad" movement within the Catholic Church. Christina and Azzolino were so close that the pope asked him to shorten his visits to her palace; but they remained lifelong friends. In a letter to Azzolino Christina writes in French that she would never offend God or give Azzolino reason to take offence, but this "does not prevent me from loving you until death, and since piety relieves you from being my lover, then I relieve you from being my servant, for I shall live and die as your slave." His replies were more reserved.
At times, things got a bit out of hand. On one occasion the couple had arranged to meet at the Villa Medici near Monte Pincio, but the cardinal did not show up. Christina hurried over to Castel Sant'Angelo, firing one of the cannons. The mark in the bronze gate in front of Villa Medici is still visible.
Having run out of money and surfeited with an excess of pageantry, Christina resolved, in the space of two years, to visit France. Here she was treated with respect by Louis XIV, but the ladies were shocked by her masculine appearance and demeanour and the unguarded freedom of her conversation.
When visiting the ballet with la Grande Mademoiselle, she, as the latter recalls, "surprised me very much – applauding the parts which pleased her, taking God to witness, throwing herself back in her chair, crossing her legs, resting them on the arms of her chair, and assuming other postures, such as I had never seen taken but by Travelin and Jodelet, two famous buffoons... She was in all respects a most extraordinary creature".
The King of Spain at that time ruled the Duchy of Milan and the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily. The French politician Mazarin, an Italian himself, had attempted to liberate Naples from the Spanish rule against which the locals had fought, but an expedition in 1654 had failed in this. Mazarin was now considering Christina as a possible queen for Naples. The locals wanted no Italian duke on the throne; they would prefer a French prince.
In the summer of 1656 Christina set sail for Marseille and from there travelled to Paris to discuss the matter. Officially it was said that she was negotiating her alimony arrangement with the Swedish king.
On 22 September 1656, the arrangement between her and Louis XIV was ready. He would recommend Christina as queen to the Neapolitans, and serve as guarantee against Spanish aggression. On the following day she left for Pesaro (?), where she settled down while waiting for the outcome of this. As Queen of Naples she would be financially independent of the Swedish king, and also capable of negotiating peace between France and Spain. In the summer of 1657 she returned to France, officially to visit the papal city of Avignon, perhaps to flee the plague in Rome.
In October, apartments were assigned to her at the Palace of Fontainebleau, where she committed an action which stained her memory – the execution of marchese Gian Rinaldo Monaldeschi, her master of the horse. Christina herself wrote her version of the story for circulation in Europe.
For two months, she had suspected Monaldeschi of disloyalty and secretly seized his correspondence, which revealed that he had betrayed her interests and put the blame on an absent member of court. Now she summoned Monaldeschi into a gallery at the palace, discussing the matter with him. He insisted that betrayal should be punished with death. She held the proof of his betrayal in her hand and so insisted that he had pronounced his own death sentence. Le Bel, a priest who stayed at the castle, was to receive his confession in the Galerie des Cerfs. He entreated for mercy, but was stabbed by two of her domestics – notably Ludovico Santinelli – in an apartment adjoining that in which she herself was. Wearing a coat of mail which is now on exhibition outside the gallery, he was chased around the room for hours before they succeeded in dealing him a fatal stab wound. Father Le Bel, who had begged on his knees that they spare the man, was told to have him buried inside the church, and Christina, seemingly unfazed, paid the abbey to hold Masses for his soul. She "was sorry that she had been forced to undertake this execution, but claimed that justice had been carried out for his crime and betrayal. She asked God to forgive him," wrote Le Bel.
Mazarin advised Christina to place the blame on Santinelli and dismiss him, but she insisted that she alone was responsible for the act. She wrote to Louis XIV about the matter, and two weeks later he paid her a friendly visit at Fontainebleau without mentioning it. In Rome, people felt differently; Monaldeschi had been an Italian nobleman, murdered by a foreign barbarian with Santinelli as her executioner. The letters proving his guilt are gone; Christina left them with Le Bel on the day of the murder, and he confirmed that they existed. She never revealed what was in the letters.
The killing of Monaldeschi was legal, since Christina had judicial rights over the members of her court, as her vindicator Gottfried Leibniz claimed. As her contemporaries saw it, Christina as queen had to emphasize right and wrong, and her sense of duty was strong. She continued to regard herself as queen regnant all her life.
When her friend Angela Maddalena Voglia was sent to an abbey by the pope, to remove her from an affair with a cardinal at the Sacro Collegio, Angela succeeded in escaping from the monastery and went into hiding at Christina's, where she was assaulted and raped by an abbot. Understandably, Christina was most upset that this could happen to someone under her roof, and demanded to have the abbot executed, but he managed to escape.
While still in France, she would gladly have visited England, but she received no encouragement from Cromwell. She returned to Rome and resumed her study of arts and sciences.
On 15 May 1658, Christina arrived in Rome for the second time, but this time it was definitely no triumph. Her popularity was lost with her execution of Monaldeschi. Alexander VII remained in his summer residence and wanted no further visits from this woman he now referred to as a barbarian. She stayed at the Palazzo Rospigliosi, which belonged to Mazarin, situated close to the Quirinal Palace; so the pope was enormously relieved when in July 1659 she moved to Trastevere to live in Palazzo Riario, on top of the Janiculus, designed by Bramante. It was Cardinal Azzolino who signed the contract, as well as provided her with new servants to replace Francesco Santinelli, who had been Monaldeschi's executioner.
The Riario Palace became her home for the rest of her life. She decorated the walls with paintings, mainly from the Renaissance; and almost no paintings from northern European painters, except Holbein. No Roman collection of art could match hers. There were portraits of her friends Azzolino, Bernini, Ebba Sparre, Descartes, ambassador Chanut and doctor Bourdelot. Azzolino ensured that she was reconciled with the pope, and that the latter granted her a pension.
In April 1660 Christina was informed that Charles X had died in February. His son, Charles XI, was only five years old. That summer she went to Sweden, pointing out that she had left the throne to her first cousin and his descendant, so if Charles XI died, she would take over the throne again. But as a Catholic she could not do that, and the clergy refused to let her hold Catholic Masses where she stayed. After some weeks in Stockholm she found lodgings in Norrköping town, which was her area. Eventually she submitted to a second renunciation of the throne, spending a year in Hamburg to get her finances in order on her way back to Rome. She left her income to the banker Diego Texeira – his real, Jewish name being Abraham – in return for him sending her a monthly allowance and covering her debts in Antwerp. She visited the Texeira family in their home and entertained them in her own lodgings, which at that time was unusual in relation to Jews.
In the summer of 1662, she arrived in Rome for the third time, followed by some fairly happy years. Some differences with the Pope made her resolve in 1667 once more to return to Sweden; but the conditions attached by the senate to her resuming residence there were now so mortifying that she proceeded no farther than Hamburg. There she was informed that Alexander VII had died. The new pope, Clement IX, had been a regular guest at her palace. In her delight at his election she threw a brilliant party at her lodgings in Hamburg, with illuminations and wine in the fountain outside. However, she had forgotten that this was a Protestant land, so the party ended with her escaping through a hidden door, threatened by stone throwing and torches. The Texeira family had to cover the repairs.
Christina's fourth and last entry in Rome took place on 22 November 1668. Clement IX often visited her; they had a shared interest in plays. Christina had opened a small theatre on the upper floor of the palace. When the pope suffered a stroke, she was among the few he wanted to see at his deathbed. António Vieira became her confessor. In 1671 Christina established Rome's first public theatre in a former jail, Tor di Nona. In 1672 she was mentioned as one of the candidates for the throne in Poland after the death of John II Casimir Vasa.
The new pope, Clement X, worried about the influence of theatre on public morals. When Innocent XI became pope, things turned even worse; within a few years he made Christina's theatre into a storeroom for grain, although he had been a frequent guest in her royal box with the other cardinals. He forbade women to perform with song or acting, and the wearing of decolleté dresses. Christina considered this sheer nonsense, and let women perform in her palace.
She wrote an unfinished autobiography, essays on her heroes Alexander the Great, Cyrus the Great and Julius Cæsar, on art and music (“Pensées, L’Ouvrage du Loisir” and “Les Sentiments Héroïques”) and acted as patron to musicians. Carlo Ambrogio Lonati and Giacomo Carissimi were Kapellmeister; Lelio Colista luteplayer; Loreto Vittori and Marco Marazzoli singers and Sebastiano Baldini librettist. She had Alessandro Stradella and Bernardo Pasquini to compose for her; Arcangelo Corelli dedicated his first work, Sonata da chiesa opus 1, to her  Alessandro Scarlatti directed the orchestra during a three day celebration for James II who was crowned in 1685.
Her politics and rebellious spirit persisted long after her abdication of power. When Louis XIV of France revoked the Edict of Nantes, abolishing the rights of French Protestants (Huguenots), Christina wrote an indignant letter, dated 2 February 1686, directed at the French ambassador Cesar d'Estrees. The Sun King did not approve of this, but Christina was not to be silenced. In Rome, she made Pope Clement X prohibit the custom of chasing Jews through the streets during the carnival. On 15 August 1686, she issued a declaration that Roman Jews were under her protection, signed la Regina – the queen.
Christina remained very tolerant towards the beliefs of others all her life. She on her part felt more attracted to the Spanish priest Miguel Molinos, who she employed as a private theologian. He had been persecuted by the Holy Inquisition for his teachings; proclaiming sin belonged to the lower sensual part of man and was not subject to man's free will. Christina sent him food and hundreds of letters when he was locked up in Castel Sant'Angelo.
In February 1689, the 62-year-old Christina fell seriously ill after a visit to the temples in Campania, and received the last rites. She seemed to recover, but in the middle of April she developed an acute streptococcus bacterial infection known as erysipelas, then contracted pneumonia and a high fever. On her deathbed she sent the pope a message asking if he could forgive her insults – which he could. Cardinal Azzolino stayed at her side until she died on 19 April 1689.
Christina had asked for a simple burial, but the pope insisted on her being displayed on a lit de parade for four days in the Riario Palace. She was embalmed, covered with white brocade, a silver mask, a gilt crown and scepter. "The Queen wore a thin mantle, decorated with hundreds of crowns and fur bordered with ermine, under this a splendid garment in two pieces, thin gloves and drawers of knitted silk and a pair of elegant textile bootees". In similar fashion to the popes, her body was placed in three coffins – one of cypress, one of lead and finally one made of oak. The funeral procession led from Santa Maria in Vallicella to St. Peter's Basilica, where she was buried within the Grotte Vaticane – only one of three women ever given this honour. Her intestines were placed in a high urn. From 2005 to 2011 (when his grave was moved), her marble sarcophagus was positioned next to that of Pope John Paul II.
In 1702 Clement XI commissioned a monument for the queen, in whose conversion he vainly foresaw a return of her country to the Faith and to whose contribution towards the culture of the city he looked back with gratitude. This monument was placed in the body of the basilica and directed by the artist Carlo Fontana. Christina was portrayed on a gilt and bronze medallion, supported by a crowned skull. Three reliefs below represented her relinquishment of the Swedish throne and abjugation of Protestantism at Innsbruck, the scorn of the nobility, and faith triumphing over heresy. It is an unromantic likeness, for she is given a double chin and a prominent nose with flaring nostrils.
Christina had named Azzolino her sole heir to make sure her debts were settled, but he was too ill and worn out even to join her funeral, and died in June the same year. His nephew, Pompeo Azzolino, was his sole heir, and he rapidly sold off Christina's art collections. Venus mourns Adonis by Paolo Veronese, for example, which was war booty from Prague, was sold by Azzolino's nephew and eventually ended up in Stockholm's National Museum. Her large and important library, originally amassed as war booty by her father Gustav Adolf from throughout his European campaign, was bought by Alexander VIII for the Vatican library, while most of the paintings ended up in France, as the core of the Orleans Collection – many remain together in the National Gallery of Scotland. Her collection amounted to approximately 300 paintings. Titian's Venus Anadyomene was among them. At first, removing them from Sweden was seen as a great loss to the country; but in 1697 Stockholm castle burned down, where they would have been destroyed. 1700 drawings from her collection (among them works by Michelangelo (25) and Raphael) were acquired in 1790 by Willem Anne Lestevenon for the Teylers Museum in Haarlem, the Netherlands.
Historical accounts of Christina include regular reference to her physical features, mannerisms and style of dress. Some historians have speculated that references to her physical attributes may be over-represented in related historiography, thus giving the impression that this was of greater interest to her contemporaries than was actually the case. However, given how influential Christina became in her own era (especially for those in Rome), it is likely her style and mannerisms were at least of general interest to those around her and this is reflected in many accounts. As a result of conflicted and unreliable accounts (some no better than gossip), the way in which Christina is described, even today, is a matter of debate.
According to Christina's own autobiography, the midwives at her birth first believed her to be a boy because she was, "completely hairy and had a coarse and strong voice". Such ambiguity did not end with her birth; Christina made cryptic statements about her "constitution" and body throughout her life. Christina also believed a wetnurse had carelessly dropped her to the floor when she was a baby. A shoulder bone broke, leaving one shoulder higher than the other for the rest of her life. A number of her contemporaries made reference to the differing height of her shoulders.
As a child, Christina's mannerisms could probably best be described as that of a tomboy. Her father insisted she should receive "the education of a prince" and some have interpreted this as acceptance, on the part of the king, that she had masculine features or that there was some form of gender ambiguity in her upbringing. In reality, she received the same education as that of her cousins (from her aunt), though accounts suggest she was more physically active and boisterous. She did, however, show a greater interest in boys' sports and games. She was taught (and enjoyed) fencing, horse riding and hunting.
By adulthood, Christina's gender identity was, perhaps, more ambiguous. It was said, "she walked like a man, sat and rode like a man, and could eat and swear like the roughest soldiers". Christina's contemporary John Bargrave described her comportment in a similar fashion but said witnesses ascribed her style more to childishness or madness than masculinity. When she arrived in Rome in 1655, she had shaven her head and wore a big, dark wig. By 1665, according to Edward Browne, she regularly wore a velvet justacorps, cravat and man's perruke.
While Christina may not have been alone in her own time for choosing masculine dress (Leonora Christina Ulfeldt, for example, was known for dressing the same way), she also had physical features some described as masculine. According to the then Duc de Guise (likely Henry II, Duke of Guise), "she wears men's shoes and her voice and nearly all her actions are masculine". When she arrived in Lyon, she again wore a toque and had styled her hair like that of a young man. It was noted that she also wore large amounts of powder and face cream. In one account she, "was sunburnt, and she looked like a sort of Egyptian street girl, very strange, and more alarming than attractive".
Living in Rome, she formed a close relationship with Cardinal Azzolino, which was controversial but symbolic of her attraction to relationships which were not typical for a woman of her era and station. As a result, for a time, Christina's "dormant femininity was awakened". She abandoned her manly clothes and took to wearing décolleté gowns so risqué that they drew a rebuke from the Pope. When Azzolino was sent away from Rome and their relationship dissipated, Christina reverted to her more masculine style.
|“||"She is over sixty years of age, very small of stature, exceedingly fat and corpulent. Her complexion and voice and face are those of a man. She has a big nose, large blue eyes, blonde eyebrows, and a double chin from which sprout several tufts of beard. Her upper lip protrudes a little. Her hair is a light chestnut colour, and only a palms breadth in length; she wears it powdered and standing on end, uncombed. She is very smiling and obliging. You will hardly believe her clothes: a man's jacket, in black satin, reaching to her knees, and buttoned all the way down; a very short black skirt, and men's shoes; a very large bow of black ribbons instead of a cravat; and a belt drawn tightly under her stomach, revealing its rotundity all too well."||”|
Christina's gender ambiguity did not end with her style of dress. Some historians assert she maintained both heterosexual and homosexual relationships during the course of her life or was asexual depending on which source is consulted. According to Veronica Buckley, Christina was a "dabbler" who was, "...painted a lesbian, a prostitute, a hermaphrodite, and an atheist" by her contemporaries, though "in that tumultuous age, it is hard to determine which was the most damning label." Christina declared at the end of her life she was, "neither Male nor Hermaphrodite, as some People in the World have pass'd me for". Regardless of labels, it seems clear Christina did at least challenge traditional ideas of gender and sexuality.
Bargrave recounted that Christina's relationship with Azzolino was both "familiar" (intimate) and "amorous" and that Azzolino had been sent (by the Pope) to Romania as punishment for maintaining it. Buckley, on the other hand, believed there was, "in Christina a curious squeamishness with regard to sex" and that "a sexual relationship between herself and Azzolino, or any other man, seems unlikely". Based on historical accounts of Christina's physicality, some scholars, like Buckley believe her to have been an intersexed individual (someone with a combination of female and male genitals, hormones or chromosomes).
In 1965 these conflicting accounts led to an investigation of Christina's remains. Physical anthropologist Carl-Herman Hjortsjö, who undertook the investigation, explained: "Our imperfect knowledge concerning the effect of intersexuality on the skeletal formation [...] makes it impossible to decide which positive skeletal findings should be demanded upon which to base the diagnosis of intersexuality". Nevertheless, Hjortsjö speculated that Christina had reasonably typical female genitalia because it is recorded that she menstruated. Hjortsjö's osteological analysis of Christina's skeleton led him to state that they were of a "typically female" structure.
Physicians today consider her symptoms to be that of Polycystic ovarian Syndrome, a complex multi-endocrine disorder resulting in many symptoms including hirsutism (male pattern/type hair growth) due to increased androgen hormone levels, and abdominal obesity due to the hormone insulin receptor defects. Also medical specialists consider her reported behavioral issues to be closest to those in the Pervasive Developmental Disorder family, i.e., Asperger's Syndrome as she had very little comprehension for the need of most social norms and little desire to act, dress, or do other social norms, preferring to wearing, acting, and doing only that which she deemed logically practical.
The complex character of Christina has inspired numerous plays, books, and operatic works:
Christina's ancestors in three generations
|Gustav I of Sweden (Vasa)|
|Charles IX of Sweden (Vasa)|
|Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden (Vasa)|
|Adolf, Duke of Holstein-Gottorp|
|Christina of Holstein-Gottorp|
|Christine of Hesse|
|Christina of Sweden (Vasa)|
|Joachim Frederick, Elector of Brandenburg|
|John Sigismund, Elector of Brandenburg|
|Catherine, Princess of Brandenburg-Küstrin|
|Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg|
|Albert Frederick, Duke of Prussia|
|Anna, Duchess of Prussia|
|Marie Eleonore of Cleves|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Christina of Sweden.|
|Wikisource has the text of a 1905 New International Encyclopedia article about Christina, Queen of Sweden.|
ChristinaBorn: 8 December 1626 Died: 19 April 1689
Gustav II Adolf
|Queen of Sweden|
Charles X Gustav
|New title||Duchess of Bremen and Verden|