Famous Rulers in History Queen Christina of Sweden Part 1

About the famous Swedish Queen Christina, her history and biography, personal life and birth date.

Famous and Infamous Rulers in History


Vital Statistics: On Dec. 8, 1626, the emptyheaded but beautiful Maria Eleonora, wife of King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, gave birth to a hairy infant covered with a caul. The baby announced its arrival to the world in a deep, commanding voice. The midwives thought it was a boy. There is a possibility that the gender of the child (who turned out to be a girl, Christina) was ambiguous; that she was a pseudohermaphrodite with superficial male genitals but a female reproductive system.

Rickets or an "accident" (perhaps engineered by agents from Poland, which had a claim on the Swedish throne) caused one of Christina's shoulders to be misshapen and higher than the other, a deformity which she called "a slight irregularity in my figure."

Almost all descriptions of her as an adult include remarks about her masculine appearance and manner. An Italian, for example, said that her lips, "which were of a fine red color, might have made a Venus of her, had it not been for so many other details of her physique and her bearing, which would have made one swear she was a Mars." Anne Marie d'Orleans, who said Christina looked "like a pretty little boy," remarked on her actions while watching a performance: "She swore to God, slouched in her chair, stretched her legs this way and that, hung them over the arm of her chair...."

Christina often wore a male wig over her chestnut hair and dressed in men's shoes and a man's coat. Her eyes were large, blue, and fiery; her nose, aquiline; her skin, swarthy, lightly marked with chicken pox scars.

Named queen when she was six (Sweden then had a monarchy officially elected by a council), she took over the throne at the age of 18 and ruled until she abdicated in 1654, at the age of 27. Almost immediately after that, she converted to Catholicism and spent the rest of her life in Rome, where she died on Apr. 19, 1689.

Personal Life: Christina's androgyny--probably partially inborn, certainly intensified by her upbringing--served to make her seem eccentric. Had she been less strong-willed, she might have tried to hide it; as it was, she flaunted it and loved to shock people with her radical opinions on religion (she tended toward free-thinking) and art (she loved nudes and tore the fig leaves off the statues in her house in Rome). Though it is more likely than not that she died a virgin, her contemporaries accused her of having love affairs (and scandalous ones) with people of both sexes. All of this tends to obscure her great accomplishments: a reign that brought peace and culture to Sweden and a career, after her abdication, as a sensitive and sophisticated patron of the arts.

At the time Christina was born, Sweden was involved in the Thirty Years' War. When her father, King Gustavus Adolphus, left for Germany to fight in that war, he had a presentiment of his own death and left instructions with Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna, his personal friend and partner, to provide guardians for his wife, whom he called a "miserable woman," and his four-year-old daughter, if he were killed. His presentiment was right; he was shot and killed at the Battle of Lutzen. At the age of six, Christina officially became Queen of the Swedes, Goths, and Vandals; Great Princess of Finland; Duchess of Estonia and Corelia; and Lady of Ingria, a kingdom her father had brought from obscurity to power. Even then, Christina had an overweening pride. She remembered her election (which in reality took place because she was the daughter of a heroic and beloved king) as a personal victory, believing that, as a little girl of six, she sat on the throne that day "with an air so great that it inspired respect and fear in everyone."

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