Famous Rulers in History Queen Christina of Sweden Part 4

About the famous Swedish Queen Christina, history and biogaphy of her reign and rule of Sweden.

Famous and Infamous Rulers in History


Besides bringing peace, her most important contribution to her country was cultural. During her reign, the first newspaper in Sweden was established, the school system was reformed, several colleges were founded, foreign study was encouraged, and a printing house was begun in Stockholm.

Christina brought foreign scholars to court, among them the philosopher Rene Descartes. She demanded that Descartes come to instruct her at 5:00 A.M. three days a week, which he did, even though he was a late riser. She questioned him about the interplay between science and religion. He tried to persuade her that all animals are mechanisms, and she responded by saying she never saw a watch give birth to baby watches, a statement that probably strengthened his impression that she had no understanding of philosophy. After two months of this, he caught a cold, which developed into pneumonia, causing his death in the winter of 1650.

After the war, class rivalry in Sweden flared. By skillful, tricky maneuvering, Christina kept the country from civil war. However, partly because of her extravagance, Sweden was suffering an economic crisis, which triggered a short-lived rebellion in 1651.

By August of that year, Christina was determined to abdicate but relented when Oxenstierna and 13 councillors signed a petition begging her to stay. However, her interest in Roman Catholicism, banned in Sweden, was steadily growing, as she surreptitiously interrogated foreign Catholics who came to court, some of whom she invited by subterfuge. Influenced by the French doctor Pierre Bourdelot, who cured her of what may have been colitis, she became interested in the freethinking libertine movement and read its literature, which was critical of the New Testament and which, according to Rene Pintard, "make pious folk shudder." Somehow Christina got the idea that the Catholic Church was more tolerant than the Protestant Church, and in spite of her religious doubts, she became enough of a believer to want to convert.

In 1654 she insisted on abdicating. At the ceremony, looking like a "lovely angel," she removed the crown from her head and divested herself of her regalia to stand there in a simple white silk dress. Four hours later, Charles Gustavus was crowned king. He turned out to be an excellent choice--decisive, able to win victories. Once she said that making him king was "just like God creating the first man."

However, her reign was costly, and she was too free, some of her critics said, in giving away crown lands. Historian S. I. Olofsson has said, in regard to her endorsement of the election of the king of Hungary (a Hapsburg, backed by Spain) as Holy Roman Emperor: "Thus for the sake of her own private plans, Christina undermined one of the main pillars of Sweden's claim to be a great power. The country's symbolic position as leading Protestant power in Germany and promoter of peace in central Europe was lost in consequence."

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