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stories and histories CHRISTINA OF SWEDEN

CHRISTINA OF SWEDEN
Coffee Break Story...
CHRISTINA OF SWEDEN

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There are some people who were simply born in the wrong era, and the controversial and clever queen Christina of Sweden may very well define herself as such an individual.
With her sharp wit, liberal views, and unorthodox sexual orientation and gender identity, Christina was light years ahead of her time.

Born on December 18, 1626, to King Gustaf II Adolf of Sweden and Maria Eleanora of Brandenburg, Christina was the youngest of the royal couples three princesses, and the only one to survive.
Little did they know, that she would be Swedens most rebellious Queen.

When she was born, Christina was covered in dark peach fuzz-type fur, from head to toe.
She had a large hooked nose, and cried in a strong, hoarse voice, leading the nurses and the Queen to believe that the princess was a prince.
Sadly, though the King was delighted with his new baby girl, Queen Maria was devastated, saying~
Instead of a son, I am given a daughter, dark and ugly, with a great nose and black eyes.
Take her from me; I will not have such a monster!

Though King Gustav treated Christina as if she were a male heir, the Queen only harbored resentment towards her.
Gustav loved that his daughter was a tomboy, partaking in fishing and hunting excursions with utter glee.
All Queen Maria could see, were Christina's inadequacies.
Christina also suffered from a bent back, a deformed chest, and uneven shoulders.

As a child, her mother deliberately dropped her, and pushed her down the stairs on several occasions.
Historians later speculated that Maria Eleanora was suffering from a severe case of postpartum depression, and that it was her deranged abuse that initially harmed her daughter.

Sadly, Christinas loving relationship with her father would come to a tragic end.
In 1632, King Gustav bravely joined his men to fight in the battle of Lützen.
He lost his life in a bloody brawl on the battlefield.
With the death of her beloved father, six-year-old Christina would now inherit the crown.

While the tragic loss devastated the young girl, her mother, Maria, became unhinged due to her grief.
When King Gustavs body was returned, she forbade the court from burying him.
Maria Eleanora spent an unimaginable 18 months clinging to her husbands decomposing body.

She ordered the coffin to remain open, even though the remains of King Gustav were rotting inside.
Maria also demanded that Gustavs heart be removed from his chest.
She then hung the rotting organ above Christinas bed, framed in a golden casket.

To ensure her daughter was mourning the King properly, Maria locked Christina in the darkened room for hours and days at a time, forcing her to sleep under her fathers rotting heart.
Finally, the Swedish chancellor stepped in to stop the madness, and King Gustav was laid to rest.

Christina was the rightful heir, however, she was only six years old and much too young to rule.
Normally, she would be advised by her mother, the widowed Queen, but with her questionable mental state, this was no longer an option.
So, it was decided that the influential Lord High Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna, and four other ministers would rule in Christinas name.

In 1636, the Chancellor and counsel determined that Maria should be separated from her daughter.
They ordered the widow to be placed against her will in confined quarters at Gripsholm Castle, so she could cause no further harm. With her mother in exile, Christina was essentially an orphan at just six years old.

King Gustav thought of everything when leaving his wishes for his daughter in his will.
The monarch made it very clear that Christina should receive the same education as any male heir.
So, Chancellor Oxenstierna took her under his wing, and taught her the ins and outs of politics, a crucial subject for the leader of the realm.

The little Queen would study languages, politics, history, religion, and philosophy for ten hours a day, always wanting to know more.
Considered one of the most educated women of her era, Christina became fluent in Italian, French, German, Danish, Dutch, Arabic, and Hebrew.
She could speak, read, and write a total of eight languages.

As Christina got older, she also got more defiant.
Though her coronation was a grand affair full of pomp and circumstance, the ball gown, velvet robe, and crown jewels felt foreign to the new Queen.
Christina officially held the title of Queen, but in reality, she considered herself the one and only King.

The Queen identified more with her masculine tendencies, then her feminine ones.
She dressed in mens clothing and often wore her hair shaved or in a finely cropped cut.
When speaking of their Queen, people commented that she walked like a man, sat and rode like a man, and could eat and swear like the roughest soldiers.

She was independent, strong, and capable, with no want or need to share her power, wealth, and intentions with a man.
Like her personal hero, Queen Elizabeth I of England, Christina had no desire to marry.
Instead, she was most intrigued by the Catholic teachings of celibacy.
This would prove problematic as time went by.

Christina was comfortable in her skin, despite her sometimes disheveled appearance.
For most of her life, the Queen only slept for a maximum of four hours per day.
She also rarely cared about her appearance.
Aside from dressing in mens clunky clothing, her neverending bedhead became her signature style.

In 1649, she threw the royal court into a tizzy, when she announced she would forever be single.
Though the young monarch made it very clear that she wanted to maintain the crown, she vowed never to marry or have children, leaving Sweden without an heir.
Christina was quick to calm the peoples fears by appointing her cousin, Charles Gustav, as her official successor.

Christina and Charles once had a fling, and were secretly engaged in 1642.
Though they remained close, the Queen called it quits to explore a more enticing proposal.
Christina had developed a friendship with her stunningly beautiful lady-in-waiting, Ebba Sparre.
Because the two women often shared the same bed-chamber, rumors began to circulate that they had an intimate relationship.

In 1648, the Queen signed the Peace of Westphalia treaty, effectively ending the religious wars of Europe.
Though she made her decision based on sound reasoning, Christina also knew firsthand the devastation the carnage had caused.
The drawn-out conflict that took her father's life would finally come to an end.

Rarely did Christina get miffed over the gossip that surrounded her lifestyle.
When she did, there were dire consequences.
Arnold Johan Messenius was the son of a well-respected historian.
Messenius and his own 17-year-old son spent much of their time slandering the Queen, calling her a Jezebel who overindulged in sport and pleasure.

When it got back to Christina, she put a stop to their disrespectful behavior by ordering them both to be executed.
The Swedish people found this harsh, causing her popularity to quickly plummet.

By 1651, Christinas health began to decline.
After feeling sluggish and ill for a short period, the 25-year-old Queen suddenly collapsed, causing her council to immediately send for a doctor.
Though they could determine she had high blood pressure and declining eyesight, the physicians were unable to pinpoint the root cause.

While most medical professionals were stumped, a French doctor finally suggested a radical cure in 1652.
He recommended Christina indulge in warm baths, hot and healthy meals, and a sleep schedule that consisted of more than four hours per day.
Of course, the stubborn Christina didnt listen to her doctors suggestions.
Instead, she changed the course of Swedish history forever.

Shortly after hearing her cure, the Queen was introduced to a man named Antonio Macedo, the secretary to Portugals ambassador.
The pair hit it off, and soon they were having conversaions well into the night, about philosophy and religion, especially Catholicism.
The more they talked, the more Christina began to question her Protestant faith.
After more in-depth discussion, she was convinced she needed to convert.

Whether it was her desire to convert to Catholicism or sheer exhaustion, Queen Christina shocked the world in 1654 by announcing her intention to resign as ruler.
Of course, the council and the court pleaded with her to stay, to which Christina replied,
It is a far greater happiness to obey no one, than to rule the world.
Unable to sway her decision, Christina abdicated the throne in favor of her cousin Charles Gustav on June 6, 1654.
At 28 years old, the now-former Queen was ready to experience life.

After absconding with the royal silverware and palace tapestries, the former Queen disguised herself in a mans cloak, assumed the new name Count Dohna, and set out to travel throughout Europe.
Her newfound zest for life, only exacerbated her lively personality, attracting hordes of people who eventually ended up in her entourage.
Throughout her whirlwind tour, she attended parties and visited nobles, one of which was the Archduke of Austria.
Her insatiable need for the finer things in life, nearly bankrupted this man by the time she moved on to her next destination.

Christina didnt only use her newfound freedom to party and bankrupt noblemen; the former Queen also converted to Roman Catholicism on Christmas Eve, 1654.
This was no easy decision for her as Sweden was a devout Protestant nation that went to war over religion.
After some deep contemplation, Christina chose to follow her heart.

She purposely kept her conversion a secret, so as not to offend the Swedish monarchy or its people.
The alimony from the monarchy was footing the bill for her adventures.
If the news of her conversion reached the royal council, Christina would be cut off for good.

Though Christina managed to keep Sweden in the dark for a while, her popularity in Rome soon gave her away.
Upon her arrival, the Catholic church held a grand event to celebrate her conversion, and then offered her an entire wing in the Vatican as her residence.
Of course, word got back to Sweden immediately.
As she had suspected, all alimony was promptly denied.

Christina didn't let that spoil her time in Rome.
She made a life for herself full of scandal and romance.
Christina began a torrid affair with a bad-boy cardinal named Decio Azzolino.
No more men's clothing for her, the ex-queen was suddenly dressing so provocatively that the Pope himself demanded she raise her necklines.
Head-over-heels, she wrote the Pope an especially spicy letter saying she would "live and die" as Azzolino's "slave."

Azzolino was banished from Rome and told to keep his distance from his lover.
Christina made a move of her own, to the luxurious palace of Fontainebleau in 1657.
Just because Christina didnt believe in marriage didnt mean she was asexual.
Aside from her torrid affair with Azzolino, the former Queen had been rumored to have relationships with a number of high-profile women.

When Christina got word in April that her successor Charles Gustav had died and left behind a five-year-old boy as his only heir, she immediately returned to Sweden.
Once there, the former Queen offered to resume the throne should Gustavs sickly heir take a turn for the worse.
First and foremost, the five-year-old King was alive and well. Secondly, and most importantly, Christina was no longer a Protestant.
There was no way a Catholic would ever rule the Swedish realm. With the councils firm rejection of her offer fresh in her mind, Christina headed to Hamburg.

After converting to Catholicism, she herself was the target of religious persecution.
After a failed kidnapping attempt, she decided it was time someone stood up for the rights of others.
Christina began her crusade by publicly admonishing Louis XIV for his unfair treatment of the Protestants.
She then went to work on Pope Clement, advocating for the protection of Romes Jewish population.

The older Christina got, the less she cared about what people thought of her.
Though she had gained weight over the years, Christina rocked her curves, often wearing short skirts with a tight belt to accentuate her tummy rolls.
The former Queen was still sporting mens fashion too.
Aside from wearing a mans coat, she also styled her hair short and had a light beard.

By age 62, Christinas health was in severe decline.
While recovering from complications due to diabetes, the former Queen developed a severe bacterial infection that ultimately led to pneumonia.
Knowing she didnt have long to live, she sent the Pope a message asking for divine forgiveness.
On April 19, 1689, Christina drew her last breath in Palazzo Corsini at six in the morning.

After receiving her message, the Pope insisted that Queen Christinas body be dressed in full royal regalia and put on display for four days.
Christina was then laid to rest in the Grotte Vaticane.
Though the Pope chose to give her an elaborate funeral and a prestigious burial plot, his decision went against Christinas last wishes.
Being the true rebel that she was, the former Queen asked to be buried in Romes Pantheon without any fuss.


Image~Hulton Fine Art Collection / Fine Art Images / Heritage Images / Getty Images


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