Christina, queen of Sweden

Christina (18 December [O.S. 8 December] 1626 – 19 April 1689) was queen regnant of Sweden from 1632[1] to 1654, with the titles of Queen of the Swedes, Goths (or Geats) and Wends[2] (Suecorum, Gothorum Vandalorumque Regina);[3] Grand Princess of Finland, and Duchess of Estonia, Livonia and Karelia,[4] Bremen-Verden, Stettin, Pomerania, Cassubia and Vandalia,[5] Princess of Rugia, Lady of Ingria and of Wismar.[6]

Christina was the only surviving legitimate child of King Gustav II Adolph and his wife Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg. At the age of six she succeeded her father on the throne upon his death at the Battle of Lützen, but didn’t begin ruling until she reached the age of 18.

Christina is remembered as one of the most educated women of the 1600s.[7] She was fond of paintings, books, manuscripts, and sculptures. With her interest in religion, philosophy, mathematics and alchemy, she attracted many scientists to Stockholm, wanting the city to become the “Athens of the North”. She was intelligent, fickle and moody; she rejected the sexual role of a woman. She caused a scandal when she decided not to marry [8] and in 1654 when she abdicated her throne. She changed her name to Kristina Augusta Wasa[9] and converted to Roman Catholicism, adopting the name Christina Alexandra.[note 1]

At the age of 28 the “Minerva of the North” moved to Rome.[11] The Pope described Christina ‘as “a queen without a realm, a Christian without faith, and a woman without shame”.[12] Notwithstanding all that, she became a leader of the theatrical and musical life and protected many Baroque artists, composers, and musicians.

Being the guest of five consecutive popes,[13] and a symbol of the Counter Reformation, she is one of the few women buried in the Vatican grotto. Her unconventional lifestyle and masculine dressing and behavior has been featured in countless novels, plays, opera and film. In all the biographies on Christina her biological and cultural identity plays an important role.[14]

Early life

Tre Kronor in Stockholm by Govert Dircksz Camphuysen. Most of Sweden’s national library and royal archives were destroyed when the castle burned in 1697.

Axel Oxenstierna

Christina was born 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 stillborn in 1620 and then the first princess Christina, who was born in 1623 and died the following year.[note 2] 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” (probably caused by the lanugo) and screamed, “with a strong, hoarse voice”.[15] In her Autobiography (1681) Christina is flirting with her androgynous personality.[16] She 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!”.[17] 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 to Axel Gustafsson Banér,[11] his marshall, that Christina should receive an education of the type normally only afforded to boys.[18] Her mother, of the House of Hohenzollern, was a woman of quite distraught temperament and was melancholic. It is possible she was insane. After Christina’s 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. 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.[19] As a result, he was not buried until 22 June 1634, more than eighteen months later.

Christina then 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[note 3] and half-brother Carl Gyllenhielm as regent. 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 to exile the widow to Gripsholm castle, while the governing regency council would decide when she was allowed to meet her nine-year-old daughter.[20] For the subsequent three years, Christina thrived in the company of her aunt Catherine and her family. After the death of Catherine her aunt and foster mother in 1638, the royal council appointed two foster mothers for the queen: countess Ebba Mauritzdotter Leijonhufvud and Christina Nilsdotter (Natt och Dag).[21]

The 16-year-old Christina as queen

Christina’s ineligible half-brother Gustav of Vasaborg

Swedish and Polish Vasa

The Crown of Sweden was hereditary in the family of Vasa, but from King Charles IX‘s time onward (reigned 1604–11) it excluded Vasa princes descended from a deposed brother (Eric XIV of Sweden) and a deposed nephew (Sigismund III of Poland). Gustav Adolf’s legitimate younger brothers had died years earlier; therefore there was only one legitimate female left, his half-sister Catharine. However, she came to be excluded in 1615 when she married a non-Lutheran. So Christina became the only heiress presumptive.[note 4] 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.

Queen regnant

On 15 March 1633 Christina became queen at the age of six, giving rise to the nickname the “Girl King“. In 1634 the Instrument of Government (1634), a new constitution, was introduced by Oxenstierna, stipulating that the “King” must have a Privy Council. The 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.

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. 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”. Christina seemed happy to study ten hours a day. Besides Swedish she learned at least eight other languages: German, Dutch, Danish, French, Italian, Arab and Hebrew.[note 5]

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.

Queen Christina of Sweden depicted on an Erfurt (German States), 10 Ducat coin (1645) (obverse)[note 6]
Queen Christina of Sweden depicted on an Erfurt (German States), 10 Ducat coin (1645) (obverse)[note 6]

In 1644 she took the throne, although the coronation was postponed because of the war with Denmark. In December 1643, Swedish troops overran Holstein and Jutland in the Torstenson War. 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.

Christina’s cousin and designated heir, Count Palatine Charles Gustav

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[27]) 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.[28] By 1649-1650, “her desire to collect men of learning round her, as well as books and rare manuscripts, became almost a mania,” Goldsmith wrote.[29] To catalogue her new collection she asked Isaac Vossius to come to Sweden and Heinsius to purchase more books on the market.

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, burghers and peasants) in the Riksdag of the Estates for the reduction of tax-exempt noble landholdings.

Visit from scholars, musicians and Descartes

Queen Christina (at the table on the right) in discussion with French philosopher René Descartes. (Romanticized painting from the 19th century)

From 1638 Oxenstierna employed a French ballet troupe under Antoine de Beaulieu, who also had to teach Christina to move around more elegantly.[30][31] In 1645 Christina invited Hugo Grotius to become her librarian, but he died on his way in Rostock. In 1647 Johann Freinsheim was appointed. The “Semiramis from the North” corresponded with Pierre Gassendi, her favorite author. Blaise Pascal offered her a copy of his pascaline. She had a firm grasp of classical history and philosophy.[32] Christina studied Neostoicism, the Church Fathers, and Islam; she systematically looked for a copy of Treatise of the Three Impostors, a work bestowing doubt on all organized religion.[33] In 1651 the kabbalist Menasseh ben Israel offered to become her agent or librarian for Hebrew books and manuscripts; they discussed his messianic ideas as he had recently spelled them out in his latest book, Hope of Israel. Other illustrious scholars that came to visit were Claude Saumaise, Johannes Schefferus, Olaus Rudbeck, Johann Heinrich Boeckler, Gabriel Naudé, Christian Ravis, Samuel Bochart together with Pierre Daniel Huet and Marcus Meibomius, who wrote a book about Greek dance.

Portrait by Sébastien Bourdon, who exaggerated her eyes.[34]

Christina was interested in theatre, especially those of Pierre Corneille; she was herself an amateur actress.[30][31] In 1647 the Italian architect Antonio Brunati was ordered to build a theatrical setting in one of the larger rooms of the palace.[35] 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.[30][31] 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.[30][31] Among the French artists she employed at court was Anne Chabanceau de La Barre, who was made court singer.[30]

In 1646 Christina’s good friend, ambassador Pierre Chanut, met and corresponded with the philosopher René Descartes, asking him for a copy of his Meditations. He showed the queen some letters. Christina became interested to start correspondence with Descartes. She invited him to Sweden, but Descartes was reluctant until she asked him to organize a scientific academy. Christina send a ship to pick up 2,000 books and the philosopher.[36] Descartes arrived on 4 October 1649. He resided with Chanut, and finished his Passions of the Soul. It is highly unlikely Descartes wrote a “Ballet de la Naissance de la Paix”, performed on her birthday.[37] On the day after, 19 December 1649, he probably started with his private lessons. With Christina’s strict schedule he was invited to the cold and draughty castle at 5:00 AM daily to discuss philosophy and religion. Soon it became clear they did not like each other; she disapproved of his mechanical view, he did not appreciate her interest for Ancient Greek.[38] On 15 January Descartes wrote he had seen Christina only four of five times.[39] On 1 February 1650 Descartes caught a cold. He died ten days later, early in the morning on 11 February 1650, and according to Chanut the cause of his death was pneumonia.[40] Over time there have been speculations regarding the death of the philosopher.[41] Theodor Ebert claimed that Descartes did not meet his end by being exposed to the harsh Swedish winter climate, as philosophers have been fond of telling forever, but by arsenic poisoning.[42][43] It is suggested Descartes was an obstacle in Christina becoming a true Catholic.

Decision not to marry

Ebba Sparre married in 1652 a brother of Magnus Gabriel de la Gardie. Painting by Sébastien Bourdon

Jacobsdal, today called Ulriksdal Palace

Already at the age of nine Christina was impressed by the Catholic religion and the merits of celibacy.[44] Christina understood that it was expected of her to provide an heir to the Swedish throne. She read a biography on the virgin queen Elizabeth I of England with a lot of interest. 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, sharing “a long time intimate companionship” [45] 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” and praising both her mind and beauty.[46][47] When Christina left Sweden she continued to write passionate letters to Sparre, in which she told her that she would always love her.[47] 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.[48]

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.

Religion and personal views

Sébastien Bourdon, Christina of Sweden, 1653. This painting was given by Pimentel to Philip IV of Spain and is now in the Museo del Prado[49][50][51]

Her tutor, Johannes Matthiae, influenced by John Dury and Comenius, since 1638 working on a new Swedish school system, represented a gentler attitude than most Lutherans. In 1644 he suggested a new church order, but was voted down as this was interpreted as Crypto-Calvinism. 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.

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. Grégoire François Du Rietz since 1642 the court physician[52] was called when she suddenly collapsed in 1651.[note 7] She had long conversations about Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Bacon, and Kepler with Antonio Macedo, secretary and interpreter for Portugal’s ambassador.[56] Macedo was a Jesuit, and in August 1651 smuggled with him a letter from Christina to his general in Rome.[57] In reply, Paolo Casati and Francesco Malines came to Sweden in the spring of 1652, trained in both natural sciences and theology. She had more conversations with them, being interested in Catholic views on sin, immortality of the soul, rationality and free will. The two scholars revealed her plans to Cardinal Fabio Chigi. Around May 1652 Christina decided to become Roman Catholic. She sent Matthias Palbitzki to Madrid; in August King Philip IV of Spain sent the Spanish diplomat Antonio Pimentel de Prado to Stockholm.[58][59]

In February 1652 the French doctor Pierre Bourdelot had 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[60] and to remove the books from her apartments. The funny physician showed her the 16 sonnets of Pietro Aretino, which he kept secretly in his luggage. By subtle means Bourdelot undermined her principles. Being a stoic she now became an Epicurean.[61] 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”.[62] For years Christina knew all the sonnets from the Ars Amatoria by heart and was keen on the works by Martial[63] and Petronius.


The Silver Throne of 1654, which Christina abdicated, is still today the formal seat of the Swedish monarch at Stockholm Palace.

Christina told the councils: “I do not intend to give you reasons, [I am] simply not suited to marriage.” The councils refused and Christina agreed to stay on the condition they never again asked her to marry. In 1651 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“.[64][65] 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 Amaranten order. Antonio Pimentel was appointed as its first knight; all members had to promise not to marry (again).[66] In 1653 she ordered Vossius (and Heinsius) to make a list of about 6,000 books and manuscripts to be packed and shipped to Antwerp. 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[67] was not the only reason for her abdication, as there was increasing discontent with her arbitrary and wasteful ways. Within ten years, she and Oxenstierna[68] had created 17 counts, 46 barons and 428 lesser nobles. To provide these new peers with adequate appanages, they 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,[69] rewarding people like Lennart Torstenson, Du Rietz, Louis De Geer and Johan Palmstruch for their efforts. 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.[70]

Christina Regina, engraving after portrait by Anselm van Hulle

Christina abdicated her throne on 5 June 1654 in favor of her cousin Charles Gustav.[67] 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 Gustav, who was dressed in black. Per Brahe felt that she “stood there as pretty as an angel.” Charles Gustav, 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.

Departure and exile

Don Antonio Pimentel de Prado (1604-1671/72) [71]

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.[72][73]

Christina visited Frederick III, Duke of Holstein-Gottorp, and while there thought that her successor should have a bride. She sent letters recommending two of the Duke’s daughters to Charles. Based on this recommendation, he wound up marrying Hedwig Eleonora.[74]

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 Pierre 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 the archduke’s chapel in the presence of the Dominican Juan Guêmes,[75] Raimondo Montecuccoli and Pimentel.[76] She did not declare her conversion in public, in case the Swedish council might refuse to pay her alimony. In addition, 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.[77]

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 announced her conversion to Roman Catholicism 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.

Setting off to Rome

View of the Piazza del Popolo by Caspar van Wittel

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. The official entry into Rome took place on 20 December, in a couch designed by Bernini[78] through Porta Flaminia, which today is known as Porta del Popolo.[note 8] Christina met Bernini on the next day, she invited him to her apartment the same evening and they became lifelong friends. She was granted her own wing inside the Vatican, decorated by Bernini.

Celebrations for Christina of Sweden at Palazzo Barberini on 28 February 1656 when an opera by Marco Marazzoli was performed.

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.

Palazzo Farnese

Ceiling of the Galleria Farnese by Annibale Carracci in Palazzo Farnese

Christina settled down in the Palazzo Farnese, which belonged to the Duke of Parma,[note 9] just opposite the church of Saint Birgitta, another Swedish woman who had made Rome her home. Every Wednesday she held the palace open to visitors from the higher classes who kept themselves busy with poetry and intellectual discussions. Christina opened an academy in the palace on 24 January 1656, called Academy of Arcadia, where the participants enjoyed music, theatre, literature and languages. The poet Reyer Anslo was presented to her. Belonging to the Arcadia-circle was also Francesco Negri, a Franciscan from Ravenna who is regarded as the first tourist of North Cape, Norway. [note 10] Another Franciscan was the Swede Lars Skytte, who, under the name pater Laurentius, served as Christina’s confessor for eight years.[note 11]

Letter from Queen Christina to Decio Azzolino in the National Archives of Sweden See Wikimedia Commons for the others. Category:Letters by Christina of Sweden to Cardinal Decio Azzolino (1666–1668)

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.[79] 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 on 26 January 1676[80] to Azzolino Christina writes (in French) that she would never offend God or give Azzolino reason to take offense, 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.” Having promised to keep up celibacy his replies were more reserved.[note 12]

Visits to France and Italy

The King of Spain at that time ruled the Duchy of Milan and the Kingdom of Naples. 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; the Duke of Guise gave up. Supported by the Duke of Modena Mazarin was now considering Christina as a possible queen for Naples, who lived off loans and donations. The locals wanted no Spanish duke as viceroy on the throne. Christina send her all her Spanish servants, including her confident Pimentel and her confessor Guêmes home.[82] On 20 Juli 1656 Christina set sail from Civitavecchia for Marseille; early August she traveled to Paris to discuss her plans. Officially it was said that she was negotiating her alimony arrangement with the Swedish king, as the arranged appanage from Sweden did not materialize,. Christina also feared for her income as her cousin had begun a war with Catholic Poland, the so-called Second Northern War.

On 8 September she arrived in Paris and was shown around, but the ladies were shocked by her masculine appearance and demeanor 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”.[83]

She was treated with respect by the young Louis XIV and his mother in Compiègne. On 22 September 1656, the arrangement between her and Louis XIV was ready. He would recommend Christina as queen to the Kingdom of Naples, and serve as guarantee against Spanish aggression. As Queen of Naples she would be financially independent of the Swedish king, and also capable of negotiating peace between France and Spain.[note 13]

On her way back Christina visited the beautiful and atheistic Ninon de l’Enclos in the convent at Lagny-sur-Marne. Early October she left France and arrived in Turino. During the Winter Christina lived in the apostolic palace in Pesaro, probably to flee the plague in Rome. (The plague infested several regions including Naples, where 250,000 people would die within two years.[84]) In June 1657 she returned to France, maybe not so anxious to become queen of Naples. In Fontainebleau she was ordered by the court to halt.

The death of Monaldeschi

Staircase of the château

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.[85] Christina herself wrote her version of the story for circulation in Europe.

Galerie des Cerfs

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 say a number of 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. While staying in the Louvre at Mazarin, she would gladly have visited England, but she received no encouragement from Cromwell. Anne of Austria was impatient to be quit of her guest; Christina had no choice save to depart. She returned to Rome and resumed her study of arts and sciences.

Back to Rome

The space that served as Christina’s bedroom in the Palazzo Corsini.

On 15 May 1658, Christina arrived in Rome for the second time, but this time it was definitely no triumph. With the execution of Monaldeschi her popularity was lost. Pope Alexander VII remained in his summer residence and wanted no further visits from her. He described her as ‘a woman born of a barbarian, barbarously brought up and living with barbarous thoughts […] with a ferocious and almost intolerable pride’.[86]. She stayed at the Palazzo Rospigliosi, which belonged to Mazarin, the French cardinal, 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, her “bookkeeper” who signed the contract, as well as provided her with new servants to replace Francesco Santinelli, who had been Monaldeschi’s executioner.[note 14]

The Riario Palace became her home for the rest of her life. She decorated the walls with tapestries by Giovanni Francesco Grimaldi[87] and 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.

Revisiting Sweden

Image of Queen Christina on a wall of Stockholm Palace.

In April 1660 Christina was informed that Charles X Gustav 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 she was a Catholic that was impossible, and the clergy refused to let the priests in her entourage celebrate any Masses. Christina left Stockholm and went to Norrköping. 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. Already in 1654 she left her income to the banker Diego Teixeira  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. Differences with the Pope made her resolve in 1666 once more to return to Sweden; it seems primarily to protect her financial interests. She proceeded no farther than Norrköping. Christina decided to go back to Hamburg until the Riksdag of the Estates allowed her to travel to Stockholm. There she was informed that Alexander VII had died in May. The new pope, Clement IX, a victory for the squadrone,[88][89] 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. The party enraged Hamburg’s Lutheran populace, and the party ended in shooting, an attempt to seize the Queen, and her escape in disguise through a back door.[90] The Texeira family had to cover the repairs.[48] Again she met with the charlatan Giuseppe Francesco Borri.[91]

On 16 September 1668, John II Casimir abdicated the Polish–Lithuanian throne, and returned to France. The Polish monarchy was elective and Christina made an attempt to gain the right to rule Poland.[92] She recommended herself being Catholic, an old maid and intended to remain one.[93] She had Pope Clement IX’s support; but her failure seemed to please her since this meant that she could return to her beloved Azzolino.[94] She left the city on 20 October 1668.

Home to Rome and death

View of Rome by Caspar van Wittel. The Teatro Tor di Nona is somewhere to the left; along the Tiber, but across from the Castel Sant’Angelo.[95]

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 organized meetings of the Accademia in the Great Hall[96] which had ‘a platform for singers and players’.[97] When the pope suffered a stroke, she was among the few he wanted to see at his deathbed. In 1671 Christina established Rome’s first public theatre in a former jail, Tor di Nona.[98]

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. António Vieira became her confessor.

She wrote an unfinished autobiography, of which there are several drafts extant,[99] 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”)[32] and acted as patron to musicians and poets as Vincenzo da Filicaja.[note 15] Carlo Ambrogio Lonati and Giacomo Carissimi were Kapellmeister; Lelio Colista luteplayer; Loreto Vittori and Marco Marazzoli singers and Sebastiano Baldini librettist.[100][101] She had Alessandro Stradella and Bernardo Pasquini to compose for her; Arcangelo Corelli dedicated his first work, Sonata da chiesa opus 1, to her.[102][103] On 2 February 1687 Corelli or Alessandro Scarlatti directed a tremendous orchestra [104] performing a Pasquini cantata in praise for James II, England’s first Catholic monarch since the Tudor Queen Mary[105] to welcome Roger Palmer, 1st Earl of Castlemaine as the new ambassador to the Vatican, accompanied by the painter John Michael Wright, who knew Rome and spoke Italian.[106]

Decio Azzolino in 1670 by Pietro Balestra

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 appreciate her views, 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 views of the Spanish priest Miguel Molinos, whom she employed as a private theologian. He had been investigated by the Holy Inquisition for proclaiming that 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.[62]

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 suffered from diabetes mellitus.[34] Christina 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. Cardinal Azzolino stayed at her side until she died on 19 April 1689.


Queen Christina’s monument in St. Peter’s Basilica

Christina’s sarcophagus in the extensive papal crypt at the Vatican

Christina had asked for a simple burial in the Pantheon, Rome, 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”.[107] 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 on 2 May 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.[note 16]

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 somehow ended up in Sweden’s Nationalmuseum. Her large and important library was bought by Alexander VIII for the Vatican library, while most of the paintings ended up in France,[48] 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.[108]

Appearance, body, and comportment

Christina by David Beck

Historical accounts of Christina include regular reference to her physical features, mannerisms and style of dress. Christina was known to have a bent back, a deformed chest, and irregular shoulders. 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.[109] 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.[79][109] 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.[107]

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 wet-nurse 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.[note 17] 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 those 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.[62] 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.

Portrait of Christina; painted in 1661 by Abraham Wuchters.

Christina in her old age

As an adult, it was said that Christina “walked like a man, sat and rode like a man, and could eat and swear like the roughest soldiers”.[62] 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.[79] When she arrived in Rome in 1655, she had shaven her head and wore a big, dark wig.[62] By 1665, according to Edward Browne, she regularly wore a velvet justacorps, cravat and man’s perruke.[62]

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.[62][note 18][111] According to Henry II, Duke of Guise, “she wears men’s shoes and her voice and nearly all her actions are masculine”.[112] 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”.[62]

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.[79][113] She abandoned her manly clothes and took to wearing décolleté gowns so risqué that they drew a rebuke from the Pope.[62]

As an older woman, Christina’s style changed little. François Maximilian Misson (visiting Rome in the Spring of April 1688):

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.[62]

Gender ambiguity

Christina’s gender ambiguity did not end with her style of dress. She is thought to have been a lesbian, and her affairs with women were noted during her lifetime;[47] Christina seems to have written passionate letters to Ebba Sparre and Guilliet suggested a relationship between Christina and Gabrielle de Rochechouart de Mortemart, Rachel, a niece of Diego Teixeira,[114] and the singer Angelina Giorgino.[115] Some historians assert she maintained hetero,[116] non-sexual,[117] homosexual, or bisexual relationships during the course of her life depending on which source is consulted.[118][119] 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.”[62][120] 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”.[62]

Christina owned “Venus rising from the sea” a painting by Titian.

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.[79] 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”.[62] It is not known if she was born with a Disorder of Sex Development (DSD) (with features of intersex or pseudohermaphroditism), but this could explain the confusion about Christina’s gender in the first few days. Based on historical accounts of Christina’s physicality, some scholars believe that she may have been an intersex individual (someone with a combination of female and male genitals, hormones or chromosomes).[62][121][122]

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 intersex on the skeletal formation […] makes it impossible to decide which positive skeletal findings should be demanded upon which to base the diagnosis” of an intersex condition. Nevertheless, Hjortsjö speculated that Christina had reasonably typical female genitalia because it is recorded by her physicians Bourdelot and Macchiati that she menstruated.[123] Hjortsjö’s osteological analysis of Christina’s skeleton led him to state that they were of a “typically female” structure.[124]

Some physicians consider her symptoms to be those of polycystic ovary 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. Others consider her reported behavioral issues to be closest to those in the Pervasive Developmental Disorder family, i.e., Asperger’s Syndrome.


Greta Garbo in Queen Christina

The complex character of Christina has inspired numerous plays, books, and operatic works:

  • Jacopo Foroni‘s 1849 opera Cristina, regina di Svezia is based on the events surrounding her abdication. Other operas based on her life, include Alessandro Nini‘s Cristina di Svezia (1840), Giuseppe Lillo‘s Cristina di Svezia (1841), and Sigismond Thalberg‘s Cristina di Svezia (1855)
  • August Strindberg‘s play Kristina (1901) depicts her as a protean, impulsive creature.
  • Zacharias Topelius wrote a historical allegory Stjärnornas Kungabarn (1899-1900) and portrays her, like her father, as having a mercurial temperament, quick to anger, quicker to forgive.
  • Kaari Utrio portrayed her tormented passions and thirst for love in Kartanonherra ja kaunis Kristin (1969).
  • Laura Ruohonen wrote “Queen C” (2003), which presents a woman centuries ahead of her time who lives by her own rules.[note 19]
  • Christina’s life was famously fictionalised in the classic feature film Queen Christina (1933). This film, starring Greta Garbo, depicted a heroine whose life diverged considerably from that of the real Christina. Nonetheless, for some Christina became a symbolic icon of cross-dressing, transsexuality and possible bisexuality.[125]
  • In The Abdication (1974), starring Liv Ullmann, Christina arrives in the Vatican and falls in love with cardinal Azzelino. The script was based on a play by Ruth Wolff.
  • Comedian Jade Esteban Estrada portrayed her in the solo musical ICONS: The Lesbian and Gay History of the World Vol. 2.
  • Anders Fager‘s horror novel “I saw her today at the reception” hints at Christina’s magical interest and that she might have staged her own death in order to escape from the public eye.


Christina’s ancestors in three generations

    Gustav I of Sweden (Vasa)
 Charles IX of Sweden (Vasa)  
  Margaret Leijonhufvud
 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


  • Alexandra was a confirmation name in 1654, chosen in honour of the reigning pope, Alexander VII and one of her heroes, Alexander the Great. The pope had urged her to also add “Maria” in honour of the Virgin Mary, but she did not want it, and signed her name only “Christina Alexandra”, although Catholic chroniclers have assigned “Maria” to her [10]
  • Both were buried in Riddarholmskyrkan in Stockholm.
  • She was married to John Casimir, Count Palatine of Kleeburg, and moved home to Sweden after the outbreak of the Thirty Years’ war. Their children were Maria Eufrosyne, who later married one of Christina’s close friends Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie, and Karl Gustav, who inherited the throne after Christina.
  • The Polish King Władysław IV Vasa, like his father Sigismund III Vasa, had the life ambition of attaining the Swedish throne by using his royal status and power in Poland and Lithuania, which, to serve his purpose, he attempted to strengthen. Having secured the eastern front, the King was able to concentrate on the recovery of Baltic areas lost by his father to Sweden. Władysław IV wanted to take advantage of the Swedish defeat at Nördlingen and fight for both the territories and his Swedish dynastic claims. The Poles were suspicious of his designs and war preparations and the King was able to proceed with negotiations only, where his unwillingness to give up the dynastic claim weakened the Commonwealth’s position. Władysław should renounce his claim to the Swedish throne [22] Władysław declined.[23]
  • Letters still exist, written by her in German to her father when she was five. When the ambassador of France, Pierre Hector Chanut, arrived in Stockholm in 1645, he stated admiringly, “She talks French as if she was born in the Louvre!” (According to B. Guilliet she spoke a sort of Liège dialect.)
  • Between 1631 and 1648, during the Thirty Years’ War, Erfurt was occupied by Swedish forces,[24] thus the effigy of Queen Christina appears on the 1645 Erfurt 10 Ducat (Portugaloser). There are only seven gold coins known to exist bearing the effigy of Queen Christina: a unique 1649 five ducat,[25] and six 1645 10 ducat specimen.[26]
  • Petrus Kirstenius was invited by Axel Oxenstierna to become a personal physician of Queen Christina of Sweden and Professor of Medicine at Uppsala University in 1636. Grégoire François Du Rietz became the physician in 1642. Around 1645? she appointed Benedict (Baruch) Nehamias de Castro from Hamburg as her Physician in ordinary. Wullenius was her physician since 1649, and when Descartes fell ill. Hermann Conring was invited in 1650, but he seems to have rejected the offer. Du Rietz was called when she suddenly collapsed in 1651. For an hour she seemed to be dead. In August 1651, she asked for the Council’s permission to abdicate, but gave in to their pleas for her to retain the throne. In February 1652 the French doctor Pierre Bourdelot arrived in Stockholm. Otto Sperling , who was doctor at the household of Leonora Christine, met Christina in Sweden in the winter of 1653. In July 1654 the English physician Daniel Whistler returned to London. In Rome Giuseppe Francesco Borri came to see her in 1655 and after 1678 when he was released from prison; Cesare Macchiati traveled with her to Sweden, he was her physician until her death;[53] Romolo Spezioli after 1675.[54][55] Nikolaes Heinsius the Younger arrived in Rome in 1679, when he became her personal physician until about 1687.
  • Bernini had decorated the gate with Christina’s coat of arms (an ear of corn) beneath that of Pope Alexander (six mountains with a star above). Also today one can read the inscription Felici Faustoq Ingressui Anno Dom MDCLV (“to a happy and blessed entry in the year 1655”).
  • Quite a remarkable turn of events considering the Farnese had been in open conflict with the Papacy only seven years earlier at the conclusion of the Wars of Castro. Now the Church’s honoured guest was a guest of the family against which the Church had fought.
  • Negri wrote eight letters about his walk through Scandinavia all the way up to “Capo Nord” in 1664.
  • 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.
  • Christina wrote him many letters during her travels. After her death Azzolino burnt most of their correspondence; about 80 have survived. Some details were written in a code that was decrypted by Carl Bildt, in Rome around 1900.[81]
  • Mazarin however found another arrangement to ensure peace; he strengthened this with a marriage arrangement between Louis XIV and his first cousin, Maria Theresa of Spain – the wedding took place in 1660. But this was unknown to Christina, who sent different messengers to Mazarin to remind him of their plan.
  • It is not unlikely he also had stolen from Christina’ for years.
  • In her basement there was a laboratory, where she, Giuseppe Francesco Borri and Azzolino experimented with alchemy.
  • 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.
  • E. Essen-Möller and B. Guilliet suggest it had to do with her alleged intersex condition.[110]
  • Her contemporary Samuel Pepys, for example, describes women riding horses in mannish clothing.
  1. First performed at the Finnish National Theatre in 2002, the play has since been translated into nine languages and staged internationally. “Queen C” has been performed at the Royal National Theatre in Sweden, as well as in Australia, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Germany and the USA, and as a stage reading in many other countries.


  1. Sarah Waters (1994) A Girton Girl on a Throne: Queen Christina and Versions of Lesbianism, 1906-1933 In: Feminist Review. No. 46, Sexualities: Challenge & Change (Spring, 1994), pp. 41-60 [3]


  • Åkerman, S. (1991). Queen Christina of Sweden and her circle : the transformation of a seventeenth century philosophical libertine. New York: E.J. Brill. ISBN 90-04-09310-9.
  • Buckley, Veronica (2004). Christina; Queen of Sweden. London: Harper Perennial. ISBN 1-84115-736-8.
  • Clarke, Martin Lowther (1978) The Making of a Queen: The Education of Christina of Sweden. In: History Today Volume 28 Issue 4 April 1978
  • Essen-Möller, E. (1937). Drottning Christina. En människostudieur läkaresynpunkt. Lund: C.W.K. Gleerup.
  • Goldsmith, Margaret L. (1935). Christina of Sweden; a psychological biography. London: A. Barker Ltd.
  • Granlund, Lis (2004). “Queen Hedwig Eleonora of Sweden: Dowager, Builder, and Collector”. In Campbell Orr, Clarissa. Queenship in Europe 1660-1815: The Role of the Consort. Cambridge University Press. pp. 56–76. ISBN 0-521-81422-7.
  • Hjortsjö, Carl-Herman (1966). The Opening of Queen Christina’s Sarcophagus in Rome. Stockholm: Norstedts.
  • Hjortsjö, Carl-Herman (1966). Queen Christina of Sweden: A medical/anthropological investigation of her remains in Rome (Acta Universitatis Lundensis). Lund: C.W.K. Gleerup.
  • Jonsson, L. Ann-Marie Nilsson & Greger Andersson: Musiken i Sverige. Från forntiden till stormaktstidens slut 1720 (“Music in Sweden. From Antiquity to the end of the Great power era 1720”) (Swedish)
  • Löfgren, Lars : Svensk teater (Swedish Theatre) (Swedish)
  • Mender, Mona (1997). Extraordinary women in support of music. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. pp. 29–35. ISBN 0-8108-3278-X.
  • Meyer, Carolyn. Kristina, the Girl King: Sweden, 1638.
  • Platen, Magnus von (1966). Christina of Sweden: Documents and Studies. Stockholm: National Museum.
  • Stolpe, Sven (1996). Drottning Kristina. Stockholm: Aldus/Bonnier.
  • Torrione, Margarita (2011), Alejandro, genio ardiente. El manuscrito de Cristina de Suecia sobre la vida y hechos de Alejandro Magno, Madrid, Editorial Antonio Machado (212 p., color ill.) ISBN 978-84-7774-257-9.



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