10/16/2008

Woman of the week - Queen Christina of Sweden

Name: Christina (Kristina) Augusta
after her abdication sometimes known as countess Dohna
Born: 18 December 1626, Stockholm, Sweden
Dead: 19 April 1689, Rome, Italy
Married to: None
Occupation: Queen

Christina was born as the third daughter of Gustav II Adolf of Sweden and Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg - the two earlier were dead at Christina's birth. The couple never had a son so Christina was raised as the heir to the throne, in spite of her sex. This got even more important after 1632 when her father died. She was of course too young to rule but she was brought up strictly as an heir to a throne should be and was taught a myriad of things, all the way from bookly wisdom to riding and fencing. The family situation at home was rather disheartening for the child-queen. Her mother was close to the edge of insanity after the loss of her husband (which included postponing the funeral well over a year) and did not wish to leave her only child in the hands of others - while the king before his death had ordered that Christina was to be brought up not by her mother but by her aunt, Catharina of Pfalz. So she was until Catharina passed away when Christina was 12.

In 1644 Christina ascended the throne and she would rule for ten years. She did so with mixed results. She clearly had a knack for political negotiations, Sweden was a European super-power at the time, and she continued to work for it to remain as such, negotiating peace with the arch-enemy Denmark with good terms for Sweden and such. Her knack for economical questions was less impressive though. She cared little for the financial angle of things, she loved to give titles and land to people she thought was deserving - and there were far more of them than the state finances really could cover. The country was hurrying towards bankruptcy. Christina showed little interest in that and instead spent her time devouring all knowledge she would come across, she was genuinely interested in both science and the arts - and even invited the philosopher Descartes to stay with her in Stockholm (he got a pneumonia and died there).

Another aspect she took no interest in was marriage and getting an heir. Her whole life she would be opposed to the thought of marrying someone. Instead she chose her cousin, who would later become Karl X, as her heir and she raised the question of abdicating. She would take the final step, after having talked about it for some years, in 1654. One of the reasons was a change in religion, she wanted to be a Catholic, but that was probably not the only reason - she was not all that interested in taking on the role of a typical woman of the time, something that most people expected of her (queen or not), the country had clear financial problems and she took a greater interest in other things than ruling. In her autobiography she stated that 'women should not reign' - but it is not clear if this was because she thought women unsuited for the task or if she did not think the world would give them a fair chance.

After the abdication she left Sweden, taking with her some of her most priced possessions, and she stayed in Brussels where she converted to Catholicism. Not officially though, out of fear of loosing the money the Swedish state was to pay her for her up-keep. The following year she went to Rome, and stayed there under great jubilation and on great terms with the pope. She was not good with her money though and she continued on to France where she was a guest to Louis XIV. She had to leave the country after the execution of a servant of hers that had betrayed her plans on going for the throne of Naples - she had the legal right to execute a servant, but it was still viewed as a murder by the French and she returned to Rome.

She tried to return to Sweden and the throne after the death of Karl X in 1660, but she was not welcomed back and she would stay in Rome in intellectual pursuits. She died in 1689 and her sole heir was Cardinal Decio Azzolino, who, according to the surviving correspondence, she had a platonic love for. Little else is known about her love-life, if she was attracted to both men and women, or if the love she expressed for women were more in line with how women generally expressed themselves back then. The truth is that we do not know.

Christina was buried in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, and there is also a monument in her honour - that even when it was newly made was famous for being hidious.

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