Christina (1626-1689) or Kristina, later known as Maria Christina Alexandra and sometime Count Dohna, was Queen of Sweden from 1632 to 1654, was the daughter of King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden. As the heiress presumptive she succeeded her father to the throne of Sweden upon his death at the Battle of Lützen (November 6, 1632) during Sweden's intervention in Germany in the Thirty Years' War.
She was born in Stockholm on December 18, 1626 and the birth occurred during a rare astrological conjunction that fueled great speculation on what influence the child, fervently hoped to be a boy, would have later on the world stage. Reportedly she was so hairy and large that the midwives in fact prematurely called out that a boy had been born. Her gender identity was never clear cut. She was educated in the manner typical of men, and frequently wore men's clothes (such as dresses with short skirts, stockings and shoes with high heels - all these features being useful when not riding pillion). This has caused her to later become an icon of the transgendered community. During the 20th century, her grave was opened so that her death mask could be examined. While the grave was open, a team of scientists examined her bones in an attempt to determine if she was Censored page, but they were not able to come to a clear conclusion.
Queen Christina's mother, Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg, came from the Hohenzollern family. She was a woman of quite distraught temperament, and her attempts to bestow guilt on Christina for her difficult birth, or just the horror story itself, may have prejudiced Christina against the prospect of having to produce a heir to the throne.
Her father gave orders that Christina should be brought up as a prince would be trained. Even as a child she displayed a precociousness that astonished Descartes who was summoned to tutor her.
National policy was directed during the first half of Christina's reign by her guardian, regent and adviser Axel Oxenstierna, chancellor to her father and until her majority in 1644 the principal member of the governing regency council. As ruler, Christina resisted demands from the other estates (clergy, burgesses and peasants) in the Riksdag of the Estates of 1650 for the reduction of tax-exempt noble landholdings.
Christina came under the influence of Catholics and then abdicated her throne on June 5, 1654 in favour of her cousin Charles Gustavus in order to either practice openly her previously secret Catholicism, or to profess the same publicly so as to be at the center of a scientific and artistic renaissance.
The sincerity of her conversion has been disputed. Actually, in the eyes of her critics, there were many causes which might ostensibly have predisposed her to what was, after all, anything but an act of self-renunciation. First of all she could not have ignored the increasing discontent with her arbitrary and wasteful ways. Within ten years she had created 17 counts, 46 barons and 428 lesser nobles; to provide these new peers with adequate appanages, she had sold or mortgaged crown property representing an annual income of 1,200,000 rix-dollars. There were clear signs that Christina was growing weary of the cares of what remained a provincial government; even if with large conquered territory.
The importunity of the senate and Riksdag on the question of her marriage was a constant source of irritation. In retirement she could devote herself wholly to art and science, and the opportunity of astonishing the world by the unique spectacle of a great queen, in the prime of life, voluntarily resigning her crown, strongly appealed to her vivid imagination. It is certain that towards the end of her reign she behaved as if she were determined to do everything in her power to make herself as little missed as possible. From 1651 there was a notable change in her behaviour. She cast away every regard for the feelings and prejudices of her people. She ostentatiously exhibited her contempt for the Protestant religion. Her foreign policy was flighty to the verge of foolishness. She contemplated an alliance with Spain, a state quite outside the orbit of Sweden's influence, the first fruits of which were to have been an invasion of Portugal. She utterly neglected affairs in order to plunge into a whirl of dissipation with her foreign favorites. The situation became impossible, and it was with an intense feeling of relief that the Swedes saw her depart, in masculine attire, under the name of Count Dohna.
Upon conversion she took a new name Maria Christina Alexandra and moved to Rome, where her wealth and former position made her a centre of society. Her status as the most notable convert to Catholicism of the age, and as the most famous woman at the time (even exceeding Elizabeth I of England), made it possible for her to ignore or flout the most common requirements of obeisance to the Catholic faith. She herself remarked that her Catholic faith was not of the common order; indeed, before converting she had queried from church officials how stricly she would be expected to obey the churches common observances, and received reassurances.
While in Rome, she engaged in numerous world-political intrigues, particularly in concert with the Catholic Church's clandestine group of troubleshooters, the squadrones volantes. Growing wearied of acting behind the scenes in her later years, she made several attempts to gain the crown of a country, even launching an abortive attempt to reclaim the Swedish throne.
She left her large and important library to the Papacy on her death (April 19, 1689).
She is entombed in St. Peter's Basilica, near the permanent display of Michelangelo's Pietą.
Christina's reign was controversial, and literature circulated during her lifetime that described her as participating in multiple affairs with both men and women. This, along with the emotional letters that she wrote to female friends, has caused her to become an icon for the lesbian community.
This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopędia Britannica.
Note that the birth date is December 8 in the Julian calendar, which was in effect in Sweden at the time, corresponding to December 18 in the Gregorian calendar. Also, the death of her father occurred on November 16 according to the Gregorian calendar.
The name "Christina" originates from the word "christ" as in Jesus Christ.
Last updated: 02-06-2005 04:16:42