Sven Stolpe, Christina of Sweden.  NY: Macmillan, 1962.


Born 1626 (died 1689).  Daughter of King Gustavus Adolphus, who died when she was 6.  An only child.  Separated from her profligate and unstable mother at an early age.  She always held her mother in contempt.


She wrote that she was "born with a caul" and was hairy all over; was first mistaken for a boy.

She preferred to associate with men and had no interest in feminine topics.  She had so low a view of women that she said one of the reasons she gave for abdicating was that she thought no woman was capable of ruling well.  [And yet her own reign was very successful; she considered herself to have won the 30 years War, and she dominated the Peace of Westphalia.  She was very proud of this accomplishment.  And she later intrigued to get the crowns of Poland and Naples for herself.]


[Thirty Years War (1618-1648)  Began with Defenestration of Prague, rebellion of Bohemians against Hapsburg Emperor.  Gustavus Adolphus led Sweden into it in 1630 and died in one of its battles.  Ended with Treaty of Westphalia 1648: Made princes relatively independent of Emperor.  Ended religious wars in Germany by granting the same rights to Calvinists in Germany as to Lutherans and Catholics.  Swiss and Netherlands received independence.  Swedish armies did not withdraw completely until 1654.]


Described herself as having a "violent and ardent temperament, with a slight tendency to melancholy."


In her youth she had a crush on her cousin, Karl Gustav, then in 1645 she dumped him, and about that time seems to have developed a crush on a very beautiful woman in her court, Ebba Sparre (who died young), and also on Count Magnus de la Gardie, whom she dumped in turn in 1653.


She became disillusioned in her youth with the dogmatic and sectarian Lutheran tradition and moved in the direction of free-thinking (known in the 17th c. as "libertinism").


One of the main attractions of Catholicism for her, besides the fact that she had an exaggerated idea of the freedom of thought it allowed in her time, is that it honored virginity, which Lutheranism did not value at all.  She was under great pressure to marry so as to give Sweden an heir, but she wanted to remain single, did not want to become subordinate to a husband and be burdened with bearing children; she also feared she might have abnormal children (since she felt abnormal herself).


When she decided to abdicate, she chose Karl Gustav, her rejected suitor, to replace her.  He was Count Palatine (Germany), the son of her father's German brother-in-law.  Since he was a foreigner, Christina had to work hard to win acceptance for her plan from the Swedish nobility.  To provide an heir or legitimate successor was important lest the Swedish noble families fall into civil war over the succession.  She began by getting Karl Gustav appointed commander in chief of the Swedish army in Germany, but to get the Swedish nobles to accept this, she had to promise to marry him, although she told him in private she did not intend to keep the promise.  She also played the middle class and clergy and the peasants against the nobility, telling them that if Karl Gustav was not designated her heir, then if she were to die unexpectedly there would be as many contenders for the crown as there were Swedish nobles.  Later she turned back to the side of the nobles so that out of gratitude they would accede to her wishes.


Once Karl Gustav became king he led Sweden to the peak of its power.


She was very interested in the sciences and all modern thought.

She brought Descartes to Stockholm in 1649, where he died in 1650.  Some have thought he contributed to her conversion, but she wrote later that she considered him a skeptic.  What she got from Descartes that was important to her was the idea that there did not have to be a conflict between Church doctrine and modern science (the hot question was whether one could say the universe was infinite).  Descartes also believed in free will, in contrast to Lutheran and Calvinist belief.  But he played no real role in her conversion; they had only a few meetings and only talked about philosophy and science, not religion.


In the 17th c. (unlike the 18th), "libertine" meant only free-thinking, i.e., giving free rein to  inquiry on subjects like the new science.  Christine was greatly influenced by libertine thinking.  Libertinism was a reaction to the wars of religion and religious resistance to the new science.


Christina became deeply dissatisfied with Lutheran dogmatism and spent about 5 years looking into religious questions.  Much of this involved conversations with French and Italian Catholics, but it was less their Catholicism than their free-thinking that attracted her.  She came to doubt all religion, but did not want to defy society by simply rejecting it.  All the thinkers she invited to her court were highly critical of dogmatism.


130 "She became a Catholic with the aim of obtaining more scope for her free-thinking attitudes." She had no interest in Jesus and did not believe in the Incarnation or the Trinity.  Her letters indicate no religious crises in her development in these years.  Even after she converted, she privately declared herself an adherent of Lucretius's materialism.


In 1650 she was keen on getting a copy of Bodin's Heptaplomeres, which was one of the most scandalous books of the age, but when she got it, she was disappointed to find it not very shocking. She was also trying to get a copy of Les trois imposteurs, which treats Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad all as frauds.


This was around the time she was about to become Catholic; she seems not to have realized that Catholicism in general was not as open-minded as the Catholicism of her libertine Catholic friends. She later found out that the Catholic Church would not allow her the intellectual freedom she was seeking.  (Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake in Rome in 1600.)


To convert Christina to Catholicism was a Catholic aim even before she had ever begun to think about it herself.  The Vatican wanted her to convert but to become a secret Catholic and remain Queen of Sweden so she could promote their aims from within the Protestant camp.  Rome sent two Jesuits (scientists) to Sweden to try to persuade her that, despite the Galileo affair, the Church was open to the new science.  They succeeded in making the Church seem very open-minded and modern to her.


Her intention to abdicate preceded her interest in Catholicism.  She wanted to live somewhere outside Sweden, but in style and with great personal freedom.  One of the great attractions of Italy for her was that there she would not be subject to any king but only to the Pope.


Christina abdicated June 16, 1654.  Prior to doing so she negotiated a large pension, which it later turned out was not always paid on time or in full.  She had to promise before she abdicated that she would remain Lutheran, but she had already made up her mind to convert and did so shortly after.


Pope Alexander VII (Chigi) sent a papal legate to Innsbruck to receive her officially into the Church 11/3/1655.  He also arranged a splendid ceremony for her crossing the frontier of the Papal States (and he warned the cardinals to be on their good behavior, since he expected her, as a former Protestant, to have higher standards than were the norm in Italy).


Pope Alexander and other clergy soon discovered how superficial her religiousness was. 


Her first residence in Rome was in Palazzo Farnese, next to the Brigittine nuns.


At the beginning of the 16th c., Rome was still in the forefront of culture, but by the time Christina arrived, it was in severe decline.  Galileo was silenced in 1633.  Nearly all Italian scholars had to flee abroad to continue working.  When Christina arrived, she discovered that the typical Italian priests were not like those she had known in Sweden.  She was openly disappointed to discover that most Roman clerics were just as rigid about religion as the Lutheran clerics had been.


287 Christina: "It must be taken as proven that the Holy Spirit guides His Church in Person, seeing how hopeless the popes are."


In Rome, she intrigued to become queen of Naples.  She also intrigued to get the Spanish out of Italy and bring in the French.  She proposed that her heir to the throne of Naples should be Philip of Anjou, the brother of Louis XIV.

She also intrigued to become queen of Poland.  Neither of these schemes came to fruition.


Her reputation suffered a heavy blow due to the Monaldesco affair.  In 1657 she was visiting France and living in Fontainebleau.  While there, she had her men execute one of her retainers, the Marchese di Monaldesco, because she believed he had betrayed her (exactly how is not clear).


She later developed a great passion for Cardinal Decio Azzalino, but he did not encourage it, although he always remained her friend and was very helpful to her.  This passion continued for years and caused the collapse of her earlier Stoicism (Stoicism was a very fashionable thing in the 17th c; Christina had always prided herself on her control of her passions).


It also influenced the interest she developed in the Quietist movement in religion.  She became a friend and devotee of the Quietist leader, Miguel Molinos (1640-1697).  Quietism involved the idea of surrendering one's inner life completely to God, even to the point of ceasing to care about one's own salvation but leaving it in the hands of God.  Quietism was condemned as a heresy by Innocent XI in 1687, but it had great popularity and helped arouse genuine interest in religion in Christina (though she never seems to have developed any interest in Jesus).  She became devoted to St. Catherine of Genoa and wrote a book about her in 1681.


This type of mystical religiousness was something she shared with the sculptor, Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini.  Bernini asked for her prayers on his deathbed, because he thought she had a special language with which to communicate with God.  Bernini also had great respect for her artistic taste and understanding. 


Christina also had a great appreciation of drama and built theaters both in the Palazzo Farnese and later in the Palazzo Rosario.


She died April 19, 1689.  Her body lay in state in the Palazzo Rosario for four days and then was taken in a great procession to burial in St. Peter's.