Women of Royalty
Kristina of Sweden
The Vasas
         By the time that Kristina Vasa came to the Swedish throne, the Vasa ruling family was a relatively new monarchial family. They had only come into power some 100 years beforehand. The first ruling Vasa was Gustav Erickson, who had come to the Swedish throne in 1523.
         When the notorious Black Plague had circulated through Europe, Sweden was hit very badly in thr 14th century, and the population deteriorated. The people were superstitious and uneducated, most of them mere country farmers. Denmark saw this weakness in them and frequently attacked the northern kingdom until Queen Margarethe of Denmark brought Sweden under her power along with Norway in what was called the Kalmar Union, which only lasted a few decades. After the queen died the powers shifted, and Denmark began its attacks on Sweden again. In 1520, the "Stockholm Bloodbath" took place where most of the Swedish noblemen were executed after the Danes declared false amnesty. In this confusion, Gustav Erickson escaped the executions and fled to raise a Swedish army against the Danes. The Swedes were not interested, and may have well been scared to death to go against the mighty Danes, and so Gustav fled to safety in Norway on skis. The peasants reconsidered Gustav and his plans and sent two men on skis to catch up to him and bring him back, agreeing to help him. The armies were raised and within two years the Danes left Sweden and Gustav became King of Sweden, King Gustav I Vasa. He took the name Vasa, the Swedish word for a grain sheaf, which was also the Vasa emblem. King Gustav I modernized the Swedish army but he also took church properties to pay for large bills and taxes. He married three times, to: Katarina of Saxe-Lauenburg, Margareta Leijonhufvud, and Katarina Stenbock. From his marriages he had three sons, Erik, by Katarina of Saxe-Lauenburg, and John and Karl by Margareta Leijonhufvud.The three brothers were very hostile towards one another. Erik became King Erik XIV, and had John and his wife, the King of Poland's sister, imprisoned. Four years later, in 1568, they were freed. Erik died in 1577 of supposedly poisoned pea soup. Johan became King Johan III, and after his death in 1604, Karl became Karl IX, who died in 1611, but not before conquering the Baltic world. He had four children: Katarina, the daughter of his first wife, Maria of Palatinate, and 2 sons, Gustav and Karl, and a daughter, Marie Elizabeth, by his second wife, Kristina of Holstein-Gottorp. Gustav became King Gustav II Adolphus.

Gustav and Maria

           Gustav was a military genius. He ended the Danish and Norwegian feuds with Sweden, recaptured Polish territories on the Baltic coast and southern parts of Sweden, and led Sweden into war against Germany in 1618, which would last 30 years. 
            Gustav fell in love for the first time with one Ebba Brahe, a young girl in his mother's entourage who had lost her mother. However, Queen Kristina, Gustav's mother, opposed the marriage, and so Gustav fell into the field of political marriage. Kristina had consulted an astrologer, who had said that Gustav should not marry until 25. And so Kristina held Gustav off until Ebba had been betrothed to Jakob de la Gardie, one of Gustav's generals.
Gustav's 25th birthday passed and he still had no woman in mind. His advisors urged him to find a woman in Berlin, the sister of the Elector of Brandenburg. Gustav donned a disguise and travelled as Captain Gars. Gars stood for: Gustavus Adolphus Rex Seciae, Latin for Gustav Adolf King of the Swedes. 'Gars' came upon the sister of the elector one night, named Maria Eleanora, and was smitten. She was a beauty and very charming. The princess equally fell in love, and Gustav revealed his identity. The betrothal was made and a few months after the meeting, Maria and her attendants landed in Sweden at Kalmar, the greatest Swedish castle, set on the Baltic Sea, south of Stockholm. They travelled to Stockholm, where the wedding took place on November 25, 1620. Maria loved her new husband. However, she HATED Sweden in its entirity. Even when Gustav had the palace refurbished she was disguisted. She found the people uneducated, superstitious, and dirty. She found the climate unbearable and the castles atrocious. And in a way she was right in her judgements. Maria became queen, but for many years there was no heir, but many miscarriages. She went through three losses before she became pregnant in 1626. The astrologers predicted a boy.

An Unwanted Princess

         On December 8, 1626, Maria Eleanore went into labor and gave birth to what was believed to be a male child but was actually a female, a caul covering the truth. As Sweden celebrated and toasted to the royal heir and the royal family rejoiced, King Gustavs stepsister Katarina uncovered the truth. At the royal feast that night thrown in celebration of the healthy child, Katarina contently walked before her stepbrother and presented him with his child, revealing the truth. Shocked, the king took his daughter in his arms and proclaimed, Let us thank God, my sister. This girl shall become as good as any boy. I ask God to preserve her, since He has given her to me. He named his child Kristina, after his mother, and shockingly declared her his heir and decreed that she should be raised in the fashion of the future ruler of Sweden. Maria Eleanore was not as delighted with the child as her husband. Inconsolable for days, Maria Eleanore eventually tried to kill Kristina. A threat and a reminder of her failure to give Sweden an heir, Maria Eleanore and her maid, Frau Anna, who had accompanied the queen to Sweden from Brandenburg, are thought to have made two attempts on Kristinas life. One time a wooden beam fell across the cradle holding the infant girl. The cradle was smashed to splinters, but Kristina was safe. Later, Frau Anna, who was placed in charge of Kristina as the childs nurse, dropped Kristina accidentally. Kristina was not critically hurt, though her shoulder sagged for the rest of her life from the incident.

King Gustav was constantly at war during Kristinas infant years. Incase of any mortal risk he might have faced, Gustav decided to name Kristina his heir to the Swedish throne in 1632. Before he set out for battle, Gustav elected a group of his closest advisors to supervise his daughter and her education. As regent for his daughter, Gustav chose Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna, a loyal and learned man who would benefit both Kristina and Sweden during Gustavs absence. As a young infant, Kristina was found to be an unusual girl. At the sound of cannons being fired she clapped and giggled and her voice was said to be low for a child. In the summer of 1629, Gustav sailed from Stockholm along with Queen Maria Eleanore for Germany. Kristina was put under the protection of her aunt, Gustavs stepsister Katarina, and her husband, Count Palatine Johann Kasimir at the Castle of the Three Crowns on Stadsholmen, an island on the Stockholm harbor.

On December 8, 1632, Kristinas sixth birthday, tragic news reached Sweden. King Gustav had been found dead after he was separated from his troops and lost in a foggy woodland and his horse had galloped back to the army without him. Although Kristina was only a child, she was named the king of Sweden. In February of 1633, Kristina was presented to the Riksdag. The Riksdag, also called the Ståndsriksdagen, was made up of the four classes of Sweden: the nobles, the clergy, the burghers, and the peasants, and aided the Swedish king in running the country. The group of men had never seen the young girl before and were impressed when the six-year-old child entered and marched right up to the throne and climbed upon it.  Six months after King Gustavs death, in the spring of 1633, Maria Eleanore set out from Germany with the body of King Gustav. Katarina and Johann set out for Nyköping, a royal castle near the Baltic Sea, and on June 29, 1633 the warship carrying Maria Eleanore and King Gustavs body arrived. Maria Eleanore told Kristina that she was to live with her at Nyköping. Maria Eleanore went into a state of mourning that Kristina was subjected to. The walls painted and the windows veiled in black, Maria Eleanore kept her husbands coffin nearby and his heart in a golden vessel above her bed, much to the consternation of Kristina. King Gustav had wished that Katarina and Johann house Kristina in the case of his death but Maria Eleanore would not allow it. She banished Katarina and Johann and their four children to Stegeborg, a castle two days from Nyköping.

Kristina was alone. Her mother constantly asked for Kristinas accompaniment and even forced her daughter to share her bed. Kristina was subjected to her mothers frantic wails and keening night after night. The only thing that gave Kristina hope were her aunts letters from Stegeborg. For a year Maria Eleanore would not permit her husband to be buried. Finally, a funeral took place at Riddarholm Church in Stockholm. But for another two years afterwards, Maria Eleanore forced her daughter to live with her away from the city. Eventually the two moved to the Castle of the Three Crowns, where Kristina began her education.

       In the summer of 1636, Chancellor Oxenstierna returned to Sweden after a few years abroad. Distrustful of Maria Eleanore, Chancellor Oxenstierna removed Kristina from her mothers care and banished the queen dowager to Gripsholm Castle. Afterwards he brought Katarina and Johann and their family back to Stockholm and placed Kristina in their care.

Prince in Training


When Kristina and her mother returned to Stockholm before Oxenstiernas arrival, Kristina was permitted to begin her education. Waking at four in the morning, young Kristina would begin a twelve-hour ritual of studying and training. Gustav Horn instructed Kristina in languages, Axel Banér instructed her in military arts, and Johannes Matthiae served as Kristinas principal tutor. Once a chaplain to King Gustav, Matthiae was much like a second father to Kristina. The two were affectionate towards one another and spent hours in debate and discussion. Kristina even nicknamed him Papa Matthiae. Upon his return, Oxenstierna appointed himself a tutor. Everyday he would instruct Kristina in domestic and foreign affairs and the arts of governing. Kristina was both trained in the intellectual arts and the military arts. Kristina learned to ride, to hunt, to shoot, and to lead battles. Kristina was annually examined by the Råd, a committee of aristocratic and learned men who tested Kristina in all of the areas in which she was educated to see that she was fit to rule Sweden. 

As a child Kristina grew up in Stockholm with her Aunt Katarina, Uncle Johann, and their four children: Karl, Maria Euphrosyne, Eleanore, and Adolf Johanne. While she had a relationship with the other three, her strongest relationship was with her cousin Karl. Born in 1622, Karl and Kristina were always together. Both enjoyed competing against one another on the field and Kristina, much to Karls dismay, usually beat her cousin. Kristina did not enjoy womens pastimes. While Maria Euphrosyne and Eleanore sewed and played music, Kristina annoyed racing and riding. Often her cousins joined her in the schoolroom, though Maria, Eleanore, and Adolf Johann lost interest quickly. Despite their apathy, Kristina continues her long study sessions. In the schoolroom, she is taught the Psalms of David, Aesops Fables, and the Roman histories along with the biographies of her heroes: Alexander the Great, Caesar, Scipio and Cyrus. At this time Kristina began to learn how to take care of herself and how to make her own decisions. As a Swede, Kristina practiced Lutheranism, the state religion. To her dismay, she found the sermons and teachings dull and unmoving. In her books, she found Roman Catholicism much more lively and agreed with its teachings and at one point even expressed to Papa Matthiae that she wished to convert to Roman Catholicism. However, the religion was illegal to be practiced in Sweden, so Kristina was subjected to Lutheran masses.

 In September of 1638, Kristina visited her mother at Gripsholm Castle in Mariefred. At times Maria Eleanore praised her daughter and at other times called Kristina a monster and worse than any boy. Clearly by this time Maria Eleanore suffered from mental disorders that were frequent in her family. Besides the fact of her eccentric and neurotic mother, Kristina was traumatized by her mothers unusual and disturbing court. Maria Eleanore had surrounded herself with misfits: dwarves, hunchbacks, and deformed people. Kristina was urged to spend more time with the outcasts, much to the delight of her mother, which left Kristina with many nightmares and disturbing images. By October Kristina had fallen ill and attempted to prevent all meetings with her mother, only permitting her tutor Matthiae for her daily studies. In the beginning of November, Kristina left Gripsholm and returned to Stockholm.

Back in the capital, Kristina returned to her normal routines. By January of 1639, Karl had left to return to further his education at a Swedish university. Without her closest companion, Kristina spent much of her time alone surrounded by books and her tutors. She began to develop new ideas and openly talked of her distaste of Lutheranism, much to the concern of her peers and the Råd, who were otherwise very pleased with Kristinas intelligence. In early 1639, Kristina suffered two losses: two of her tutors, Axel Banér and Gustav Horn. Though both deaths came as a shock to Kristina, nothing saddened her more than the unexpected death of her Aunt Katarina. In the spring of 1639, Kristinas Aunt Katarina fell mysteriously ill. Doctors came from across Sweden, though the countrys physicians were not very learned with Sweden still a backward country. Unable to diagnose her, Katarina fell into depression, taking to her bed day and night and only showing herself at dinners. Kristina fell into sadness as her aunt slipped away from her. Karl returned from university to be with his mother and family. In May of 1639, Katarina died at the age of 53. Kristina fell into depression. At the age of twelve she had lost so much in her life and yet so much was expected of her. Johann Kasimir and the Riksdag had no idea how to raise an adolescent girl and Kristina continued to spend more and more time alone. Her mother continued to send letters asking Kristina to visit her in Gripsholm, but Kristina refused. Another year passed, and in the summer of 1640 a serious shock came to Kristina: Her mother was plotting to escape from Sweden. Maria Eleanore had written to King Christian IV of Denmark asking for his aid in her flight from Gripsholm Castle. The letter was intercepted and Maria Eleanore was taken to the Castle of the Three Crowns where Kristina hoped to lead her mother to stay in Sweden. With the idea that her mother was satisfied living in Sweden, Kristina saw her mother off to Gripsholm. However, not long after Maria Eleanore arrived at Gripsholm Castle she and a close companion, Frau von Bülau, escaped to a Danish skiff that was secretly waiting for them that sailed the two to Gotland where they transferred to a Danish warship, which then brought the two to Copenhagen. Sweden was humiliated, but no one was more embarrassed than Kristina. She had trusted her mother and believed her mother would never do the kingdom harm and now her mother was not only coinciding with a Swedish enemy but was living in the enemy country. A few months later, Maria Eleanore left Denmark for Germany, where she settled in her homeland of Brandenburg and lived with her nephew, Friedrich Wilhelm, the elector of Brandenburg. The elector demanded that Sweden pay for Maria Eleanores debts, but Sweden refused and revoked the dowager queens properties.

By 1641, the fifteen-year-old Kristina had educationally outdone herself. Fluent in five languages, mastering Roman history, and excelling in military tactics, Kristina was better than any prince could ever have been. Two years earlier the Riksdag had admitted her to meetings and allowed her to begin her governing over Sweden. Kristina impressed the men more each day, even claiming responsibility for her mother in Germany. While intellectually advanced, Kristina also began to take part in more athletic exercises. She began to take part in bear hunting and intense exercising while still stay true to her favorite activities such as riding and shooting.

Kristinas loneliness continued through these years. Karl was still away at university and Johann Kasimir had moved to Stegeborg Castle, bringing Marie Euphrosyne, Eleanore, and Adolf Johann with him. Kristinas only companion was her tutor, Johannes Matthiae. And letters from her mother. At age seventeen, Karl returned from university. Upon his arrival at the Castle of the Three Crowns, Kristina found herself suddenly infatuated with her cousin. The two became very affectionate towards one another and exchanged notes frequently. During this time the Råd and Johannes Matthiae noticed that Kristina was much more active and happy with life. However, in 1644 Karl left for Germany on business for Kristina. That same year, Kristina turned eighteen and was officially old enough to rule Sweden. She had been offered the chance to rule at the age of fourteen but she wished to hold the opportunity off. Officially named the ruler of Sweden on December 8, 1644, Kristina was already planning her own abdication.


King of Sweden


In her first year as queen of Sweden, Kristinas life was very eventful. While many believed that Kristina still loved her cousin, Kristina was beginning to show a fondness for Magnus De la Gardie. Magnus was the son of Jakob De la Gardie, the Grand Marshal of Sweden and Ebba Brahe De la Gardie. Ebba had been Kristinas own fathers sweetheart, but King Gustavs mother did not permit the love between the two and so Gustav married Maria Eleanore. Magnus De la Gardie was extravagant and a womanizer and did not return love to Kristina in return for her love for him. Nevertheless, Kristina hoped to achieve his favor and constantly aided him, even by paying his debts. The same year Karl returned from Germany and he found that Kristinas love for him had died out. She only wished for a friendship between the two childhood friends. Kristina lost two loves that year, but another came into her life.

Ebba Sparre was the daughter of Lars Sparre, a Swedish noble who served in the Riksdag. In 1644 Ebba lost both of her parents and left her home at Sparre Manor in Horn for Stockholm to become a court lady-in-waiting. Modest and beautiful, Ebba was instantly noticed by Kristina, who employed Ebba in her household. The two became good friends but it was only Kristina who showed deep affection in the friendship. She nicknamed Ebba Belle and although many believed that Kristina was a lesbian because of her infatuation with Ebba, it is believed today that Kristina, who was open to new ideas, loved Ebba as part of the Renaissance idea of love precieux, a practice which encouraged outpourings of love and affection between women.

In 1646 Kristina began to look into new ideas of theology and religion. She seriously begins to study Catholicism but does not dare to practice the religion because of its illegality. Johannes Matthiae wrote a book based upon the idea that all of the Protestant religions could be brought together into one idea that same year. The idea and book was widely ridiculed but Kristina supported her tutor and even had him appointed Bishop of Strångnås.

Kristina not only wanted to shape her own ideas but as a ruler she also wanted to civilize Sweden in the ways of western Europe, the most cultured place in the world. Sweden was still a remote kingdom populated by superstitious and medieval people but Kristina planned to change that. In 1645 Kristina helped establish the first Swedish newspaper. The next year Kristina began to correspond with the most celebrated philosophers and idealists of the day, the most noted of them René Descartes. Impressed with his Principes de la Philosophie, Kristina began to correspond with Descartes in 1647 through the French ambassador to Sweden, Pierre-Hector Chanut. Chanut arrived in Stockholm in 1645 and was one of Kristinas closest friends and a strong supporter of her. Diplomatic and intellectual, Chanut also aided Kristina in her mission to enlighten Sweden. Philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians all braved the perilous journey to Stockholm to join Kristina where the queen formed a circle of intellectuals who convened daily to not only enlighten Kristina but planned on how to reform Sweden. 

In 1647, Kristina began to study all of the world religions, unable to decide what her beliefs were. Matthiaes unionist ideas rekindled Kristinas support of Protestantism, but she was still opposed to the Lutheran faith practiced in Sweden. The same year, Kristina received the news that Magnus De la Gardie, who she had favor for, and Marie Euphrosyne, her cousin, had married. Infuriated, Kristina banished the two to France but brought them back within the year to show no hard feelings were felt towards the couple. But Kristina was still upset underneath that the man she loved had married.

1648 was the year Kristina claimed to be the most vital in her life. The Thirty Years War, which had claimed her father, had come to an end with her help. Together with the heads of Eastern Europe, Kristina negotiated the Treaty of Westphalia, which officially ended the war. Earlier in her reign, Kristina had somewhat neglected the war. However, the war itself had left a deep impact on Sweden. Thousands of women had been left widowed, their husbands having died on the battlefields. They were nicknamed jackwidows. Families were devastated by the loss of lives and economically Sweden was unstable. However, field commanders returned home rich and built many large castles near Stadsholmen, the island holding the Castle of the Three Crowns. Other than her role as a peacemaker, Kristina set out to enrich Sweden with art. As a child, Italian art interested and impressed her and later in 1648 Kristina imported 600 pieces of Italian art all of which had been plundered in Prague.

For the next few years Kristina continued to enlighten her country, inviting musicians and artists and writers to add onto the scientists and idealists who had already joined her in Sweden. After years of correspondence, Kristina convinced René Descartes to join her and her circle in Sweden. The cold climate and the exhausting hours were too much for the French philosopher. Kristina insisted upon having lessons from him at five in the morning. Every morning Descartes had to walk to the palace in the Swedish winter climate. Eventually, the weather took a toll on Descartes and he contracted pneumonia. After only a few months in Sweden, he died on February 11, 1650. Although the death was a loss for Kristina and all of Europe, she still earned the reputation as the Minerva of the North. Later on that year, Kristina was officially coronated on October 20, 1650.

1651 brought about more religious ideas for Kristina. She began to meet with Jesuits to discuss Catholicism further. She questioned the men about Catholicism and its teachings and philosophies, also expressing her doubts in Lutheranism. Secretly, Kristina ends her religious odyssey and decides to convert to Catholicism. However, Kristina could only do so by abdicating and later in 1651 she announces her decision to abdicate, retracting it after many objections. The year brought about an unfortunate turn for her friendship and love for Magnus De la Gardie. After she discovered that he talked of her and lied to her, she ended her favor of him. She ended her paying of his debts and further avoided him.

In 1652, the Spanish envoy Don Antonio Pimentel de Prado arrived in Sweden. Charismatic and honorable, he befriended Kristina and they two were found to be intimate with one another, though Kristina later denied accusations of the two being lovers. Wanting the king of Spains support after her planned abdication, Kristina continued her friendship with Pimentel, partially because Kristina also wanted Frances support and France and Spain were enemies at the time but from Pimentels good word to Spain about the Swedish queen, Kristina could be aided by both. Over the next year Kristina and Pimentel began secret negotiations, often shutting themselves inside her study alone to the alarm of many. Many continuously believed the two were lovers but in fact Kristina was confiding in Pimentel her ideas for the future including her plans after abdication. As the two congregated unaccompanied, Kristina began to secretly send her valuables out of Sweden. Though Kristina now had another charming man in her life, she would never get over the fact that Ebba Sparre married Jakob De la Gardie, Magnus brother, in 1652. The news saddened Kristina; for she had lost another loved one with her dear Belle. After getting over the loss of Ebba from her court, Kristina made the most important decision of her: to go through with her abdication.




On June 6, 1654, after less that ten years as the official queen of Sweden and only four years since her coronation, Kristina abdicated from the Swedish throne, announcing as her heir her cousin Karl. The ceremony took place in the Great Hall at Uppsala Castle. Kristina, fully dressed in the royal regalia, addressed the Riksdag, who had protested to Kristinas abdication, and when Chancellor Oxenstierna could not remove the crown from her head, she removed it herself and placed it on Karls head. Then she left the hall, the assemblage in awe, and immediately left Sweden on a white horse dressed in mens clothing and in the company of a few male counterparts. Her abdication shocked Europe, as did her actions afterwards. The idea of a female traveling not chaperoned and in the company of men was unspeakable. Nonetheless, Kristina began to travel through Europe on horseback exploring the many kingdoms she had only ever dreamed of. She seems to have felt no remorse upon leaving her homeland other than that it meant leaving Ebba Sparre behind. As a result of her abdication two of the main people in her life, Axel Oxenstierna and Johannes Matthiae, suffered greatly. Oxenstierna blamed himself for Kristinas abdication and had always opposed the Kasimirs inheriting the Swedish throne. Brokenhearted, he died a few months after Kristina left Sweden. Johannes Matthiae was revoked of the title Bishop of Strångnås, blamed for Kristinas conversion to Catholicism. Humiliated, Matthiae secluded himself for years after. 

In 1655, Kristina arrived in Rome. After converting Catholicism and taking the name Christina Alexandra, Kristina was received by Pope Alexander VII on December 23, 1655, who accommodated her in the Palazzo Farnese in the Vatican. Upon her arrival, Kristinas behavior and conversion became a topic for gossip across the continent. Never had 29-year-old Kristina been subjected to this kind of media and she found refuge by traveling to France in 1656, where she held an academy to discuss the nature of love and relationships and met her future lover, Cardinal Dezio Azzolino. Azzolino served as a cardinal under Pope Alexander VII and was said to be intelligent and charismatic. Kristina found him both and fell in love, causing a scandal about their relationship to circulate through Europe.

Unfortunately, Kristina did not find Catholicism and Western Europe as splendorous as she had hoped. She found Catholicism strict and refused to conform her new home. The Europeans were appalled and disgusted with her and the Spanish frequently spread malicious rumors about her. Losing her dignity, power, and money, Kristina hatched a plan to seize Naples from Spain and become the queen of Naples. To win support, she travels to France, the longtime enemy of Spain. Confiding only in her closest men and Azzolino, Kristina traveled to the Château de Fontainebleau to speak before an assemblage of French dignitaries. In the palace, she found that her plans to convince the French to help her, though not telling them her plan to seize Naples, had leaked out due to the betrayal of one of her men, a man named Marchese Gian Rinaldo Monaldesco. Incensed and humiliated, Kristina had Monaldesco murdered, which sparked a wildfire of rumors. Kristina attempted to escape them by returning to Rome but rumors had spread across Europe. Gossipers reported that Kristina and Monaldesco had been lovers and that Kristina killed all her lovers when she tired of them. In fact, Kristina was still a virgin at the time and claimed to be one until her death and only ever took on one lover, Cardinal Azzolino.

         Kristina could do nothing to restore her dignity and reputation. Although Azzolino tried to convince the pope of Kristinas purity and dignity, Pope Alexander VII asked Kristina to leave her apartments at the Palazzo Farnese in the Vatican. Kristina spent much of her time with Azzolino in her humiliation, who tried to comfort her and help her recover. Kristina eventually returned to her educational pursuits and called on the mystic Francois Malaval. The two frequently met together and spent hours discussing mysticism and spirituality. The following year, in 1659, Kristina fully recovered and moved into the Palazzo Riario, where she continued to surround herself with intellectuals and the idealists of the day and her lover, Cardinal Azzolino. Although rumors continued to circulate that Kristina had given herself to the cardinal sexually, Kristina denied the accusations repeatedly.

The following year brought tragedy to Kristina. Her cousin, Karl, then King Karl X Gustav of Sweden, had died from excessive drinking and eating at the age of 38 on February 13, 1660, leaving his son, five-year-old Karl XI, as his heir. Kristina traveled to her homeland for the funeral briefly and then returned to Italy. The next year she traveled to her mothers homeland, Germany. She settled in Hamburg and met with German thinkers, living a very relaxed but vigorous life. A few months before she left to return to Rome, Kristina received the news that her friend and former love, Ebba Sparre, now Ebba De la Gardie, had died in Sweden in 1661. Kristina had not seen Ebba for seven years, but the loss left Kristina heartbroken. She eventually gathered the strength to leave Hamburg and returned to her home at the Palazzo Riario, where she found that she was sinking into financial problems and difficulties. Her income had been halved, leading her into debt, but Kristina spent most of the year pulling herself out of her money problems and rebuilding not only her fortune but also her power.  Always surrounded by learned men, Kristina set out to discover new ideas. The most notable at this time was Lubenitz, who educated Kristina in the areas of alchemy.

By 1668, Kristina was once again suffering financially. Later that year she traveled to Sweden to obtain the rights to rule Poland. When it was discovered that Kristina had a Catholic priest in her retinue she was turned away and told never to come back to Sweden until Karl XI, who was thirteen at the time, reached the age of eighteen. This was the last time Kristina would ever see Sweden. Upon her return to Italy, Kristina spent much of her time writing love letters to Azzolino. Unfortunately, though Kristina was completely devoted to Azzolino he was much more cool towards her than in the past. The same year saw the death of Pope Alexander VII. Kristina took the opportunity and returned to Rome, where her close friend, the new pope, Clement IX, awarded her a pension.


Patroness of the Arts


Kristina began to find a deep interest in astronomy, the study of celestial beings. That year she had an observatory installed at the Palazzo Riario and employed two astronomers who would be at her call 24 hours a day as live in employees. Kristina spent many hours studying the stars and celestial bodies, but later that year Kristina returned to her true passion: religion. The Italians had long oppressed the Jewish population of Rome, and Kristina set out to denounce this mistreatment by publishing manifestos defending the Jewish faith against the strict Catholic people of Italy and also publishing letters defending the Protestant Huguenots of France in the Nouvelles de la Republique des Lettres of Pierre Bayle.

         Yet Kristina soon discovered a new interest: archeology. In 1669 Kristina sponsored many archaeological excavations and digs although she was still in a financially destitute situation. The following year Kristina turned her attention to the performing arts, building her own theater and employing many skilled actors and actresses. Though the performances impressed many the plots and scripts were scandalous, as so many other parts of Kristinas life were to the public. Over the next decade Kristina continued to support her troupe and also many other artistic movements. She sponsored writers and musicians, artists and dancers. In her own personal life, Kristina had turned herself to the arts and began to write her autobiography and her famous Maxims. Her Maxims were originally written in letterform in Les Sentiments Heroiques and L'Ouvrage de Lisir: Les Sentiments Raisonnables before she began to convert the two to written form in 1670. By the middle of the 1670s Kristinas palace was an intellectual and artistic haven, attracting intellectuals from across the continent. Kristina continued to spend more on the arts, building the first public opera house in Rome and an academy, the Academia Reale, that promoted philosophy and literature. Among the guests at her academy were the physiologist Giovanni Borelli and the astronomer Cassini. Later she sponsored the Italian composers Alessandro Scarlatti and Arcangelo Corelli. Corellis fame began with his employment to Kristina, as did Scarlattis, who was appointed Kristinas maestro di cappella at the age of 18.

1676 proved to be a more a sheltered year for Kristina. Father Miguel Molinos, a Spanish priest, had recently published his book on Quietism called Spiritual Guide and the ideas became very popular in Europe. Kristina read the book and decided to further educate herself in the areas of Molinos Quietism. She employed Molinos and the two held weekly theology sessions. Eventually Kristina was very immersed in Quietism and attempted to turn her life towards the ideas of the new ideology. Later that year, Pope Clement X, who had succeeded Pope Clement IX upon his death in 1669, died. The next pope, Innocent XI, enforced a ban on all theaters, shutting down all of Kristinas playhouses and opera house. The withdrawing of the arts Kristina had sponsored upset her, but she continued to hold academies and seminars urging the continuation of the practicing of the arts.

         In 1679, the sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini was attacked with a campaign to discredit it. Bernini had often been present in Kristinas artistic court and so she set out to save her companion. Leading a campaign of her own, Kristina employed the writer Filippo Baldinucci to write a biography of Bernini to show the artist in his true light. A few years afterwards Kristina would be caught up in another scandal of the law. But for the time being Kristina devoted herself to the Quietist lifestyle while actively wide spreading the arts across Italy. Although Cardinal Azzolino is not mentioned during this time very often Kristina and her lover spent much time together in happiness.

         By 1684 Kristina was shocked by the arrest of Father Molinos by the Inquisition.  The church had seen Molinos mystic beliefs as a threat, condemning him and banning the practice of Quietism. Kristina intervened in support of her theological teacher but later Molinos embittered her upon his confessions of sexual deviations. Despite her disappointment with him Kristina continued to practice Quietism, though it was still banned by the church.

Kristina spent more and more time writing her autobiography and Maxims during the remainder of the decade. As her income deteriorated once again Kristina decided to pay for a cantata to be written and performed for the recently coronated King James II of England, a country that Kristina had once considered uneducated and primordial (which is ironic considering England was in its Golden Age as Kristina was growing up in Sweden). As the decade closed, Kristina became increasingly ill. At sixty-years-old, Kristina was often accompanied by Cardinal Azzolino and a favorite, the equivalent to Ebba Sparre in her youth, named Angela. Rumors of Kristinas strange sexuality leaked out and the Pope ordered for Angela to be removed from Kristinas household. Kristinas health drastically deteriorated from the loss. Knowing that the end was near, Kristina wrote apologies to those she had offended or hurt in the past and began to put her work and dealings in order. Azzolino was often by his loves side, though his health was also deteriorating.

           On April 19, 1689, Kristinas health turned for the worst. Azzolino by her side, Kristina breathed her last around noon at her palazzo. Her last wishes were to have a simple funeral. Heartbroken, Azzolino paid for a more extravagant funeral for Kristina, entombing her at St. Peters Church. Azzolino himself died a broken man a month afterwards.
Sexuality, Behavior, and Appearance

Kristina of Sweden is reputed to be the most discussed of all queens in history second to Cleopatra VII of Egypt. It is said that Kristina did not even complete anything during her reign as queen of Sweden, which is not true for Kristina helped to modernize and turn Sweden into an educated and artistic kingdom. However, it is true that Kristina completed much more in her years after abdication than she did during her years in Sweden. She was a patroness of the arts and sciences and sponsored many great events. But what people find most remarkable about Kristina are her sexuality, masculine behaviors, and abdication.

The common misconception about Kristina was that she practiced lesbianism. This is not true but it is now believed that Kristina was bisexual. Kristina had many loves in her life, both male and female. There was her cousin Karl, the courtier Magnus De la Gardie and Cardinal Azzolino. But there was also Ebba Sparre and Angela. Although Kristina is assumed to have been a virgin until her death, she did have numerous infatuations and affairs. But people ask, what lead to Kristinas bisexuality and her constant behavior as a man? Many people place this as a fault of Kristinas upbringing. As an infant Kristina was told to be raised as a prince by her father, King Gustav Adolf. Instead of being raised like the girl she was, Kristina found delight on battlefields and competing in athletic events. Being raised as a boy may have led to this but also the fact that Kristina constantly had the idea in her head that she was the king of Sweden. Queens had been misunderstood by Kristina, who saw them merely as the kings wife who did nothing. Europe had ironically just emerged from an era of queens: Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots and Catherine de Medici. Kristina knew that she was to rule Sweden in her own right and with the idea that queens were the people beside the king who were in the dark she assumed that she was a king. And since the title king is applied to male rulers Kristina decided to fashion herself in masculine behaviors, clothing and activities. Instead of befriending Marie Euphrosyne and Eleanore, her female cousins, as a child, Kristina befriended Karl and continued to compete in swordfights and horse riding. Much to her aunts consternation, Kristina refused to dress or act lady like. As a king, Kristina had the idea that she was expected to be masculine and thanks to her upbringing Kristina found men more interesting than women, constantly in their company and affected by their talk of women fondly that led to Kristinas love of Ebba Sparre. Although Kristina considered herself a king, in her time and in modern times she is known as Queen Kristina.

Kristinas abdication is often a discussed topic of the Swedish queen. The reality is that Kristina had planned her abdication before she even succeeded to the throne. The Lutheran faith practiced in Sweden did not appeal to Kristina. The morals and teachings she found did not agree with her beliefs and the atmospheres of the masses were surrounded with dourness and darkness. Even as a young pupil Kristina opened her eyes to new religions and ideas and explained her intention to convert to Catholicism to her tutors and closest companions. The factor of her abdication was that Kristina wished to practice Catholicism and the only way to do that was to officially leave Sweden and as Swedens ruler the only was to do so was through abdication. There were other small factors that led to her abdication. Kristina often found the responsibilities thrown on her overbearing and found that she needed to lead a relaxed life. This is understandable as Kristina worked harder than most adults as a child as was easily worn out by her 30s. Also, the hidden secret of her love for so many men and women somewhat embarrassed Kristina and she found she needed refuge. Sweden did not suit Kristina and so she left for the extravagant European countries of her day, leaving Sweden reformed artistically, intellectually, and militarily. 

Kristinas appearance is often disputed. Although many images of her exist today they all differ almost drastically. Most paintings and coins depict her with long dark hair, a prominent nose and a fair figure but others show her with short blonde hair, a pudgy face and a heavy figure. Today we must rely on first-hand accounts of Kristina for her physical appearance.

The Duc de Guise explained in a description of a youthful Kristina:


She isn't tall, but has a well-filled figure and a large behind, beautiful arms, white hands. One shoulder is higher than another, but she hides this defect so well by her bizarre dress, walk and movements.... The shape of her face is fair but framed by the most extraordinary coiffure. It's a man's wig, very heavy and piled high in front, hanging thick at the sides, and at the back there is some slight resemblance to a woman's coiffure.... She is always very heavily powdered over a lot of face cream.


A French visitor to Kristinas Italian palazzo three years before her death gave a different description:


She is over sixty years of age, definitely small, very stout and dumpy. Her skin, voice and features appear mannish: large nose, large blue eyes, light eyebrows, a double chin with traces of beard, and a prominent lower lip. Her hair is light brown, a span in length, powdered and uncombed. Her expression is friendly and her manner very forthcoming. Her dress consists of a close-fitting man's coat of black satin, reching to the knees and buttoned all the way down. She wears a very short black skirt showing her mannish shoes. A very wide black ribbon takes the place of a neckerchief. A waistband over her dresscoat holds in her stomach, strongly emphasizing its roundness.

The two appearances vary, and we can see that Kristinas image changed from her years in Sweden until her last days in Rome. As the ruler of Sweden, Kristina acted feminine, wearing womens clothes and makeup and showing some signs of feminine movements. However, in Sweden Kristina much resembles a man, and an unruly one at that.

Kristina lived a very eventful and scandalous life and though she is most famous for her sexual behavior and religious ideas, Kristina completed much during and after her reign that helped create the European culture of the post-Renaissance era.