Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Christina: The Girl King

She was born, on this day in 1626, under what astrologers all agreed was an auspicious star; hers was to be the reign to end all reigns... Raised by her father Gustav II Adolf as a Prince (until the age of five, anyway) from 1632 to 1654 Christina reigned as King of Sweden; they called her the Girl King.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThing is, she wasn't very good at it. Damn astrology...

Bored of life in the relative cultural backwater of Stockholm, Christina abdicated her throne at the age of 28 in favour of her cousin, who became Charles X Gustav. She then exiled herself to Rome, where her palazzo became for a time a grand literary and artistic salon. While there she also converted to Catholicism; as the most famous convert of her day, she became a thing of fascination to Papists, this one woman counter-reformation whose father had once led the failed Protestant charge during the Thirty Years' War only to fall at the Battle of Lützen. Never a devoted Catholic, she was nevertheless a committed one.

Having lavished her immense fortune on the famously rapacious aristocracy of Rome, after just two years Christina realized she was broke, and so was forced to take her show on the road in an effort to drum up funds. Her assertive manner and masculine dress scandalized the ladies of Louis XIV's Versailles; while at Fontainebleau in 1656 she and the wily Cardinal Mazarin hatched a plot to make her Queen of Naples, which might have succeeded but for the murder of her Master of the Horse marchese Gian Rinaldo Monaldeschi in 1657 at the hands of two of her servants and by her order. Although technically legal, it was to make her very unpopular indeed.

Having burned her bridges in France she was rebuffed from visiting Cromwell's England and so made a humiliating return to Sweden in 1660 to ask for her old job back following the death of Charles X Gustav, even though the one thing that could have restored her popularity - a penis - was not to be possible there for another 300 years. Not only did the Swedes prefer to be ruled by the new Charles XI (a four-year-old boy) while there she was forced to sign a new instrument of renunciation, giving up all claim to a throne the vast majority of her former subjects didn't want her to have anyway.

Thus humbled, she returned to Rome, where she died in April 1689; she is buried at the Vatican, in St. Peter's Basilica.
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