Born in December 1626, her father, King Gustavus, gave orders that his only daughter and heir, be educated as a boy. On the death of her father, Christina became regent Queen.
Christina was a very bright student and was eager to study ten hours a day. She was certainly a ‘tomboy’ showing a great interest in fencing, horse riding and hunting. When she was fourteen, she was coached by members of a visiting French ballet troupe in order for Christina to move around more elegantly.
Marriage was not in Christina’s plans.
In her later autobiography she wrote of “an insurmountable distaste for marriage,” and “an insurmountable distaste for all the things that females talked about and did.” She did, however, find a desire for one woman in particular, Countess Ebbe “Belle” Sparre, a lady in waiting. She did not hide this love and introduced Belle to English Ambassador Whitelocke as her “bed-fellow,” with a remark that Belle’s intellect was as striking as her body.
Christina was obviously restless. Her appetite for languages, philosophy and the arts had now earned her the name of “Minerva of the North,” and Stockholm as the “Athens of the North.” She planned to live in Rome and abdicated her throne to her cousin. Belle married and the marriage was an unhappy affair ending with the death of her husband. Christina and Belle continued to correspond for the rest of their lives.
Rome gave Christina the opportunity to be almost a queen ‘without a country.’ She arrived in Rome with an entourage of 255 persons and 247 horses. She was the toast of Rome enjoying lavish firework displays and dinners.
Christina converted to Catholicism, something that must have shocked Sweden as her father died in battle fighting the Thirty Years War – Sweden fought against Catholic forces.
It is unclear why Christina underwent this conversion. She was, after all, living in Rome and her conversion ceremony was presided over by the Pope himself. Whether the conversion was personal or political, Christina did have prior questions concerning ‘how Catholic’ she would need to be, and was told that so long as she acknowledged publicly her allegiance to the Pope, other matters were of less significance.
Christina continued to don male attire, even arriving in Rome with her hair shaved and wearing a wig. She took the name, Alexandra, not only after the Pope, but also for her hero, Alexandra the Great. (Whether Christina was aware of the Greek’s homosexuality or whether she appreciated him as a conqueror and intellect is merely speculation on my part.
There have been movies and plays about Christina. Greta Garbo was a talented actress who played this part. (Greata Garbo had a love affair with the female writer, Mercedes da Costa)