Born on the 8th December 1626 to Gustav II Adolph and Marie Eleonora of Brandenburg, Kristina was the sole heir to the throne. In her mother's eyes Kristina was a disappointment as she was a girl, especially since the soothsayers and the wise women of the court had predicted that she would be a boy. However her father was quoted to have exclaimed, "She will be a clever girl. She has already deceived all of us" (1).
Other reports have claimed that Kristina accompanied her father on many journeys, even as an infant, and had showed delight at the sounds of cannon fire (2).
Many of Kristina’s intellectual traits came from her father, Gustavas Adolph of Wasa, he was known for his decisive action and intellectual curiosity and passion. Although he initially possessed religious tolerance he soon became a bitter enemy of Catholicism. With his lack of a son, Gustavas was determined to have Kristina raised as a prince. Kristina’s mother Marie Eleonora of Brandenburg was married for political reasons, which sparked questions about why she was so sullen in her relationship with Gustavas and Kristina. She was superficial and pleasure-oriented with a sometime hysterical, morbid temperament. This was perhaps the reason why Kristina rebelled against the femininity of other women in Sweden.
Charles Gustavas was the cousin of Kristina who was four years her elder and son of Christina of Wasa. As a childhood friend Charles soon became Kristina’s object of her adolescent love. Although their love ended they stayed friends and she supported him while he was King. He was prone to excessive drinking and eating but he was considered an honourable King and was highly respected. Kristina was a very domineering woman, which created many of her unique faults. She mostly wanted to be known for her merit. She would openly shun frivolity and denigrate the lives and interests of most women. Even though Kristina possessed enormous courage and strength of will she insisted on total personal freedom and had refused to acknowledge any authority bar her own. Kristina appeared to many to have an unlimited amount of energy and maintained a non-stop pace but she had frequently suffered from illness and had exhausted everyone around her.
One of her most wonderful qualities was that she was incapable of moderation; whether she was engaged in study or in entertainment, Kristina always pursued her many interests with an intense fervour. Kristina had delighted in shocking others with her behaviour and appearance. Kristina was intolerant of the superficiality and femininity of other women thus she rebelled against societies conformity by paying little attention to her own dress and personal appearance and she frequently appeared slovenly.
Although luxury and many priceless treasures of art and architecture surrounded Kristina she still dressed plainly in severe grey dresses and men’s trousers. Due to her seemingly inexhaustible energy she was constantly on the move. When speaking she would voice her debauched and immoral opinions rather loudly without showing any respect to the social and religious propriety, therefore in appearance, voice and mannerisms she was quite masculine.
Majority of her life Kristina was akin to that of a Queen without a Kingdom, and often without a reliable source of income. She found herself depending entirely on her political and interpersonal finesse in order to gain the means to support herself and her causes. Kristina could be ruthlessly manipulative and deceptive so that she could serve her own ends however these ends did frequently benefit others. Kristina’s love life has come under much scrutiny. Was she a lesbian? Could she have been bisexual? Or was she simply a person with many a romantic liaison? It has been confirmed that Kristina did fall in love with her cousin Charles Gustavas when she was an adolescent, however she refused his offer to marry him, after this she had found much solace with her male and female bed partners. By the time she reached the age of seventeen she had decided that she would never marry. Due to her outrageous appearance, her shocking behaviour and her intimacy with a succession of men and women she had become the target of considerable sexual gossip.
In the year 1630, at the age of four, King Gustav presented Kristina to the Estate as his successor, thus Kristina was acknowledged as the legal successor by the states general and the army. In light of this the Chancellor Oxenstierna was installed as the head of Regency so as to oversee Sweden until Kristina reached the age of eighteen. To heighten her intellectual ability a select group of scholars headed by the theologian Johannes Matthiae was chosen to oversee her education. Along with the additional education the King Gustav had commanded that Kristina be trained as a prince, then leaves for a battle against the Emperor of Austria, Ferdinand.
Two years later King Gustav is killed at the Battle of Lutzen (3). In response to Gustav’s death, Kristina’s mother, Marie Eleonora confined herself to her room, cloaked in black with her husband’s heart in a golden container. At this time Kristina was crowned Queen before a congregation of regents, at this time her education also commenced. It was believed that Kristina spent six hours morning and night immersed in her studies. Her language abilities stemmed to encompass German, French, Italian, Spanish, Swedish and Latin. Kristina was also well trained in philosophy and leadership of the Stoics through the readings of Tacitus, Epictetus, Seneca and many others. As her father had commanded that she be trained as a Prince, she was also adept at the art of horsemanship, sword work and all other aspects of battle and sports.
Throughout 1635 at the age of nine, Kristina began questioning the truths of many religious teachings. As the years progressed she began studying theology and learning about worldly religions. She was inspired by the writings of Descartes who was able to reconcile faith and reason, at this time Kristina began to secretly arrange meetings with Catholic priests. At the age of thirteen, Kristina was left without a mother as Marie Eleonora fled from Sweden to Denmark; a year after Kristina’s aunt had passed away.
During the year of 1640, at the age of fourteen, Queen Kristina is admitted to council meetings and she begins to participate in the governance of Sweden. Four years later Kristina comes of age and is crowned again as the Queen. Once in power Kristina begins to oppose the Chancellor Oxenstierna who had already attempted to remove Kristina’s power when she was a minor. In 1645 the first Swedish newspaper was created. As Kristina was adept in the teachings of philosophy, in 1646 she began questioning Descartes about the relative evil of misused love and hate, these letters were corresponded through the French Ambassador Chanut. In clarification Chanut adds that Descartes’ answer was not in reference to the normal "girl" type of love, but rather a love that is ascribed to by philosophers. In his reply, Descartes has an eight-page explanation in which Kristina dismisses instead of choosing to question his ideas of an infinite God and creation.
Following the years of Kristina’s conversations with Descartes, many in Queen Kristina’s presence saw her as an advocate of peace. In 1648 Kristina was regarded as the driving force in ending the Thirty Years’ War, however some had felt that Kristina had done Sweden a great injustice by ending the war before they were able to procure sufficient war spoils. Through this time Kristina had also begun to assemble a group of scholars at her court, one of the first was Isaac Vossius who had organised an extensive library, which was obtained through the spoils from Prague. As Kristina had surrounded herself with intellectuals throughout her life it is understandable that during the years of 1648-1653 her court was assembled with other intellectuals as Nicholas Heinsius, Claudius Salmsius, Johannes Scheffer, Samuel Bechart and Christian Ravius.
As her friendship with Descartes grew, Kristina soon invited him to visit Stockholm in 1650. Residing with the French Ambassador Chanut, Descartes finds himself travelling an hour each morning to meet with the Queen at 5:00. At this time Chanut contracts pneumonia and Descartes takes time out from his meetings with Kristina to nurse Chanut back to health. Although Chanut recovers, Descartes falls ill and dies, as a result Kristina is blamed for his death due to the demands that she had placed on him without taking into consideration his poor health.
In 1651 Kristina had begun a series of Cladestine communications with the Jesuits Malines and Casati and begins to confess her profound scepticism in the tenets of the Lutheran Religion. At this time she starts to seriously consider abdicating her throne. A year after Kristina suffers a nervous breakdown. During the year of 1654 Kristina decides to abdicate. The exact date of her abdication varies throughout many historical sources, however the date resides between June6 to June 16. Prior to her abdication she names Charles X Gustav, her cousin, as her successor. One such historical source dictates that her adherents in court refuse to remove the crown from her head so she removes it herself and places it on Charles’ head. Once abdicated she immediately leaves Sweden with her personal possessions and her court women. Although as soon as she crosses the border she orders her court women to return to Sweden and continues on her lengthy tour of Europe.
In 1655 Kristina decides to convert to Catholicism and in December of that year Pope Alexander VII in Rome receives her. A year later Kristina holds an academy in France pertaining to the nature of love. Kristina attempts to seize Naples with the intention of becoming Queen in 1657. While visiting Fontainbleau Kristina discovers that her servant Marchese Gian Rinaldo Monaldeschi had betrayed her and her plans to seize Naples to the Pope. After having the last rites of absolution given to him, Kristina orders Monaldeschi to be killed for his treason in her presence. As a result the European world is horrified at the act and Kristina claims her sovereign authority, naturally, on her return to Rome, the Pope does not welcome Kristina.
In her last attempt at being crowned Queen Kristina returns to Sweden to try to gain the right to rule over Poland in 1667. She fails in her attempt and returns to settle permanently in Rome where she founded Academia Reale, an institution with the mission to purify the Italian language.
In the year 1668 Kristina had an observatory installed in her palace, which was complete with two astronomers. She also begins publishing letters on the tolerance of the French Huguenots in Pierre Boyle’s Nouvelles De La Republique des Letters (4) and writes a manifesto defending the Jews of Rome. The set of two collections oh maxims Le Sentiments Heroiques and L’Ouvrage de Lisir Sentiments Raisonnables (5) begin in letterform and are published in 1670 along with her unfinished autobiography.
Four years later Kristina holds Academia Reale with the physiologist Giovanni Borelli and astronomer/mathematician Cassini. Throughout her remaining years Kristina remained a strong patroness of the arts. Towards the end of her life she founds an academy for philosophy and literature and she becomes an instigator in the opening of the first public opera house in Rome and begins sponsoring Alessandro Scarlatti and Archangelo Corelli.
In 1680 Kristina commissions the art historian Filippo Baldinucci to write a biography on sculpture and architect. As a result Kristina continues to support the arts and philosophy until her death on April 19 1689. As a ruler Kristina was competent and decisive and was able to exercise considerable political finesse in both foreign and internal affairs. She was a highly religious woman and although she supported many forms of religion she ultimately believed in Catholicism and even after her abdication she supported the rights of the minor religious groups.
Throughout her life Kristina was very much a patroness to the arts and sciences, she devoted her time after her abdication to excelling and improving the already existent arts foundation within Rome. Consequently her home the Palace Farnese was the centre of cultural and intellectual life until her death.