Queen Christina

Swedish queen Drottning Kristina portrait by Sébastien Bourdon stor.jpg

Queen Christina (r. 1632-1654) is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating characters from history. Her parents’ only child, she became queen at the age of 6 when her father, Gustavus Adolphus, was killed in battle. She was raised to rule and had a passion for work, habitually rising early and studying late into the night. Highly educated and intellectually curious, Christina considered herself not an example of what women could accomplish but rather an exception; she considered women generally weak, ruled by passions, and unfit to rule.

Christina attained her majority in 1644, just as the Congress of Westphalia was beginning. She became involved in a power struggle with Axel Oxenstierna, the chancellor of the realm since 1612 and the person most responsible for Christina’s own education. They quarrelled over the best policy to adopt, with Christina generally favouring one more sympathetic to French interests.

The appointment of Pierre Chanut as French ambassador to Sweden proved a turning point in Christina’s life. She became close friends with Chanut and was introduced to leading currents in French thought. It was probably around this time that she conceived the idea of converting to Catholicism.

Christina developed a distaste for marriage in which she conceived the woman’s role as passive and subordinate. However, without marriage she could not conceive a legitimate heir, which was a primary duty of any monarch. Eventually she decided to designate her cousin, Charles Gustav, as heir and to abdicate the throne. Soon after leaving Sweden, she converted to Catholicism and travelled to Rome, where she lived for most of the rest of her life.

Christina’s role in the negotiations at Westphalia was ambiguous. She was generally less hard-line than Oxenstierna, and certainly had less interest in orthodox Lutheranism or supporting Lutheran estates in the Empire. More important than any specific policy, however, was the fact that Christina favoured the plenipotentiary Johan Adler Salvius and corresponded separately with him, while Axel Oxenstierna did the same with his son, Johan, who was also present in Osnabrück. This division at the court exacerbated the conflict in Westphalia and made it difficult for Sweden to pursue a completely coherent policy.

Movies

Christina is almost certainly the only person on this list to have a movie made about her (I’m sure Louis XIV appears in multiple movies, but I don’t know if there is one specifically about him). She has not only one, but several.

The Girl King (2015): I only learned about this one recently, and I am dying to see it. I’m curious what it conveys about Christina, but also a number of other characters relevant to Westphalia, including Axel Oxenstierna and his son John.

The Abdication (1974): Another one that I only recently learned of, with an obvious focus.

Queen Christina (1933): The classic, starring Greta Garbo. I can’t vouch for its historicity, but definitely worth watching.

Books

Christina is also the rare figure associated with Westphalia who not only has numerous biographies, but also has multiple options available in English.

Christina, Queen of Sweden: The Restless Life of a European Eccentric (2005) by Veronica Buckley

Christina of Sweden (1966) by Sven Stolpe

Maxims of a Queen, Christina of Sweden (1626-89): Christina is also one of the few characters who has her own written work (apart from correspondence) that you can read. Very interesting reading.