I have a lot of sympathy and admiration for Christina of Sweden (1626-1689). She was only 6 when she became queen of Sweden after her father’s death on the battlefield. She had a significant impact not only on her country, and her 17th century, but also on Europe (political and cultural), Christianity and woman identity going forward. I have read that she is one of only three women buried in the grotto of the Vatican, in the company of Matilda of Tuscany (I did not know it when I wrote about her on this blog) and Maria Clementina Sobieska.
She was in countercurrent of nearly everything in her time and had to fight to advance her fundamental modernism. She was an early adopter of the Age of Enlightenment (” Siècle des Lumières “) which advanced the pursuit of human happiness and scientific reasoning over faith-based cultural and social absolutism. René Descartes‘ Discourse on the Method in 1637, is often cited as the starting point of this liberation movement and Christina passionately embraced his doctrine. She started a lifelong personal exchange with him and invited him to join her court when she was 23 years old. He accepted and even wrote the passions of the soul at her insistence. She made her court a European center of luminaries, attracting the best philosophical, musical and literary talents of her time.
She indulged in her passions of soul, particularly love which she struggled to reconcile with her monarchical responsibility. She openly adopted a gay sexual orientation. She is said to never have had a male sexual relationship. She caused a scandal when she decided not to marry. She adopted her cousin as son so that she could renounce the throne in his favor at the age of 26.
She ran into strong opposition from her conservative, Lutheran population who criticized her initiatives and even (as it is now widely speculated) killed Descartes through poisoning. Politically, she fought very hard for a durable peace to end the devastating pan European Thirty Years War. When she saw that negotiations to create a European peace treaty were stalling, she forced the issue with a military intervention in Prague, intended to raise awareness that war was not a solution and that her peace aspirations had to be accepted. She is seen as a core engineer of the Treaty of Westphalia which established in Europe a more balanced equilibrium of sovereign national powers with auto-determination of national religion.
She converted to Catholicism and fled the country to settle in Rome. She died of diabetic complications at the age of 62. Some see in her an irresponsible, selfish woman who abandoned her people and duties. Pope Alexander VII described Christina as “a queen without a realm, a Christian without faith, and a woman without shame”. I see in her a modernist ahead of her times, with an incredible courage to advance progressive ideas at the cost of her power. She did the right thing in an impossible situation. I would have loved to meet you Christina!
Un bel article qui invite à une rencontre…culturelle
Very fascinating! I haven’t heard much about Christina of Sweden, but now I’m intrigued to know more.