Skip to main content
Select Source:

Christina (Sweden) (1626–1689; Ruled 1632–1654)

CHRISTINA (SWEDEN) (16261689; ruled 16321654)

CHRISTINA (SWEDEN) (16261689; ruled 16321654), queen of Sweden. The daughter of Gustavus II Adolphus of Sweden and Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg, Christina was one of the most remarkable people in Sweden's early modern history. She was intellectually gifted, well educated, intensely interested in the ideas and culture of her period, clever, passionate, self-centered, and deeply troubled. Her life falls into three periods: childhood, when she was heir to the throne of Sweden and for twelve years under the control of a regency (16321644); her time as a governing queen (16441654); and the thirty-five years she lived as a former queen and cultural dilettante in Rome (16541689).

It is usually said that Christina's birth was a disappointment. Gustavus II Adolphus and Maria Eleonora had lost one infant daughter, and a second child was stillborn. Everyone hoped for a male heir, and when Christina was born, she was at first thought to be a boy. The truth was quickly apparent. As the only surviving child of the royal couple, however, she was raised as heir to the throne. Following her father's death at the Battle of Lützen in 1632, her upbringing became the responsibility of a regency. She was soon separated from her mother, whose melancholy reached dangerous extremes, and raised in the family of her aunt, Katarina. She was educated as a male, learning to ride, fence, and shoot; early on she was exposed to the business of state. Her formal education was in modern and classical languages, the classics, theology, and history. Her passions were philosophy, art, and literature. Her tutor was Johannes Matthiae Gothus, and her mentor in politics was the chancellor, Axel Oxenstierna.

Her life as queen began in 1644 when she reached eighteen, the age of majority. Her ideas and desires put her in conflict with the chancellor and his colleagues in the Council of State. The conflict was both personal and political. The constitutional balance of power in Sweden, which involved the crown, council, nobility, and commons, had shifted with Gustavus II Adolphus's accession in 1611. Sweden seemed to be moving toward becoming an aristocracy, in which real power was in the hands of a few powerful nobles. Axel Oxenstierna was the main architect of these developments, and Christina rejected them.

Christina engaged in several Machiavellian political struggles, which included offsetting the power of the old council nobles, securing peace in Germany, and guaranteeing the survival of hereditary monarchy. She won them all. At court she used favorites, whom she rewarded with important offices, titles, and crown properties. The council swelled from twenty-five to nearly fifty members, and the nobility more than doubled in size. Her excessive donations of the crown properties (the assets of a domain state) shifted the property-owning balance, sapped the state's financial resources, and triggered serious social unrest among the commons.

In the matter of the Thirty Years' War, her wishes for peace were opposed by the chancellor and his supporters, who wanted the war to continue. Sweden was becoming a "warfare state," the costs of security were being paid by allies and enemies, and the nobility benefited. The Peace of Westphalia in 1648 was a victory for Christina.

The succession issue was more complex, involving personal identity, religion, and politics. By 1650 Christina had made it clear she could not marry. This decision arose from her own identity struggles, which may have been complicated by psychological and physiological factors. She also became more discontented with what she thought of as the stifling Lutheran orthodoxy in Sweden, and she was increasingly attracted to Catholicism. Her sense of duty drove her to arrange the succession of her cousin Charles X Gustav of Pfalz-Zweibrücken and his heirs. To do so, she exploited the social and economic concerns of the commons, the tension between the lower nobility and the council aristocracy, and her personal favorites at court. Her abdication, departure from Sweden in 1654, and subsequent conversion to Catholicism followed naturally from these successes.

The longest period of her life, 16541689, was spent mostly in Rome. Sensationalizers gossiped about her as a meddler in international affairs, a murderer, and the lover of a cardinal during this period. In fact, she was a minor player in European politics, most notably when she tried to secure the crown of Naples via an arrangement with France in 1656. The murder accusation arises from her prosecution and execution in 1657 of the Marquis Gian Rinaldo Monaldesco, who betrayed those negotiations to Spain. Her relationship with Cardinal Decio Azzolino was platonic.

Christina was intensely intellectual and wanted to bring mainstream European culture to Sweden. She collected works of art and books, and staged plays and ballets at court. She invited European scholars to Sweden. René Descartes died there while her guest. She also founded the first Swedish "academy." When she left Sweden, this spirit and her collections went with her. Sweden became a poorer place as a result, while Rome benefited from her lifelong commitment to the arts and culture.

See also Charles X Gustav (Sweden) ; Gustavus II Adolphus (Sweden) ; Oxenstierna, Axel ; Sweden ; Thirty Years' War (16181649) ; Vasa Dynasty (Sweden) .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Lewis, Paul. Queen of Caprice: A Biography of Kristina of Sweden. London and New York, 1962.

Mackenzie, Faith Compton. The Sibyl of the North: The Tale of Christina, Queen of Sweden. Boston, 1931.

Masson, Georgina. Queen Christina. New York, 1968.

Stolpe, Sven. Drottning Kristina. Stockholm, 1966.

Weibull, Curt. Christina of Sweden. Stockholm, 1966.

Byron J. Nordstrom

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Christina (Sweden) (1626–1689; Ruled 1632–1654)." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Christina (Sweden) (1626–1689; Ruled 1632–1654)." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 17, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/christina-sweden-1626-1689-ruled-1632-1654

"Christina (Sweden) (1626–1689; Ruled 1632–1654)." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/christina-sweden-1626-1689-ruled-1632-1654

Christina

Christina (krĬstē´nə), 1626–89, queen of Sweden (1632–54), daughter and successor of Gustavus II. From her father's death (1632) until 1644 she was under a regency headed by Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna. Her early devotion to state affairs soon gave place to other interests, especially a zeal for learning. She attracted many foreign artists and scholars—including Descartes—to her court. Music and literature, especially the poetry of Jorge Stiernhielm (1598–1672), were encouraged. On her favorites she lavished titles, lands, and money, and by the end of her reign half of the crown lands had been given away. Her distaste for marriage caused her to designate her cousin Charles (later Charles X) as her successor. Weary of her duties and the growing antagonism of the nobles, and attracted to Catholicism, Christina abdicated in 1654. She left Sweden attired as a man, was received into the Catholic Church at Innsbruck in 1655, and settled at Rome. Her eccentricity and financial incompetence kept her affairs in continual disorder. On the death (1660) of Charles X, Christina returned to Sweden; she hoped to regain her throne but failed. She again went to Sweden in 1667 but was refused entrance into Stockholm because of her religion. She died in Rome and was buried at St. Peter's.

See biographies by M. L. Goldsmith (1933), A. Neumann (tr. 1935), S. Stolpc (1960, tr. 1966), C. H. J. Weibull (1960, tr. 1966), G. Masson (1968), and V. Buckley (2004).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Christina." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Christina." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 17, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/christina

"Christina." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/christina

Christina

Christina (1626–89) Queen of Sweden (1632–54). An intellectual of great energy, Christina brought foreign scholars, such as Descartes, to her court. Ruling a Lutheran country, she abdicated to become a Roman Catholic, and settled in Rome. She tried unsuccessfully to obtain the crown of Poland (1667).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Christina." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Christina." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 17, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/christina

"Christina." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/christina

Christina

Christinaabstainer, arcana, campaigner, Cana, caner, cantilena, complainer, container, detainer, drainer, entertainer, explainer, Gaenor, gainer, Gaynor, grainer, Jena, Lena, maintainer, Marlene, N'Djamena, obtainer, ordainer, planar, planer, profaner, Rayner, retainer, scena, seiner, Sinn Feiner, strainer, sustainer, trainer, uniplanar •straightener •Adelina, Angelina, arena, Argentina, ballerina, Ballymena, Bettina, Bukovina, Burkina, cantina, Cartagena, casuarina, catena, Christina, cleaner, concertina, congener, contravener, convener, Cortina, demeanour (US demeanor), deus ex machina, duodena, Edwina, Ena, farina, Filipina, galena, Georgina, Gina, gleaner, hyena, Ina, intervener, kachina, kina, Magdalena, marina, Martina, Medina, Messalina, Messina, misdemeanour (US misdemeanor), Nina, novena, ocarina, Palestrina, Pasadena, Philomena, piscina, retsina, Rowena, Sabrina, scarlatina, screener, Selina, semolina, Seraphina, Serena, Sheena, signorina, sonatina, subpoena, Taormina, tsarina, verbena, vina, weaner, wiener, Wilhelmina, Zena •sweetener • pipecleaner

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Christina." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Christina." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 17, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/christina

"Christina." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/christina