b. 18 December 1626
d. 19 April 1689
Queen regnant of Swedes, Goths and Vandals, Grand Princess of Finland, and Duchess of Ingria, Estonia, Livonia and Karelia, from 1633 to 1654, Christina was the only surviving legitimate child of King Gustav II Adolph and his wife Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg. As the heiress presumptive, at the age of six she succeeded her father on the throne of Sweden upon his death at the Battle of Lützen. Being the daughter of a Protestant champion in the Thirty Years’ War, she caused a scandal when she abdicated her throne and converted to Catholicism in 1654. She spent her later years in Rome, becoming a leader of the theatrical and musical life there. As a queen without a country, she protected many artists and projects. She is one of the few women buried in the Vatican grotto.
From the moment of her birth, Christina confounded sexual and gender stereotypes. Her parents had been anxious for a male royal heir, and astrologers had confidently predicted a boy would be born. When the robust baby arrived, it was first thought to be a boy, on account of a hairy body and strong voice. After it had been recognized that she was in fact a girl, her father the king was undeterred, and proceeded to raise her as the boy she had been expected to be: with an education education of a prince. Thus, her lessons included languages, political and military science, riding, and shooting- all of which suited her much better than women’s traditional activities such as needlework, for which she claimed to have no aptitude whatsoever.
After her father’s death, she was proclaimed “king” by the Swedish parliament – not queen. During the regency until she began to rule in her own right, she continued to receive an excellent education.
As an adult, she continued to resist all gender conformity. She showed no interest at all in fashion and adopted mannish styles of dress. She ignored traditionally approved “feminine” interests, and instead continued to pursue and promote her love of scholarship, books and culture. She also resisted marrying, and rejected several proposals. Immediately after abdicating in favour of her cousin Gustav, she left Sweden for Rome, dressed as a man.
Details of her sexual relationships, if any are not known conclusively, but she did have close personal friendships with both men and women. Some frank letters to her lady-in-waiting Ebba Sparre suggest that their relationship may have been sexual. The question of her biological sex is also unclear. In addition to the confusion around the matter at birth, other physical details suggest that she may have been intersex. However, it has not been possible to confirm this, in the absence of soft tissue remains.
What is clear, from the evidence of her rejection of marriage and feminine pastimes, ambiguous love relationships and cross-dressing, that in modern terms she should be thought of as either lesbian or trans.