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November 6: Sweden’s Queen Christina

November 6, 2015

Sébastien_Bourdon-Christina_of_Sweden_1653Christina became the queen of Sweden at age 6 on this date in 1632. She would begin to rule at 18 and would grow into a highly unconventional woman for her day: She dressed like a man, refused to marry, was highly educated (commanding nine languages), had passionate relationships with women and men, was a defender of freedom of thought and freedom of religion, and abdicated her throne in 1654 after converting to Catholicism. “Departing Sweden,” writes Bruce Bawer in the New York Times, “Christina paused at the Danish border only to have her hair cut short, strap on a sword and change into the men’s clothing that would henceforth be her attire of choice. Yet... in later years, she would unsuccessfully seek the crowns of no fewer than three other kingdoms, in addition to trying to regain her own.” Christina became the friend to four popes in Rome (and lovers, it is believed, with Cardinal Decio Azzolino, who strongly influenced the Vatican in foreign affairs). She also had friendships and correspondences with a few notable Jews, and, while on the throne in Sweden, came close to opening the country to Jewish immigration. In 1686, while in Rome, Christina issued a declaration that Roman Jews were under her protection, and she helped to improve their lot under Vatican rule. She died in 1689 and is one of only three women buried in the Grotte Vaticane in St. Peter’s Basilica. Some modern writers suggest that Christina was an intersex or transgender person. For an interesting article about Christina as a philosopher (she was a pupil of Descartes), click here.

“Jesus Christ had all his life conversed with Jews... he himself was come of their Seed; and... he preferred their company to the Company of all other Nations. Now judge ye yourselves of this Answer.” —Christina, in response to accusations of being a Judeophile, 1686