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About and by Queen Christina of Sweden...
Pierre Chanut
Father Manderschyt
Duc de Guise
Madame de Motteville
Pope Alexander VII
A French Visitor
Sven Stolpe
Christina Herself

Image:  Christina in 1652, Hans Bergman 
photo of  Sebastien Bourdon painting

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Pierre-Hector Chanut, French Minister to Sweden
quoted from page 14 in Georgina Masson's Queen Christina

Her devotion to God ... the consciousness which she shows of being under His protection.... What is most remarkable is her incredible love of virtue (excellence) which is her whole joy and pleasure. To this is added an almost excessive passion for glory. From what one can judge, she wishes to have virtue accompanied by honor... to make her name famous by her extraordinary merit.

She is quickly conscious of her crown, and while recognizing its weight, realizes that the first step to virtue is to acquit herself well in her profession. She has great natural talents for achieving success in  this because she has a marvelous facility for understanding and getting to the bottom of affairs, a memory which serves her faithfully... She speaks Latin, French, German, Flemish and Swedish, and is studying Greek.

She wishes to know all, she asks about everything.... She loves discussing debatable questions, particularly with savants who hold contrary views.... and in a few well-chosen words sums up the whole matter... She always paid gracious attention to any among them who suggested themes which she thought useful to discuss. But if there were persons whose limits she knew and from whom she thought she could learn little, she cut the conversation off and continue the talk not a moment longer than was necessary.

Father Manderscheyt:
There is nothing feminine about her except her sex.
Duc de Guise:
quoted in Georgina Masson's Queen Christina

She isn't tall, but has a well-filled figure and a large behind, beautiful arms, white hands. One shoulder is higher than another, but she hides this defect so well by her bizarre dress, walk and movements.... The shape of her face is fair but framed by the most extraordinary coiffure. It's a man's wig, very heavy and piled high in front, hanging thick at the sides, and at the back there is some slight resemblance to a woman's coiffure.... She is always very heavily powdered over  a lot of face cream.

She wears men's shoes and her voice and nearly all her actions are masculine. She loves to show off her mastery of horses, and she glories in it....

She is very civil, and full of flattery, speaks eight languages, but mostly French, and that as if she had been born in Paris. She knows more than all our Academy and the Sorbonne put together, understands painting as well as anyone, and knows much more about our court intrigues than I do. In fact, she is an absolutely extraordinary person."

Madame de Motteville:
She swore to God, slouched in her chair, stretched her legs this way and that, hung them over the arm of her chair...She fell into deep reveries, let out profound sighs, then all of a sudden collected herself like someone who waked up with a jerk. 

She's completely extraordinary....Nearly all her action are in some way extravagant...in no way does she resemble a woman, she hasn't even the necessary modesty. She seems rough, brusque...and libertine in all she says, but....there is nothing in Christina that is contrary to the honor that depends from chastity. It was not difficult to pardon all her irregularities...

An Anonymous French Visitor in 1686 (from Stolpe):
She is over sixty years of age, definitely small, very stout and dumpy. Her skin, voice and features appear mannish: large nose, large blue eyes, light eyebrows, a double chin with traces of beard, and a prominent lower lip. Her hair is light brown, a span in length, powdered and uncombed. Her expression is friendly and her manner very forthcoming. Her dress consists of a close-fitting man's coat of black satin, reching to the knees and buttoned all the way down. She wears a very short black skirt showing her mannish shoes. A very wide black ribbon takes the place of a neckerchief. A waistband over her dresscoat holds in her stomach, strongly emphasizing its roundness.
Pope Alexander VII:
A woman born of  a barbarian, barbarously brought up and living with barbarous thoughts.... with ferocious and almost intolerable pride.
from Masson's Queen Christina (p. 266)

It did not taken Alexander VII long to realize that this most spectacular of all converts was not going to be a very docile daughter of the Church...Monsignore Farnese had heard that some very audacious pictures had been hung in his family palace and all the fig leaves and discreet draperies removed from the Farnese marbles, and had considered it his duty to protest to the Queen. Curtly, her Majesty had replied that she was not going to be bound by the "considerations worthy only of priests." 

There had also been criticism of Christina's attire, not for its mannish style, quite the opposite; the usually uncoquettish Queen had suddenly taken to very low-necked dresses .... and thus attired had been receiving cardinals. In any events, Christina's reaction to this criticism was characteristic - she simply covered her bosom with pearls. 

Evidently her conversion to Catholicism had not abated Christina's loathing for false piety and prudishness. Apart from observing the essentials of her new religion, she had no intention of allowing anyone to dictate to her how she should live now, any more than she would have done when she was Queen regnant in Sweden. It was an extremely awkward attitude to adopt in seventeenth century Rome, where appearances were everything, and women were expected to lead a life of semi-oriental privacy.

from Masson, author of Queen Christina (p.372-3)
"Inordinate self-esteem...is generally conceded to have been Christina's greatest failing.... This aggressiveness, this overwhelming  preoccupation with self, with her own interest, her glory, her virtue, and the impression the would make on the world and posterity was the flaw that brought nemesis down on her head. 

In spite of her early admiration for stoic philosophy and  later pursuit of the mysteries of Quietism, Christina could not bring herself to forgo the trappings of royalty. The insistence upon her royal state and its protocol... the passion for extravagance and display, even the art collections, and above all the desire to have a finger in any and every political pie, are signs of the inner unrest that drove Christina for fifteen years in search of a crown, until in the end the mirage collapsed in ridicule.

from Masson (p. 375)
In spite of her extreme consciousness of her own royal rank, Christina's birth also singles her out from among the majority of contemporaries. Christina's courage, her belief in rights and liberties, rare in her day, her recognition of religious and spiritual values, and her generosity went far to mitigate her glaring faults, which she paid for with a life of great unhappiness.


from Sven Stolpe's Christina of Sweden (p.150).
Queen Christina was a complex personality. It is impossible to account for her departure from Sweden by ascribing it to a single motive,; it was due to an interplay of a whole series of more or less conscious motives; alongside political day-dreaming, the intellectual pleasures of discovery, the hope to make a contribution to a future European peace, there was a leaning, sincere in some aspects, toward Catholic thought and toward the Church as unassailable authority, together with a secret dream-wish concerning Catholic virginity, heightened by her own incapacity to love a man as a husband and unite with him; and in this connection the potent effect on her of Italian nude paintings.... She always liked to have them around her....

Stolpe (p. 263)
Her whole life in Rome was a ceaseless relegtation into the background of her too exalted claims and demands.... Young Christina's headstrong self-assurance rested upon the current stoical ideal... it broke down under the stress of her experience of passion... She acquired a first-hand knowledge of the hardships of life, and her confidence in the supremacy of willpower and sovereign self-control was shattered. To her earlier stoical self-assurance she would never return. That was the most important thing she learnt from her tragic love [for Azzolino].

By Christina herself....

To Descartes:
If we conceive the world in that vast extension you give it, it is impossible that man conserve himself therein in this honorable rank, on the contrary, he shall consider himself along with the entire earth he inhabits as in but a small, tiny and in no proportion to the enormous size of the rest. He will very likely judge that these stars have inhabitants, or even that the earths surrounding them are all filled with creatures more intelligent and better than he, certainly, he will lose the opinion that this infinite extent of the world is made for him or can serve him in any way.

At her Abdication:
I say this explicitly, that it is impossible for me to marry. That is the way it is for me. The reasons for this I will not tell. I have frequently prayed to God, that I shall get that mind, but I have not been able to get it...My temper is a mortal enemy to this horrible yoke [marriage], which I would not accept, even if I thus would become the ruler of the world. Which crime has the female sex committed to be sentenced to the harsh necessity which consists of being locked up all life either as a prisoner or a slave? I call the nuns prisoners and the married women slaves.

About herself:
I love the storm and fear the calm. (Alternatively: I love the storm and dread it when the wind falters.)

I shall never be virtuous enough to be a saint, nor infamous enough to pretend to be one.

During her last decade, from her Maxims:
The soul has no gender.

We triumph over our passions only when they are weak.

All these dream-pictures of fatherland, freedom, honor, happiness and pride, which have inspired so many outstanding men to perform great and noble deeds, are in truth no more than daydreams.

All that has an end can be borne. Acknowledging the insignificant duration of our life can and should help us  through all the evil that  this world has in store for us.

Faith believes in God, but love sees Him.

All abandon us sooner or later. One must foresee this abandonment and resolve to quit all voluntarily. We must remain alone with God from now on, as he alone suffices for us to live and die happy.

When one examines one's heart one finds that nothing can fill it or console it but God alone.

During her last decade,  from her Autobiography (quoted in Stolpe):
Quench with Your hand all that does not come from You; of Your goodness and for Your glory, complete Your work. Let Your goodness overcome my ingratitude and weakness. Protect me from myself as You used to protect me from my enemies. By You and through You I long for You. Do not be unmoved by the immense burning longing You have lit in my heart, for I look upon it as the greatest grace that You have bestowed on me. Make me worthy to possess You in that blind and utter renunciation that I owe You, for no one can withhold it from You without courting eternal unhappiness. Detach me from my secret bonds, however fair and guileless they may be. Help me to dedicate my work, my life and my death to You alone for ever and ever.

copyright 1999 by Torrey Philemon (Tracy Marks)
Images are copyrighted and may not be reproduced.

This site was originally created for The Ancient Sites Celebration of Women. 
Ancient Sites community folded March 30, 2001. The web sites of Tracy Marks 
as TorreyPhilemon of Ancient Sites are now being moved to other locations.

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