Cover image for Christina, Queen of Sweden : the restless life of a European eccentric
Christina, Queen of Sweden : the restless life of a European eccentric
Buckley, Veronica.
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Fourth Estate, [2004]

Physical Description:
x, 370 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
General Note:
Originally published: Great Britain: Fourth Estate, 2004.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DL719 .B83 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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She was born on a bitterly cold December night in 1626 and, in the candlelight, mistakenly declared a boy. On her father's death six years later, she inherited the Swedish throne. She was tutored by Descartes, yet could swear like the roughest soldier. She was painted a lesbian, a prostitute, a hermaphrodite, and an atheist; in that tumultuous age, it is hard to determine which was the most damning label. She was learned but restless, progressive yet self-indulgent; her leadership was erratic, her character unpredictable. Sweden was too narrow for her ambition. No sooner had she enjoyed the lavish celebrations of her officialcoronation at twenty-three than she abdicated, converting to Catholicism (an act of almost foolhardy independence and political challenge) and leaving her cold homeland behind for an extravagant new life in Rome. Christina, Queen of Sweden, longed fatally for adventure.

Freed from her crown, Christina cut a breath-taking path across Europe: spending madly, searching for a more prestigious throne to scale, stirring trouble wherever she went. Supported and encouraged in turn by the pope, the king of Spain, and France's powerful Cardinal Mazarin, Christina settled at the luxurious Palazzo Farnese, where she established a lavish salon for Rome's artists and intellectuals. More than once the cross-dressing queen was forced to leave town until a scandal died down. She loved to buckle on a sword and swagger like the men whose company she adored, but the greatest mystery in her life was the true nature of her elusive sexuality, which biographer Veronica Buckley explores with sensitivity and rigor. For a time it seemed there was nothing this extraordinary woman might fear attempting, until a bloody tragedy of her own making foreshadowed her downfall.

Pairing painstaking research with a sparkling narrative voice and unerring sense of the age, Veronica Buckley reclaims a protean life that had been preserved mostly as myth. Christina was a child of her time, and her time was one of great change: Europe stood at a crossroads where religion and science, antiquity and modernity, peace and war all met. Christina took what she wanted from each to create the life she most desired, and she dazzled all who met her.

Author Notes

Veronica Buckley was born in New Zealand. She studied in London and Oxford, where she did her postgraduate work on Christina Alexandra. She now lives in Paris with her husband

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

One of the standouts in a long line of self-indulgent European royals, Christina, with her eccentricities, merits Buckley's close attention. From the moment of her birth in 1626, when she was mistakenly identified as a boy, to the time of her death in 1689, she ardently pursued an extraordinarily extravagant life characterized by an emotionally contrary nature. Many have speculated about her seemingly ambiguous sexuality, but, as Buckley discerns, her refusal to even contemplate marriage evidences both an independent temperament and an essentially asexual orientation. Formally ascending the Swedish throne in 1644, she proved to be a lavish and fiscally irresponsible monarch, leading Sweden to the verge of bankruptcy in six short years. Restless and bored, she longed for intellectual and physical warmth, cultural enlightenment, and adventure. Abdicating in 1654, she converted to Catholicism, moved to Rome, and undertook a bold and ultimately disastrous plan to seize the throne of Naples. Proud, impulsive, and willful, Christina was convinced she had the divine right to lead her life by her own rules. --Margaret Flanagan Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Christina abdicated the throne of Lutheran Sweden in 1654, at age 28, presumably in order to convert to Catholicism. Buckley presents a wide-ranging, entertaining exploration of the dynamics of the queen's decision and unusual life. The author, in her debut, convincingly demonstrates that it wasn't religion that drew Christina to Rome, but a love of art and the ancients. Nor did a true love of philosophy encourage her fateful invitation to Descartes to come to Stockholm, but a restless, clever mind and a belief in her own great potential. Nor, says Buckley, did homosexuality lead her to decline marriage but a larger sexual ambivalence. Attracted to both men and women, yet disgusted by the idea of sex, Christina was most comfortable in masculine garb, critical of women and bitterly aware of the limitations society placed on women. Buckley weaves these threads together in a lively portrait, laying out the background to her story in fluid prose, from political and military aspects of the Thirty Years' War to machinations of the papal and French courts and the fragile state of the monarchy in Sweden. Against this background, Christina emerges as a complex and difficult character who transcends the attempts of others to mold her to their uses and expectations. Illus. not seen by PW. Agent, Victoria Hobbs. (Oct. 1) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Christina, Queen of Sweden The Restless Life of a European Eccentric Chapter One Birth of a Prince In the spring of 1620, a delegation of German nobles made their way along the river Spree toward the town of Berlin. The town was not what it had been; years of plague had depleted its people, and its once thriving trade had dwindled to the narrow service of luxury goods to its resident court. Now, among the low wooden buildings, only the vast old castle impressed upon the visitor that Berlin was still a place of power, the residence of the Hohenzollern family of Brandenburg, electors of the Holy Roman Empire. To them, together with six other princes, fell the privilege and the duty of electing the empire's ruler. In Berlin, a new elector, the young Georg Wilhelm, had held his stately office for just a year. Now, toward the castle, the nobles rode, down the bridle path under the linden trees that would one day give their name to the town's most lovely thoroughfare. The delegation was led by Johann Kasimir, the Count of Pfalz- Zweibrücken, and in his train were two young gentlemen who had joined him from the homeland of his wife, the Princess Katarina of Sweden. One of these was "Adolf Karlsson," a strongly built and handsome man with the blond hair and keen blue eyes of the north. The other, his friend, was Johan Hand, an eager observer of all that passed and who kept a lively record of the journey in the pages of his personal diary. The count was related to the elector's wife, Elisabeth, and it was ostensibly to see this princess that he had made his present journey. The visit had been timed strategically, for the Elector Georg Wilhelm himself was not at home, nor did the count regret his absence. A matter of importance was now at hand, in which the elector's mother, the Electress Dowager Anna, would cast the deciding vote. The count had hopes of persuading her to his own views, and he knew that Anna would hear him more readily if her son was not there to speak against him. The matter at hand was no less than the marriage of Anna's daughter, Maria Eleonora, and the proposed bridegroom was the count's own brother-in-law, Gustav Adolf, King of Sweden. He had made the journey himself, just to have a look at the lady, for "Adolf Karlsson" was in fact the king. A marriage between Maria Eleonora, now age twenty, and Gustav Adolf, five years her senior, had been under consideration for some years already. Offers for the hand of the young countess were not wanting: among her suitors she could boast Gustav Adolf 's cousin, the Crown Prince Wladyslaw Vasa of Poland, and Prince Charles Stuart, heir to the English throne. Her father had been ambivalent toward a possible Swedish match, but his son, the new elector, had taken a clear stand against it. Sweden was a fiercely Protestant land, and he had no wish to antagonize the Catholic emperor, or the king of neighboring Catholic Poland, whose vast country lay only two days' march from Berlin. The Swedes were already at war there, and Georg Wilhelm thought little of their chance of victory. Though a Calvinist himself, and ruler of a Lutheran state, he felt his sister would do better to marry the Crown Prince of Poland. In the Habsburg lands, not so far to the south, the emperor had recently reasserted his power over the luckless Protestants of Bohemia, whose ill-starred "Winter King" was the brother of Georg Wilhelm's own wife. Religious neutrality seemed the wisest course as the match set in Prague began to kindle. But by family custom it was the privilege of the electress to decide her daughter's marriage, and on this the Swedes had pinned their hopes. An alliance with Brandenburg could strengthen their hand against Poland, and might hasten the formation of a new bloc of Protestant states against the Catholic Habsburgs. The elector's fear was Gustav Adolf 's hope. For his journey now, however, the young king had paid a great personal price. A spirited and warmhearted man, he had been passionately in love with the daughter of one of Sweden's noblest families, the beautiful Ebba Brahe. Ebba had returned his love, but the king's strongminded mother had felt that a match between them would not serve Sweden's diplomatic interests. Intriguing and determined, she had set to with a will to break off the romance, at one point even laying her own violent hand on the lovers' go-between. In due course, she had succeeded. Ebba was married off to the scion of another noble family. The sad and disappointed king dispatched a beautiful letter of farewell, wishing his love "a thousand nights of gladness" in her husband's arms, and at length he turned his thoughts toward Brandenburg, where his mother's gaze had long been fixed. Happily, the object of his present attentions was well formed and incited new passion in the young man's heart. Maria Eleonora was a genuine beauty, her figure rounded, her face soft and full, with a sweet bow mouth, a strong nose, and large, beautiful eyes. She was blond, and her manner was lively, giving an impression of girlish gaiety to all those who saw her. At first, though, it seemed that her young suitor might not succeed in seeing her at all. Her father had died in the previous December, and the court was still in mourning. Dark hangings draped the rooms, and the few permitted candles flickered on his doleful, black-garbed retainers. Five months after his death, the old elector's body lay, embalmed but still unburied, in the castle chapel. The usual bustling life of the court was suspended, and visitors received only the simplest civilities. But the pulse of youth was strong in the burgeoning spring, and besides, Gustav Adolf could not afford to wait; there was too much to do at home ... Christina, Queen of Sweden The Restless Life of a European Eccentric . Copyright © by Veronica Buckley. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Christina, Queen of Sweden: The Restless Life of a European Eccentric by Veronica Buckley All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Author's Notep. xi
Genealogyp. xiii
Part 1

p. 3

Prologuep. 5
Birth of a Princep. 9
Death of a Kingp. 22
The Little Queenp. 35
Love and Learningp. 49
Acorn Beneath an Oakp. 63
Warring and Peacep. 77
Pallas of the Northp. 92
Tragedy and Comedyp. 106
Hollow Crownp. 118
The Road to Romep. 135
Abdicationp. 152
Part 2

p. 161

Crossing the Rubiconp. 163
Rome at Lastp. 180
Love Againp. 192
Fair Wind for Francep. 204
The Rising Sunp. 216
Fontainebleaup. 227
Aftermathp. 239
Old Haunts, New Hauntsp. 249
Debaclep. 263
Miragesp. 278
Glory Daysp. 292
Journey's Endp. 309
Epiloguep. 321
Notesp. 323
Bibliographyp. 341
Illustration Creditsp. 349
Indexp. 353