A Woman to Know: Queen Christina of Sweden

Other things titillate me more keenly than the pale pleasures of marriage. — Queen Christina

(image via Wikimedia Commons)

They called her the "Minerva of the North." In 1650, she started Sweden's first newspaper. Artists praised her generous patronage, and despite never having married (or maybe because of it), her reign brought Sweden a wealth of new allies, as well as a place on the world's stage.

And yet, despite all this success, Queen Christina of Sweden abdicated her throne in 1654. She had ruled for 10 years, but at the age of 27, she declared herself fatigued by queenhood. She retired to a life of traveling and Catholic pilgrimage — but today, historians suspect her queer lifestyle (she only wore masculine clothes; she never married and instead declared her female friends "the only loves of her life"; one woman in particular accompanied Christina as her "companion" whenever she traveled, even to the Vatican) may have been the main reason Christina shunned the throne's harsh spotlight.

When Greta Garbo, herself a queer woman in a high-profile position, first proposed a movie based on Queen Christina's life, she wanted the plot to focus on the rumored lesbian love affairs. "Hollywood wasn't ready for it at the time," says director Mika Kaurismaki. "But that is what Garbo wanted to do, to show the love story."

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