Christina, Queen of Sweden 1(626 – 19 April 1689) was Queen regnant of Sweden from 1633 to 1654, using the titles of Queen of Swedes, Goths and Vandals, Grand Princess of Finland, and Duchess of Ingria, Estonia, Livonia and Karelia. She 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.
Christina was moody, intelligent, and interested in books and manuscripts, religion, alchemy and science. She wanted Stockholm to become the Athens of the North. Influenced by the Counter Reformation, she was increasingly attracted to the Baroque and Mediterranean culture that took her away from her Protestant country. Her unconventional lifestyle and masculine behaviour would feature in countless novels and plays, and in opera and film. In the twentieth century, Christina became a symbol of cross-dressing,transsexuality and lesbianism.
Christina was unusual in her own time for choosing masculine dress, and she also had some masculine physical features. Whether she chose her attire because of a self-perception as masculine, or purely for reasons of functional convenience, is difficult to know.
Based on historical accounts of Christina’s physicality, some scholars believe her to have been an intersexed individual (someone with a blend of female and male genitals, hormones, or chromosomes). According to Christina’s autobiography, the midwives at her birth first believed her to be a boy because she was “completely hairy and had a coarse and strong voice.” After changing their minds, deciding that she was female, her father Gustav II Adolph decided “to find out for himself the nature of the matter.” Such ambiguity did not end with birth, as Christina made cryptic statements about her “constitution” and body throughout life. Her unusual body was also noted by many others, who noted that the queen had a masculine voice, appearance, and movements. Although not direct evidence of her bodily makeup, Christina had a disdain for marriage, sex, female conversation and childrearing that may have stemmed from the realities of such things for a person of unusual physicality. In 1965 all of these observations led to an investigation of Christina’s mortal remains, which had inconclusive results. As the physical anthropologist who undertook the investigation, Carl-Herman Hjortsjö, explained, “Our imperfect knowledge concerning the effect of intersexuality on the skeletal formation … makes it impossible to decide which positive skeletal findings should be demanded upon which to base the diagnosis of intersexuality.” Nevertheless, Hjortsjö speculated that Christina had reasonably typical female genitalia because it is recorded that she menstruated.
Christina sat, talked, walked and moved in a manner her contemporaries described as masculine. She preferred men’s company to women’s although she also enjoyed the company of other educated women. Throughout her later years, living in Rome, she formed a close relationship with Cardinal Azzolino, which was also controversial and symbolic of her attraction to relationships which were not typical for a woman of her era and station.