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CHRISTINA QUEEN OF SWEDEN (1626 - 1689)

A story of SEX and GENDER

Fertile Female Woman Womb - Masculine Man Muscular Warrior

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Soon after birth, an infant was Christened as Christian but a week or so later, "he" was declared to be a "she" and renamed as Christina. Her/his father, King Gustav of Sweden,  is recorded as saying - I hope … that this girl will be worth as much as a boy to me … she should be clever, since she has deceived us all.”  Thus we know that the there was crisis, an imperative to assigns a "social sex" - the she/he infant was declared to be a "female". 

As Christina matured her story is illustrative of physical (sex) and feelings and conducts (gender) that distinguish most women from men or rather females from males. However, for millennia, those with wisdom have asserted that life is a continuum and the idealized dichotomy female/male is relative in at least 5% of each human generation. It is true however that most men and women have a distinct pair of chromosomes labeled as XY and XX respectively. (Ed.) 

The father of Christina ordered that she should  not be educated by her mother (feminized) but by a council of royal advisors (masculinized). As expected, when she reached to age of 18 years, she  ascended the throne and already had a strong character. She was able to control the court and is given credit for fostering the peace treaty or 1648 that ended the "Thirty Years War". Her ambition was to advance sciences and arts in Sweden - in this she mostly failed. She also  openly announced  that she decided not to marry. In secret she converted to Catholicism which combined with the other events, led her to abdicate her throne in favor of her cousin. She left Sweden traveling dressed as a man toward Antwerp where she announced publicly her conversion to Catholicism. This made possible for Pope Alexander VII to invite her to be a permanent guest of the Vatican in Rome were she arrived the 22nd of December of 1688. She entered Rome through a magnificent gate decorated by Bernini. She was then 28 years old.

In Rome, Christina became a sensation, a patron of fine arts and an outspoken critic of some of he abusive policies by the Papacy. Pope Alexander VII described her as “a woman without faith – a woman without shame (I found no reliable reference to attest this assertion). When she died in 1689,  her wish for a simple burial was not honored. The Papacy preferred to launch a publicity stunt – she was embalmed and displayed for several days to he general public. Eventually she was buried in the "Grotti Vaticane" and her sarcophagus rests now in the Papal Crypt in the Vatican. Only two other women were berried in the Vatican grounds. 


Image Credit: Wikipedia - Bust of Christina - G. Cartari - Palacio Real de La Granja de San Ildefonso

There are many books and articles concerning Christina but unfortunately, the focus is mostly on her sexuality instead of her achievements. She belongs among the most learned women of her times and was an expert champion of fine arts. It is self-evident that even today, the nature of unusual sex orientations are poorly understood which renders reports and interpretations of Christina's sexuality dubious. One exception are her own statements and those of a French physician, Pierre Bourdelot (1610-1685) who was consulted to alleviate Christina's severe anxiety about her personal sexual orientation. "... I despise everything belonging to my sex ..." she apparently said but I found no direct reference to verify this point other than that by Dr. Bourdelot who also asserted -  “she could overcome her problem by accepting the masculine traits nature had given her ..."  in Ann Med History Number 9, 1937 and cited by D. Riesman in "Bourdelot, A physician of Queen Christina of Sweden ..." 

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