Christina (December 18, 1626 – April 19, 1689), a member of the House of Vasa, was Queen of Sweden from 1632 until her abdication in 1654. She succeeded her father Gustaf II Adolph upon his death at the Battle of Lützen in 1632, but began ruling the Swedish Empire when she reached the age of eighteen in 1644.
Christina was born in the royal castle Tre Kronor. Her parents were the Swedish king Gustaf II Adolph and his German wife, Maria Eleonorana of the House of Hohenzollern and a daughter of Johann Sigismund, Elector of Brandenburg, and Anna, Duchess of Prussia, daughter of Albrecht Friedrich, Duke of Prussia.
In 1620, Maria Eleonora married Gustaf II Adolph with her mother’s consent, but against the will of her brother Georg Wilhelm, Elector of Brandenburg.
They had already had three children: two daughters (a stillborn princess in 1621, then the first Princess Christina, who was born in 1623 and died the following year) and a stilborn son in May 1625.
Excited expectations surrounded Maria Eleonora’s fourth pregnancy in 1626. When the baby was born, it was first thought to be a boy as it was “hairy” and screamed “with a strong, hoarse voice.”
She later wrote in her autobiography that, “Deep embarrassment spread among the women when they discovered their mistake.” The king, though, was very happy, stating, “She’ll be clever, she has made fools of us all!” From most accounts, Gustaf II Adolph appears to have been closely attached to his daughter, and she appears to have admired him greatly.
The Crown of Sweden was hereditary in the House of Vasa, but from King Carl IX’s time onward (reigned 1604–11), it excluded Vasa princes descended from a deposed brother (Eric XIV of Sweden) and a deposed nephew (Sigismund III of Poland). Gusta II Adolph’s legitimate younger brothers had died years earlier.
The one legitimate female left, his half-sister Catharine, came to be excluded in 1615 when she married a non-Lutheran. So Christina became the undisputed heir presumptive. From Christina’s birth, King Gustaf II Adolph recognized her eligibility even as a female heir, and although called “queen”, the official title she held as of her coronation by the Riksdag in February 1633 was king.
Before Gustaf II Adolph left for the Holy Roman Empire to defend Protestantism in the Thirty Years’ War, he secured his daughter’s right to inherit the throne, in case he never returned, and gave orders to Axel Gustafsson Banér, his marshal, that Christina should receive an education of the type normally only afforded to boys.
Christina was educated as a royal male would have been. The theologian Johannes Matthiae Gothus became her tutor; he gave her lessons in religion, philosophy, Greek and Latin. Chancellor Oxenstierna taught her politics and discussed Tacitus with her. Oxenstierna wrote proudly of the 14-year-old girl that, “She is not at all like a female” and that she had “a bright intelligence”. Christina seemed happy to study ten hours a day. Besides Swedish she learned at least seven other languages: German, Dutch, Danish, French, Italian, Arabic and Hebrew.
Already at the age of nine Christina was impressed by the Catholic religion and the merits of celibacy. She read a biography on the virgin queen Elizabeth I of England with interest. Christina understood that it was expected of her to provide an heir to the Swedish throne.
Her first cousin Carl Gustaf of Zweibrücken-Kleeburg was infatuated with her, and they became secretly engaged before he left in 1642 to serve in the Swedish army in the Holy Roman Empire for three years.
Carl Gustaf was the son of the Johann Casimir, Count Palatine of Zweibrücken-Kleeburg of the Bavarian Wittelsbach family and Catherine of Sweden. Catherine of Sweden was the daughter of King Cark IX of Sweden and his first spouse Maria of the Palatinate-Simmern (also a member of the Wittelsbach family).
Christina revealed in her autobiography that she felt “an insurmountable distaste for marriage” and “for all the things that females talked about and did.” She once stated, “It takes more courage to marry than to go to war.
On February 26, 1649, Christina announced that she had decided not to marry and instead wanted her first cousin Carl to be heir to the throne. While the nobility objected to this, the three other estates – clergy, burghers, and peasants – accepted it. The coronation took place on October 22, 1650.