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In the summer of 1654, Christina left Sweden in men’s clothing with the help of Bernardino de Rebolledo, and rode as Count Dohna, through Denmark. Relations between the two countries were still so tense that a former Swedish queen could not have traveled safely in Denmark. Christina had already packed and shipped abroad valuable books, paintings, statues, and tapestries from her Stockholm castle, leaving its treasures severely depleted.

Christina visited Friedrich III, Duke of Holstein-Gottorp, and while there thought that her successor should have a bride. She sent letters recommending two of the Duke’s daughters to King Carl X Gustaf. Based on this recommendation, he married Hedwig Eleonora. On July 10 Christina arrived in Hamburg and stayed with Jacob Curiel at Krameramtsstuben. Christina visited Johann Friedrich Gronovius, and Anna Maria van Schurman in the Dutch Republic.

Christina Alexandra, former Queen of Sweden

In August, she arrived in the Southern Netherlands and settled down in Antwerp. For four months Christina was lodged in the mansion of a Jewish merchant. She was visited by Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria; Prince Louis de Bourbon the Prince de Condé, the ambassador Pierre Chanut, as well as the former governor of Norway, Hannibal Sehested. In the afternoons she went for a ride, and each evening parties were held; there was a play to watch or music to listen to.

Christina ran quickly out of money and had to sell some of her tapestries, silverware, and jewelry. When her financial situation did not improve, the archduke invited her to his Brussels palace on Coudenberg. On December 24, 1654, she converted to the Catholic faith in the archduke’s chapel in the presence of the Dominican Juan Guêmes, Raimondo Montecuccoli and Pimentel.

Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria

Baptized as Kristina Augusta, she adopted the name Christina Alexandra. She did not declare her conversion in public, in case the Swedish council might refuse to pay her alimony. In addition, Sweden was preparing for war against Pomerania, which meant that her income from there was considerably reduced. Pope Alexander VII and Felipe IV of Spain could not support her openly either, as she was not publicly a Catholic yet. Christina succeeded in arranging a major loan, leaving books and statues to settle her debts.

In September, she left for Italy with her entourage of 255 persons and 247 horses. The pope’s messenger, the librarian Lucas Holstenius, himself a convert, waited for her in Innsbruck. On November 3, 1655, Christina announced her conversion to Catholicism in the Hofkirche and wrote to Pope Alexander VII and her cousin Carl X Gustaf about it.

Pope Alexander VII, Bishop of Rome

To celebrate her official conversion, L’Argia, an opera by Antonio Cesti, was performed. Ferdinand Charles, Archduke of Austria, already in financial trouble, is said to have been almost ruined by her visit. Her departure was on November 8.