QUEEN CHRISTINA OF SWEDEN AND THE MARQUIS MONALDESCHI





Sweden to-day is one of the peaceful kingdoms of the world, whose

people are prosperous, well governed, and somewhat apart from the

clash and turmoil of other states and nations. Even the secession

of Norway, a few years ago, was accomplished without bloodshed,

and now the two kingdoms exist side by side as free from strife as

they are with Denmark, which once domineered and tyrannized over

both.



It is difficult to believe that long ago, in the Middle Ages, the

cities of southern Sweden were among the great commercial centers

of the world. Stockholm and Lund ranked with London and Paris.

They absorbed the commerce of the northern seas, and were the

admiration of thousands of travelers and merchants who passed

through them and trafficked with them.



Much nearer to our own time, Sweden was the great military power

of northern Europe. The ambassadors of the Swedish kings were

received with the utmost deference in every court. Her soldiers

won great battles and ended mighty wars. The England of Cromwell

and Charles II. was unimportant and isolated in comparison with

this northern kingdom, which could pour forth armies of gigantic

blond warriors, headed by generals astute as well as brave.



It was no small matter, then, in 1626, that the loyal Swedes were

hoping that their queen would give birth to a male heir to succeed

his splendid father, Gustavus Adolphus, ranked by military

historians as one of the six great generals whom the world had so

far produced. The queen, a German princess of Brandenburg, had

already borne two daughters, who died in infancy. The expectation

was wide-spread and intense that she should now become the mother

of a son; and the king himself was no less anxious.



When the event occurred, the child was seen to be completely

covered with hair, and for this reason the attendants at first

believed that it was the desired boy. When their mistake was

discovered they were afraid to tell the king, who was waiting in

his study for the announcement to be made. At last, when no one

else would go to him, his sister, the Princess Caroline,

volunteered to break the news.



Gustavus was in truth a chivalrous, high-bred monarch. Though he

must have been disappointed at the advent of a daughter, he showed

no sign of dissatisfaction or even of surprise; but, rising, he

embraced his sister, saying:



"Let us thank God. I hope this girl will be as good as a boy to

me. May God preserve her now that He has sent her!"



It is customary at almost all courts to pay less attention to the

birth of a princess than to that of a prince; but Gustavus

displayed his chivalry toward this little daughter, whom he named

Christina. He ordered that the full royal salute should be fired

in every fortress of his kingdom and that displays of fireworks,

balls of honor, and court functions should take place; "for," as

he said, "this is the heir to my throne." And so from the first he

took his child under his own keeping and treated her as if she

were a much-loved son as well as a successor.



He joked about her looks when she was born, when she was mistaken

for a boy.



"She will be clever," he said, "for she has taken us all in!"



The Swedish people were as delighted with their little princess as

were the people of Holland when the present Queen Wilhelmina was

born, to carry on the succession of the House of Orange. On one

occasion the king and the small Christina, who were inseparable

companions, happened to approach a fortress where they expected to

spend the night. The commander of the castle was bound to fire a

royal salute of fifty cannon in honor of his sovereign; yet he

dreaded the effect upon the princess of such a roaring and

bellowing of artillery. He therefore sent a swift horseman to meet

the royal party at a distance and explain his perplexity. Should

he fire these guns or not? Would the king give an order?



Gustavus thought for a moment, and then replied:



"My daughter is the daughter of a soldier, and she must learn to

lead a soldier's life. Let the guns be fired!"



The procession moved on. Presently fire spurted from the

embrasures of the fort, and its batteries thundered in one great

roar. The king looked down at Christina. Her face was aglow with

pleasure and excitement; she clapped her hands and laughed, and

cried out:



"More bang! More! More! More!"



This is only one of a score of stories that were circulated about

the princess, and the Swedes were more and more delighted with the

girl who was to be their queen.



Somewhat curiously, Christina's mother, Queen Maria, cared little

for the child, and, in fact, came at last to detest her almost as

much as the king loved her. It is hard to explain this dislike.

Perhaps she had a morbid desire for a son and begrudged the honors

given to a daughter. Perhaps she was a little jealous of her own

child, who took so much of the king's attention. Afterward, in

writing of her mother, Christina excuses her, and says quite

frankly:



She could not bear to see me, because I was a girl, and an ugly

girl at that. And she was right enough, for I was as tawny as a

little Turk.



This candid description of herself is hardly just. Christina was

never beautiful, and she had a harsh voice. She was apt to be

overbearing even as a little girl. Yet she was a most interesting

child, with an expressive face, large eyes, an aquiline nose, and

the blond hair of her people. There was nothing in this to account

for her mother's intense dislike for her.



It was currently reported at the time that attempts were made to

maim or seriously injure the little princess. By what was made to

seem an accident, she would be dropped upon the floor, and heavy

articles of furniture would somehow manage to strike her. More

than once a great beam fell mysteriously close to her, either in

the palace or while she was passing through the streets. None of

these things did her serious harm, however. Most of them she

luckily escaped; but when she had grown to be a woman one of her

shoulders was permanently higher than the other.



"I suppose," said Christina, "that I could be straightened if I

would let the surgeons attend to it; but it isn't worth while to

take the trouble."



When Christina was four, Sweden became involved in the great war

that had been raging for a dozen years between the Protestant and

the Catholic states of Germany. Gradually the neighboring powers

had been drawn into the struggle, either to serve their own ends

or to support the faith to which they adhered. Gustavus Adolphus

took up the sword with mixed motives, for he was full of

enthusiasm for the imperiled cause of the Reformation, and at the

same time he deemed it a favorable opportunity to assert his

control over the shores of the Baltic.



The warrior king summoned his army and prepared to invade Germany.

Before departing he took his little daughter by the hand and led

her among the assembled nobles and councilors of state. To them he

intrusted the princess, making them kneel and vow that they would

regard her as his heir, and, if aught should happen to him, as his

successor. Amid the clashing of swords and the clang of armor this

vow was taken, and the king went forth to war.



He met the ablest generals of his enemies, and the fortunes of

battle swayed hither and thither; but the climax came when his

soldiers encountered those of Wallenstein--that strange,

overbearing, arrogant, mysterious creature whom many regarded with

a sort of awe. The clash came at Lutzen, in Saxony. The Swedish

king fought long and hard, and so did his mighty opponent; but at

last, in the very midst of a tremendous onset that swept all

before him, Gustavus received a mortal wound and died, even while

Wallenstein was fleeing from the field of battle.



The battle of Lutzen made Christina Queen of Sweden at the age of

six. Of course, she could not yet be crowned, but a council of

able ministers continued the policy of the late king and taught

the young queen her first lessons in statecraft. Her intellect

soon showed itself as more than that of a child. She understood

all that was taking place, and all that was planned and arranged.

Her tact was unusual. Her discretion was admired by every one; and

after a while she had the advice and training of the great Swedish

chancellor, Oxenstierna, whose wisdom she shared to a remarkable

degree.



Before she was sixteen she had so approved herself to her

counselors, and especially to the people at large, that there was

a wide-spread clamor that she should take the throne and govern in

her own person. To this she gave no heed, but said:



"I am not yet ready."



All this time she bore herself like a king. There was nothing

distinctly feminine about her. She took but slight interest in her

appearance. She wore sword and armor in the presence of her

troops, and often she dressed entirely in men's clothes. She would

take long, lonely gallops through the forests, brooding over

problems of state and feeling no fatigue or fear. And indeed why

should she fear, who was beloved by all her subjects?



When her eighteenth year arrived, the demand for her coronation

was impossible to resist. All Sweden wished to see a ruling queen,

who might marry and have children to succeed her through the royal

line of her great father. Christina consented to be crowned, but

she absolutely refused all thought of marriage. She had more

suitors from all parts of Europe than even Elizabeth of England;

but, unlike Elizabeth, she did not dally with them, give them

false hopes, or use them for the political advantage of her

kingdom.



At that time Sweden was stronger than England, and was so situated

as to be independent of alliances. So Christina said, in her

harsh, peremptory voice:



"I shall never marry; and why should you speak of my having

children! I am just as likely to give birth to a Nero as to an

Augustus."



Having assumed the throne, she ruled with a strictness of

government such as Sweden had not known before. She took the reins

of state into her own hands and carried out a foreign policy of

her own, over the heads of her ministers, and even against the

wishes of her people. The fighting upon the Continent had dragged

out to a weary length, but the Swedes, on the whole, had scored a

marked advantage. For this reason the war was popular, and every

one wished it to go on; but Christina, of her own will, decided

that it must stop, that mere glory was not to be considered

against material advantages. Sweden had had enough of glory; she

must now look to her enrichment and prosperity through the

channels of peace.



Therefore, in 1648, against Oxenstierna, against her generals, and

against her people, she exercised her royal power and brought the

Thirty Years' War to an end by the so-called Peace of Westphalia.

At this time she was twenty-two, and by her personal influence she

had ended one of the greatest struggles of history. Nor had she

done it to her country's loss. Denmark yielded up rich provinces,

while Germany was compelled to grant Sweden membership in the

German diet.



Then came a period of immense prosperity through commerce, through

economies in government, through the improvement of agriculture

and the opening of mines. This girl queen, without intrigue,

without descending from her native nobility to peep and whisper

with shady diplomats, showed herself in reality a great monarch, a

true Semiramis of the north, more worthy of respect and reverence

than Elizabeth of England. She was highly trained in many arts.

She was fond of study, spoke Latin fluently, and could argue with

Salmasius, Descartes, and other accomplished scholars without

showing any inferiority to them.



She gathered at her court distinguished persons from all

countries. She repelled those who sought her hand, and she was

pure and truthful and worthy of all men's admiration. Had she died

at this time history would rank her with the greatest of women

sovereigns. Naude, the librarian of Cardinal Mazarin, wrote of her

to the scientist Gassendi in these words:



To say truth, I am sometimes afraid lest the common saying should

be verified in her, that short is the life and rare the old age of

those who surpass the common limits. Do not imagine that she is

learned only in books, for she is equally so in painting,

architecture, sculpture, medals, antiquities, and all curiosities.

There is not a cunning workman in these arts but she has him

fetched. There are as good workers in wax and in enamel,

engravers, singers, players, dancers here as will be found

anywhere.



She has a gallery of statues, bronze and marble, medals of gold,

silver, and bronze, pieces of ivory, amber, coral, worked crystal,

steel mirrors, clocks and tables, bas-reliefs and other things of

the kind; richer I have never seen even in Italy; finally, a great

quantity of pictures. In short, her mind is open to all

impressions.



But after she began to make her court a sort of home for art and

letters it ceased to be the sort of court that Sweden was prepared

for. Christina's subjects were still rude and lacking in

accomplishments; therefore she had to summon men of genius from

other countries, especially from France and Italy. Many of these

were illustrious artists or scholars, but among them were also

some who used their mental gifts for harm.



Among these latter was a French physician named Bourdelot--a man

of keen intellect, of winning manners, and of a profound cynicism,

which was not apparent on the surface, but the effect of which

last lasting. To Bourdelot we must chiefly ascribe the mysterious

change which gradually came over Queen Christina. With his

associates he taught her a distaste for the simple and healthy

life that she had been accustomed to lead. She ceased to think of

the welfare of the state and began to look down with scorn upon

her unsophisticated Swedes. Foreign luxury displayed itself at

Stockholm, and her palaces overflowed with beautiful things.



By subtle means Bourdelot undermined her principles. Having been a

Stoic, she now became an Epicurean. She was by nature devoid of

sentiment. She would not spend her time in the niceties of love-

making, as did Elizabeth; but beneath the surface she had a sort

of tigerish, passionate nature, which would break forth at

intervals, and which demanded satisfaction from a series of

favorites. It is probable that Bourdelot was her first lover, but

there were many others whose names are recorded in the annals of

the time.



When she threw aside her virtue Christina ceased to care about

appearances. She squandered her revenues upon her favorites. What

she retained of her former self was a carelessness that braved the

opinion of her subjects. She dressed almost without thought, and

it is said that she combed her hair not more than twice a month.

She caroused with male companions to the scandal of her people,

and she swore like a trooper when displeased.



Christina's philosophy of life appears to have been compounded of

an almost brutal licentiousness, a strong love of power, and a

strange, freakish longing for something new. Her political

ambitions were checked by the rising discontent of her people, who

began to look down upon her and to feel ashamed of her shame.

Knowing herself as she did, she did not care to marry.



Yet Sweden must have an heir. Therefore she chose out her cousin

Charles, declared that he was to be her successor, and finally

caused him to be proclaimed as such before the assembled estates

of the realm. She even had him crowned; and finally, in her

twenty-eighth year, she abdicated altogether and prepared to leave

Sweden. When asked whither she would go, she replied in a Latin

quotation:



"The Fates will show the way."



In her act of abdication she reserved to herself the revenues of

some of the richest provinces in Sweden and absolute power over

such of her subjects as should accompany her. They were to be her

subjects until the end.



The Swedes remembered that Christina was the daughter of their

greatest king, and that, apart from personal scandals, she had

ruled them well; and so they let her go regretfully and accepted

her cousin as their king. Christina, on her side, went joyfully

and in the spirit of a grand adventuress. With a numerous suite

she entered Germany, and then stayed for a year at Brussels, where

she renounced Lutheranism. After this she traveled slowly into

Italy, where she entered Borne on horseback, and was received by

the Pope, Alexander VII., who lodged her in a magnificent palace,

accepted her conversion, and baptized her, giving her a new name,

Alexandra.



In Rome she was a brilliant but erratic personage, living

sumptuously, even though her revenues from Sweden came in slowly,

partly because the Swedes disliked her change of religion. She was

surrounded by men of letters, with whom she amused herself, and

she took to herself a lover, the Marquis Monaldeschi. She thought

that at last she had really found her true affinity, while

Monaldeschi believed that he could count on the queen's fidelity.



He was in attendance upon her daily, and they were almost

inseparable. He swore allegiance to her and thereby made himself

one of the subjects over whom she had absolute power. For a time

he was the master of those intense emotions which, in her,

alternated with moods of coldness and even cruelty.



Monaldeschi was a handsome Italian, who bore himself with a fine

air of breeding. He understood the art of charming, but he did not

know that beyond a certain time no one could hold the affections

of Christina.



However, after she had quarreled with various cardinals and

decided to leave Rome for a while, Monaldeschi accompanied her to

France, where she had an immense vogue at the court of Louis XIV.

She attracted wide attention because of her eccentricity and utter

lack of manners. It gave her the greatest delight to criticize the

ladies of the French court--their looks, their gowns, and their

jewels. They, in return, would speak of Christina's deformed

shoulder and skinny frame; but the king was very gracious to her

and invited her to his hunting-palace at Fontainebleau.



While she had been winning triumphs of sarcasm the infatuated

Monaldeschi had gradually come to suspect, and then to know, that

his royal mistress was no longer true to him. He had been

supplanted in her favor by another Italian, one Sentanelli, who

was the captain of her guard.



Monaldeschi took a tortuous and roundabout revenge. He did not let

the queen know of his discovery; nor did he, like a man, send a

challenge to Sentanelli. Instead he began by betraying her secrets

to Oliver Cromwell, with whom she had tried to establish a

correspondence. Again, imitating the hand and seal of Sentanelli,

he set in circulation a series of the most scandalous and

insulting letters about Christina. By this treacherous trick he

hoped to end the relations between his rival and the queen; but

when the letters were carried to Christina she instantly

recognized their true source. She saw that she was betrayed by her

former favorite and that he had taken a revenge which might

seriously compromise her.



This led to a tragedy, of which the facts were long obscure. They

were carefully recorded, however, by the queen's household

chaplain, Father Le Bel; and there is also a narrative written by

one Marco Antonio Conti, which confirms the story. Both were

published privately in 1865, with notes by Louis Lacour.



The narration of the priest is dreadful in its simplicity and

minuteness of detail. It may be summed up briefly here, because it

is the testimony of an eye-witness who knew Christina.



Christina, with the marquis and a large retinue, was at

Fontainebleau in November, 1657. A little after midnight, when all

was still, the priest, Father Le Bel, was aroused and ordered to

go at once to the Galerie des Cerfs, or Hall of Stags, in another

part of the palace. When he asked why, he was told:



"It is by the order of her majesty the Swedish queen."



The priest, wondering, hurried on his garments. On reaching the

gloomy hall he saw the Marquis Monaldeschi, evidently in great

agitation, and at the end of the corridor the queen in somber

robes. Beside the queen, as if awaiting orders, stood three

figures, who could with some difficulty be made out as three

soldiers of her guard.



The queen motioned to Father Le Bel and asked him for a packet

which she had given him for safe-keeping some little time before.

He gave it to her, and she opened it. In it were letters and other

documents, which, with a steely glance, she displayed to

Monaldeschi. He was confused by the sight of them and by the

incisive words in which Christina showed how he had both insulted

her and had tried to shift the blame upon Sentanelli.



Monaldeschi broke down completely. He fell at the queen's feet and

wept piteously, begging for pardon, only to be met by the cold

answer:



"You are my subject and a traitor to me. Marquis, you must prepare

to die!"



Then she turned away and left the hall, in spite of the cries of

Monaldeschi, to whom she merely added the advice that he should

make his peace with God by confessing to Father Le Bel.



After she had gone the marquis fell into a torrent of self-

exculpation and cried for mercy. The three armed men drew near and

urged him to confess for the good of his soul. They seemed to have

no malice against him, but to feel that they must obey the orders

given them. At the frantic urging of the marquis their leader even

went to the queen to ask whether she would relent; but he returned

shaking his head, and said:



"Marquis, you must die."



Father Le Bel undertook a like mission, but returned with the

message that there was no hope. So the marquis made his confession

in French and Latin, but even then he hoped; for he did not wait

to receive absolution, but begged still further for delay or

pardon.



Then the three armed men approached, having drawn their swords.

The absolution was pronounced; and, following it, one of the

guards slashed the marquis across the forehead. He stumbled and

fell forward, making signs as if to ask that he might have his

throat cut. But his throat was partly protected by a coat of mail,

so that three or four strokes delivered there had slight effect.

Finally, however, a long, narrow sword was thrust into his side,

after which the marquis made no sound.



Father Le Bel at once left the Galerie des Cerfs and went into the

queen's apartment, with the smell of blood in his nostrils. He

found her calm and ready to justify herself. Was she not still

queen over all who had voluntarily become members of her suite?

This had been agreed to in her act of abdication. Wherever she set

her foot, there, over her own, she was still a monarch, with full

power to punish traitors at her will. This power she had

exercised, and with justice. What mattered it that she was in

France? She was queen as truly as Louis XIV. was king.



The story was not long in getting out, but the truth was not

wholly known until a much later day. It was said that Sentanelli

had slapped the marquis in a fit of jealousy, though some added

that it was done with the connivance of the queen. King Louis, the

incarnation of absolutism, knew the truth, but he was slow to act.

He sympathized with the theory of Christina's sovereignty. It was

only after a time that word was sent to Christina that she must

leave Fontainebleau. She took no notice of the order until it

suited her convenience, and then she went forth with all the

honors of a reigning monarch.



This was the most striking episode in all the strange story of her

private life. When her cousin Charles, whom she had made king,

died without an heir she sought to recover her crown; but the

estates of the realm refused her claim, reduced her income, and

imposed restraints upon her power. She then sought the vacant

throne of Poland; but the Polish nobles, who desired a weak ruler

for their own purposes, made another choice. So at last she

returned to Rome, where the Pope received her with a splendid

procession and granted her twelve thousand crowns a year to make

up for her lessened Swedish revenue.



From this time she lived a life which she made interesting by her

patronage of learning and exciting by her rather unseemly quarrels

with cardinals and even with the Pope. Her armed retinue marched

through the streets with drawn swords and gave open protection to

criminals who had taken refuge with her. She dared to criticize

the pontiff, who merely smiled and said:



"She is a woman!"



On the whole, the end of her life was pleasant. She was much

admired for her sagacity in politics. Her words were listened to

at every court in Europe. She annotated the classics, she made

beautiful collections, and she was regarded as a privileged person

whose acts no one took amiss. She died at fifty-three, and was

buried in St. Peter's.



She was bred a man, she was almost a son to her great father; and

yet, instead of the sonorous epitaph that is inscribed beside her

tomb, perhaps a truer one would be the words of the vexed Pope:



"E DONNA!"





Peter the Hermit QUEEN ELIZABETH AND THE EARL OF LEICESTER facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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