Gustavus II Adolphus was 16-years-old when he was crowned king of Sweden. During his 21-year reign (1611-32), Sweden not only developed into one of the great powers of Europe, he established himself as one of the greatest military commanders of all time. Gustavus was nicknamed the “Lion of the North” and “The Golden King.” In battle, he was leading a charge and was killed which paved the way for Christina, his daughter, to lead the kingdom as the “Queen of the Swedes.”
King Gustavus raised his daughter like a boy. She attended council meetings at 14 and was crowned at 18. Queen Christina never married. She was a crack shot, enjoyed riding and hunting, “swore like a trooper,” disliked anything feminine, and loved her personal freedom.
The Queen was very active in politics and diplomacy and stunned the nation on June 6, 1654 when she abdicated in favor of her cousin and said, “a man should rule the country and lead the military.” Later she said, “making her cousin king felt like God creating the first man.”
The former queen was a convert from Protestantism to Catholicism which was frowned upon in Sweden. Following cousin Charles’ coronation, wearing men’s clothing, she moved to Rome where she was well-received and lived at the Farnese Palace. Aside from annoying the pope from time to time, she became a patron of music and the arts, collected paintings and founded the Arcadian Academy dedicated to literature, music, drama, and science. In 1670, she commissioned architect Carlo Fontana to build Rome’s first opera house. Thanks to Christina, the Riario Palace became a cultural center housing an art and book collection. Christina supported the music and arts of Arcangelo Corelli, Alessandro Scarlatti and Bernini. She wrote biographies of Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar.
Amid all this activity she never found time to marry but did find time to add mathematics and astronomy to her legacy.
Before this “Italian by choice” died in 1689 she wrote her autobiography in which she advocated religious tolerance and lobbied against anti-Semitism. She was 62 and is buried in St. Peter’s Basilica.