Christina, Queen of Sweden: The Restless Life of a European Eccentric


Not unlike the elusive figure played by Greta Garbo, the real Queen Christina stood among the most flamboyant and controversial figures of the seventeenth century. All of Sweden could not contain her ambition or quench her thirst for adventure. Freed from her crown, she cut a breathtaking path across Europe -- spending madly, seeking out a more majestic throne, and stirring up trouble wherever she went. With a dazzling narrative voice and unerring sense of the period, Veronica Buckley goes beyond historical myth ...

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Christina Queen of Sweden: The Restless Life of a European Eccentric

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Not unlike the elusive figure played by Greta Garbo, the real Queen Christina stood among the most flamboyant and controversial figures of the seventeenth century. All of Sweden could not contain her ambition or quench her thirst for adventure. Freed from her crown, she cut a breathtaking path across Europe -- spending madly, seeking out a more majestic throne, and stirring up trouble wherever she went. With a dazzling narrative voice and unerring sense of the period, Veronica Buckley goes beyond historical myth to breathe life into an extraordinary woman who set the world on fire and became an icon of her age -- a time of enormous change when Europe stood at the crossroads of religion and science, antiquity and modernity, war and peace.

This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more.

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Editorial Reviews

Bruce Bawer
In the end, you find yourself thinking of Christina (who, by the way, looked more like Danny DeVito than Greta Garbo) as a prematurely modern spirit who couldn't manage to fit into a not-yet-modern world -- one of those historical figures who make the past feel less distant and, in the hands of a sensitive writer like Veronica Buckley, fully alive.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Christina abdicated the throne of Lutheran Sweden in 1654, at age 28, presumably in order to convert to Catholicism. Buckley presents a wide-ranging, entertaining exploration of the dynamics of the queen's decision and unusual life. The author, in her debut, convincingly demonstrates that it wasn't religion that drew Christina to Rome, but a love of art and the ancients. Nor did a true love of philosophy encourage her fateful invitation to Descartes to come to Stockholm, but a restless, clever mind and a belief in her own great potential. Nor, says Buckley, did homosexuality lead her to decline marriage but a larger sexual ambivalence. Attracted to both men and women, yet disgusted by the idea of sex, Christina was most comfortable in masculine garb, critical of women and bitterly aware of the limitations society placed on women. Buckley weaves these threads together in a lively portrait, laying out the background to her story in fluid prose, from political and military aspects of the Thirty Years' War to machinations of the papal and French courts and the fragile state of the monarchy in Sweden. Against this background, Christina emerges as a complex and difficult character who transcends the attempts of others to mold her to their uses and expectations. Illus. not seen by PW. Agent, Victoria Hobbs. (Oct. 1) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Newcomer Buckley catches in all its peculiarity the life of a woman who abdicated Sweden's throne primarily because she couldn't stand all that pressure to get married. With considerable polish-and an occasional tilt to the baroque that befits its subject-Buckley tells the story of Christina (1626-89), a curious and by no means unentertaining soul who was also a real bundle of damaged goods. She was born into what was for all intents a medieval kingdom: rural, racked by war, and surrounded by enemies (Austrian Habsburgs, Poland-Lithuania, Denmark, not to mention the Ottoman Empire). Her simpering mother was lost to profound mental disarray; her father's shadow dimmed all around him. Thrust into the role of queen at age six, Christina made every bad move available. In hopes of resuscitating the royal coffers, she sold titles and gave away royal land, which accomplished just the opposite; she tried to be crafty, but succeeded only in giving offense and looking the fool; she gathered together a fractious academy that managed to result in the death of Descartes. All this, and the ever-present wealth of intrigues and secret alliances, is comfortably spelled out by Buckley, who is not unsympathetic to the pathetic Christina, but doesn't cut her any slack, particularly when dealing with her absurd plot to steal the throne of Naples and her order to execute one of her retinue, a murder retold in grisly detail. The queen connived with cardinals; she loathed Sweden's Lutheranism with its motto-"Let women bear children unto death"-and her own sexuality, as Buckley explains, was a mystery. She bled the Swedish coffers to finance her lavish habits and generally had as much fun and made as much troubleas possible. Correctly described by the author as "a sad tale . . . of promise unfulfilled, and of strength thwarted by weakness," but also as good a case as any against the existence of royalty. (Illustrations, not seen)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060736187
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/27/2005
  • Series: P.S. Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 809,361
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet the Author

Veronica Buckley was born in New Zealand. She studied in London and Oxford, where she did her postgraduate work on Christina Alexandra. She now lives in Paris with her husband, writer Philipp Blom. This is her first book.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Author's Note xi
Genealogy xiii
Part 13
Prologue 5
Birth of a Prince 9
Death of a King 22
The Little Queen 35
Love and Learning 49
Acorn Beneath an Oak 63
Warring and Peace 77
Pallas of the North 92
Tragedy and Comedy 106
Hollow Crown 118
The Road to Rome 135
Abdication 152
Part 2161
Crossing the Rubicon 163
Rome at Last 180
Love Again 192
Fair Wind for France 204
The Rising Sun 216
Fontainebleau 227
Aftermath 239
Old Haunts, New Haunts 249
Debacle 263
Mirages 278
Glory Days 292
Journey's End 309
Epilogue 321
Notes 323
Bibliography 341
Illustration Credits 349
Index 353
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First Chapter

Christina, Queen of Sweden
The Restless Life of a European Eccentric

Chapter One

Birth of a Prince

In the spring of 1620, a delegation of German nobles made their way along the river Spree toward the town of Berlin. The town was not what it had been; years of plague had depleted its people, and its once thriving trade had dwindled to the narrow service of luxury goods to its resident court. Now, among the low wooden buildings, only the vast old castle impressed upon the visitor that Berlin was still a place of power, the residence of the Hohenzollern family of Brandenburg, electors of the Holy Roman Empire. To them, together with six other princes, fell the privilege and the duty of electing the empire's ruler. In Berlin, a new elector, the young Georg Wilhelm, had held his stately office for just a year.

Now, toward the castle, the nobles rode, down the bridle path under the linden trees that would one day give their name to the town's most lovely thoroughfare. The delegation was led by Johann Kasimir, the Count of Pfalz- Zweibrücken, and in his train were two young gentlemen who had joined him from the homeland of his wife, the Princess Katarina of Sweden. One of these was "Adolf Karlsson," a strongly built and handsome man with the blond hair and keen blue eyes of the north. The other, his friend, was Johan Hand, an eager observer of all that passed and who kept a lively record of the journey in the pages of his personal diary.

The count was related to the elector's wife, Elisabeth, and it was ostensibly to see this princess that he had made his present journey. The visit had been timed strategically, for the Elector Georg Wilhelm himself was not at home, nor did the count regret his absence. A matter of importance was now at hand, in which the elector's mother, the Electress Dowager Anna, would cast the deciding vote. The count had hopes of persuading her to his own views, and he knew that Anna would hear him more readily if her son was not there to speak against him. The matter at hand was no less than the marriage of Anna's daughter, Maria Eleonora, and the proposed bridegroom was the count's own brother-in-law, Gustav Adolf, King of Sweden. He had made the journey himself, just to have a look at the lady, for "Adolf Karlsson" was in fact the king.

A marriage between Maria Eleonora, now age twenty, and Gustav Adolf, five years her senior, had been under consideration for some years already. Offers for the hand of the young countess were not wanting: among her suitors she could boast Gustav Adolf 's cousin, the Crown Prince Wladyslaw Vasa of Poland, and Prince Charles Stuart, heir to the English throne. Her father had been ambivalent toward a possible Swedish match, but his son, the new elector, had taken a clear stand against it. Sweden was a fiercely Protestant land, and he had no wish to antagonize the Catholic emperor, or the king of neighboring Catholic Poland, whose vast country lay only two days' march from Berlin. The Swedes were already at war there, and Georg Wilhelm thought little of their chance of victory. Though a Calvinist himself, and ruler of a Lutheran state, he felt his sister would do better to marry the Crown Prince of Poland. In the Habsburg lands, not so far to the south, the emperor had recently reasserted his power over the luckless Protestants of Bohemia, whose ill-starred "Winter King" was the brother of Georg Wilhelm's own wife. Religious neutrality seemed the wisest course as the match set in Prague began to kindle. But by family custom it was the privilege of the electress to decide her daughter's marriage, and on this the Swedes had pinned their hopes. An alliance with Brandenburg could strengthen their hand against Poland, and might hasten the formation of a new bloc of Protestant states against the Catholic Habsburgs. The elector's fear was Gustav Adolf 's hope.

For his journey now, however, the young king had paid a great personal price. A spirited and warmhearted man, he had been passionately in love with the daughter of one of Sweden's noblest families, the beautiful Ebba Brahe. Ebba had returned his love, but the king's strongminded mother had felt that a match between them would not serve Sweden's diplomatic interests. Intriguing and determined, she had set to with a will to break off the romance, at one point even laying her own violent hand on the lovers' go-between. In due course, she had succeeded. Ebba was married off to the scion of another noble family. The sad and disappointed king dispatched a beautiful letter of farewell, wishing his love "a thousand nights of gladness" in her husband's arms, and at length he turned his thoughts toward Brandenburg, where his mother's gaze had long been fixed.

Happily, the object of his present attentions was well formed and incited new passion in the young man's heart. Maria Eleonora was a genuine beauty, her figure rounded, her face soft and full, with a sweet bow mouth, a strong nose, and large, beautiful eyes. She was blond, and her manner was lively, giving an impression of girlish gaiety to all those who saw her.

At first, though, it seemed that her young suitor might not succeed in seeing her at all. Her father had died in the previous December, and the court was still in mourning. Dark hangings draped the rooms, and the few permitted candles flickered on his doleful, black-garbed retainers. Five months after his death, the old elector's body lay, embalmed but still unburied, in the castle chapel. The usual bustling life of the court was suspended, and visitors received only the simplest civilities. But the pulse of youth was strong in the burgeoning spring, and besides, Gustav Adolf could not afford to wait; there was too much to do at home ...

Christina, Queen of Sweden
The Restless Life of a European Eccentric
. Copyright © by Veronica Buckley. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2007

    Very good book!

    I thought this was a very good book, though at times it rather put down Christina. A good read though. Recommended for lovers of history.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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